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White & Case pulls off £20m team hire with HSF Asia project finance group

US firm White & Case has landed a 10-partner project finance team from Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), led by the firm’s Asia head of finance Brendan Quinn, in one of the largest legal moves ever in the Asian market.

Melbourne-based Quinn has led the move of a large group of HSF lawyers switching over to White & Case as the US firm accelerates its growth in Asia.

Big-billing HSF partners in Melbourne including Andrew Clark, Josh Sgro and Alan Rosengarten join Quinn in moving to White & Case.

A further four partners have resigned from HSF across Australia, with Tim Power, Jared Muller and Joanne Draper quitting in Melbourne and Joel Rennie exiting in Sydney to link up with White & Case. The US firm, which includes project finance as one of the pillars of its practice, has also hired Fergus Smith in Hong Kong and Matthew Osborne in Singapore.

A senior partner at White & Case has indicated that the team controls around £30m of business, while HSF put the figure at around £20m when calculated using an average of the team’s billings over three years.

The move sees White & Case launch in Australia, although Legal Business understands the US firm’s strategy is to add project finance capability in Asia, rather than to open in Australia and begin competing for local work.

Mark Rigotti and Sonya Leydecker, co-chief executives of HSF, said in a statement:

‘We can confirm the resignation of 10 partners from our Australian and Asian offices yesterday. We are disappointed at this decision. We continue to have a strong 100-partner infrastructure and projects practice globally. This is an exceptionally talented team of partners and lawyers, in Australia, Asia and around the world. Their focus is on our clients and delivering the top-quality work that those clients expect. When it comes to big-ticket, complex projects, project finance and infrastructure work, we remain the firm to beat in this market and globally.’

White & Case chairman Hugh Verrier said: ‘This move will cement our position as the leading law firm in project finance globally. It adds further strength to our client offering and underlines our commitment to providing the highest quality advice to our clients on a global basis.’