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City Desk
22 October, 2009  
Cutting the mustard OS

No longer girt by sea … Jonathan Gadir takes a look at some of the tallest Australian poppies plying their trade in global legal fields

Australian lawyers have been a favorite species overseas.

Traditionally the destination has been London, although this year the GFC has made that a difficult market.

We’d thought we’d pick a few stars in the far-flung firmament in the hope that readers might suggest others for inclusion in a future instalment.

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imageIn London media law circles, one of the brightest buttons is Adelaide born and bred Tony Ghee at Taylor Wessing (pic).

In Australia he worked for adornments such as Alan Bond and Rupert Murdoch during six years at Blakes and then for Channel Ten as in-house counsel.

Now he represents European broadcasters and major global entertainment firms such as Fox and MGM.

Currently he is acting for European TV giant SBS Broadcasting on various complaints about breaches of TV sponsorship rules made by the UK regulator Ofcom.

He told us he enjoys working in London, but doesn’t believe it is necessarily more stimulating. He found working for Bond and Murdoch “anything but dull”.

Lately conditions have noticeably changed:

“Working here has been less fun in the last 12-18 months given the current economic constraints, which have meant that everyone is more cautious about spending vast wadges of cash on the incomparable advice of highly paid Australian-English lawyers, although it has been off-set by the collapse of sterling as a currency of any value.”

* * *

imageIngrid Silver (pic) is another leading London media lawyer, heading up the media law team at Denton Wilde Sapte.

She works on commercial and regulatory matters for both traditional and new media companies.

She arrived in the UK 12-years ago as a newly qualified lawyer and never really practised in Australia.

Silver says there’s a buzz about London, where the work has such an international flavour.

“I remember soon after I moved to London [Apple co-founder and CEO] Steve Jobs reviewed something I drafted, although I didn’t actually get to meet him. I’m not sure that sort of thing happens as often in Australia, especially not when you’re a junior lawyer.”

Life and work continue to produce excitements. She’s just spoken at a media conference in Cannes on the very day that Jerry Seinfeld took the platform.

* * *

imageOn the London corporate scene, the co-chair of the global litigation practice group for US-based giant Fulbright & Jaworski is Australia’s own Chris Warren-Smith (seen here) – a product of Melbourne University.

His beat includes heavyweight banking and insurance litigation and judicial review proceedings against a range of bodies including HM Treasury, the Financial Services Authority and the Financial Ombudsman Service.

He has been named several times as a leading lawyer in banking litigation.

Warren-Smith also has handled some of the largest claims faced by global insurers in recent years, including those arising from the collapse of Enron, WorldCom, Parmalat and Bernie Madoff’s scam.

He has acted for accounting firms in connection with the Barings Bank collapse and Robert Maxwell’s infamous crookedness in the 1990s.

Warren-Smith finds stimulation in the international nature of his work in London, although he says the cultural differences can give rise to frustration at times.

“The Australian directness is a good thing (matched only by the Germans) and the work ethic in Australia is very good … [but] I do find the work here more stimulating.”

What does he miss most since leaving little old Oz in 1992?

“The relative ease of getting from A to B, the more easygoing nature of people, weather obviously, public holidays for things like horse races… Mostly lifestyle and cultural issues, really.”

* * *

imageA significant Australian in the field of international law is Karyl Nairn, a partner in the London office of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom (snap), who got her law degree from the University of WA.

Nairn focuses on international arbitration and commercial litigation and is vice-president of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration in Paris and member of the ICC Commission on Arbitration.

She was named one of the world’s “50 Most Influential Women in Law” in 2007 and her work spans the globe.

Just two of her cases give a flavour.

She was counsel in an arbitration for Greek and Israeli investors in a dispute under the Energy Charter Treaty against a sovereign state in central Asia; and she advised a group of companies in relation to litigation in the British Virgin Islands about shareholder rights to an oil field in Russia.

* * *

Australia has produced some first class Oxford and Cambridge legal academics.

Professor James Crawford SC is the Whewell Professor of International Law at Cambridge, and Chair of the Cambridge Faculty of Law.

imageHe also practises in international arbitration and public international law at Matrix Chambers in London.

Pic: Crawford (centre) arbitrating.

Notably, he appeared before the International Court of Justice as “counsel for Palestine” in the court’s 2003 hearings on the infamous West Bank wall advisory case and was publicly praised by his peers at the time as being one of the most creative public international law figures around.

This year, Chambers and Partners 2009 called him “an absolutely key figure in public international law … both academically brilliant and superb in court”.

Crawford told Justinian:

“I like Cambridge as a place to live. It is quiet but easily accessible.The work I do could only with difficulty be done from Australia.

Most of my family, including my two oldest daughters and my only grandchild, is in Australia.

I miss the light, the sky and the openness of people – mitigated by the fact that there are lots of Australians here.”

* * *

Among the high profile academics we’d be remiss not to mention Professor James Edelman at Kebel College Oxford.

He’s a professor of the law of obligations and a barrister at One Essex Court.

A Rhodes Scholar from Western Australia he was associate to WA High Court judge John Toohey. He also did a stint as an articled clerk at Blake Dawson Waldron (as it then was) in Perth.

* * *

James Wood of Magic Circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Tokyo office has been named one of Asia-Pacific Legal 500’s top individuals in the corporate and M & A category.

imageLike Tony Ghee, Wood (pic) went to Adelaide University and has spent over a decade working abroad.

When he arrived in London in 1996 he did M & A of all stripes.

In Tokyo, where he’s worked since 2007, he acts for non-Japanese clients or for Japanese firms investing outside Japan.

“My work is hugely varied. I have done recent deals involving an amusement park, an agri-chemicals business, a premium hi-fi manufacturer and stock exchanges.”

He enjoys being part of an integrated international operation:

“In the past 24 hours I have spoken on different topics to a partner in New York and two separate partners in London… That was not an unusual 24 hours… I find working in one of our firm’s smaller offices very stimulating as I realise that everything that I do can have an impact on the rest of the team here.”

Does he miss Australia?

“There are of course many things I love about Australia that you can’t find anywhere else – Saturday morning coffee in Darlinghurst and scrambled eggs at Bills used to be one, but he has now seen the light and opened in Kamakura, a few hours south of Tokyo.”

Suggestions for more ex-pat Australian lawyers to add to our global list are welcome ...


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