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Around The Firms
13 May, 2008  
Movement at the station

Corrs Chambers Westgarth gains two new partners this week as it bolsters its corporate and litigation work. Kate Gibbs talks to Byron Koster and Simon Crawford

imageCorrs Chambers Westgarth has lured two new partners this week, both big fish.

Byron Koster from Blake Dawson, as well as the Takeovers Panel, joins Corrs’ corporate advisory group in Sydney.

This is not Koster’s first time in the headlines. In 2004 he was toasted as the then youngest member on the Takeovers Panel.

Even more famously his 71-year-old Mum received her law degree from Bond University. Byron thinks his legal aptitude is probably genetic.

Koster practices predominantly in mergers and acquisitions, and will be focusing on takeovers and schemes of arrangement. He’s also well versed in ASX listings, as well as share buybacks and capital reductions.

He leaves Blakes’ Sydney office after seven years as partner, saying that he’s attracted by the prospect of working at Corrs with some long-time friends.

He joins fellow Takeovers Panel members Teresa Handicott and Andrew Lumsden, as well as James Rozsa, who he’s known since university days.

On his decision to move, Koster says:

“There is a group of partners here that I have known for a really long time. So I had a good idea about Corrs, the quality of the work they were doing and also how well the firm was going in terms of market share and market perception. I really like those guys so it struck me as a great chance to work with a group of people I liked in a firm that was basically in a very strong upward path.”

Another attraction is that Corrs is smaller than Blakes. He says this gives partners an opportunity for greater scope to build their practices. He adds:

“In some of the bigger firms there is a lot of specialisation and people tend to put barriers around their areas of practice.”

He believes that Rozsa has an ability to negotiate a constant stream of work from US law firms – from high-end security to takeovers.

He says that it was rare to see that type of work at Blakes.

Koster has been busy working on the Challenger Infrastructure Fund takeover defence, work he secured for Corrs after building a relationship with the client at Blakes.

* * *

Also shifting is Simon Crawford, previously head lawyer at ANZ Bank’s institutional division. He’s joining Corrs’ litigation group in Melbourne.

After nearly eight years with the bank Crawford says he has done all he felt he needed to do.

Crawford was approached by the firm to help build the litigation practice. He told Justinian that firms invariably talk about “better understanding the client” and he feels that his experience with ANZ equips him to do just that.

His connections with the bank will also help him build the practice at Corrs.

“They will obviously be a big focus for me… ANZ itself is a rather big beast. I know the organisation very well.”

* * *

However, Corrs’ Brisbane office has lost Matthew Bode, who has shifted to Deacons. He’s leveraged himself from senior associate at Corrs to special counsel at his new firm.

He leaves after only a year at Corrs saying, “career opportunities were presented to me and it seems like a dynamic group [at Deacons]”.

Bode, who worked at Mallesons before a 12-year stint in Europe and Asia at Linklaters and other firms, said that he was eager to work at a firm with a good Hong Kong connection. He moved to Deacons largely because of its strong presence in Asia.

Bode saw his one year at Corrs as an interim position, but found “there wasn’t really the deal flow that I thought there was”.

He says that while there is more work in Brisbane than there has been in the past, “it is the sort of market where you want to find the right fit, and hopefully Deacons is it”.

Joining Deacons’ Brisbane banking and finance team at the same time is partner David Lyons, corporate, commercial and project finance specialist, who comes across from Tresscox.