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Australia > Dispute resolution > Class actions > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings


Index of tables

  1. Dispute resolution: class actions
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next generation lawyers

Leading individuals

  1. 1
    • Amanda Banton - Squire Patton Boggs
    • Jason Betts - Herbert Smith Freehills
    • Damian Grave - Herbert Smith Freehills
    • Tricia Hobson - Norton Rose Fulbright
    • Colin Loveday - Clayton Utz
    • Moira Saville - King & Wood Mallesons
    • Ben Slade - Maurice Blackburn Lawyers
    • Andrew Watson - Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

Next generation lawyers

  1. 1
    • Helen Mould - Herbert Smith Freehills

Who Represents Who

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Though especially strong in representing financial institutions, including major banks and accounting firms, Ashurst’s practice also acts for the Australian government in high-profile cases. John Pavlakis defended the Commonwealth in a A$100m class action concerning its liability for the equine influenza outbreak in 2007. Pavlakis and financial services regulatory litigator Ian Bolster defended KPMG in a class action brought by the shareholders of Allco Finance Group regarding alleged non-disclosure, while Deloitte instructed department head Mark Elvy in proceedings regarding its alleged negligence and deceptive conduct as auditor of Tamaya Resources, which went into liquidation. Mark Bradley and consultant Ashley Wharton successfully defended Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) in three related class actions regarding its imposition of a range of particular fees. Tony Ryan is recommended for insolvency-related class actions. Fiona Hudgson left for the Bar in January 2017.

The ‘supreme class actions defence team’ at Herbert Smith Freehills is ‘highly experienced, thorough, precise and committed’, and has longstanding experience in shareholder, securities, product liability and natural disaster class actions. The ‘strategic, client-focused’ Damian Grave has ‘exceptional industry knowledge’ and is ‘a clear industry-leader in class actions’, while ‘strategic, technically knowledgeable, tremendously hardworking’ product liability expert Jason Betts ‘distils complex legal issues into comprehensible terms’, and has ‘an exceptional approach to risk management’. Grave and Betts represented OZ Minerals in a securities class action regarding alleged breaches of securities laws during the merger that created OZ Minerals; the A$250m claim was eventually settled for A$33m. Ken Adams and Ruth Overington defended AusNet Services in a class action alleging it breached its duty to prune trees near one of its powerlines, thus causing the 2014 bushfire near Mickleham, Victoria. Alan Mitchell is ‘an exceptionally knowledgeable, very personable’ insolvency expert; Peter Holloway is a ‘strategic’ insurance specialist. Ante Golem and banking and finance litigator Cameron Hanson are also recommended. At the more junior level, ‘exceptionally knowledgeable and experienced’ executive counsel Helen Mould is ‘very easy to deal with’.

With experience across all kinds of class action, King & Wood Mallesons’ department represents well-known clients in high-profile disputes. Justin McDonnell and Chris Fox are recommended for product liability and natural disaster class actions; McDonnell defended Queensland state dam authority Seqwater in a A$2bn class action concerning the 2011 Brisbane floods – one of the largest class actions in the country’s history. Domenic Gatto, who is increasingly active in the energy and natural resources space, is noted for his ‘insight into difficult problems, quick analysis of complex issues, and tenacity in the face of adversity’; he acted for IOOF Holdings in preventing a class action regarding alleged insider trading. Alexander Morris and ‘strategic, thoughtful’ group head Moira Saville specialise in financial services and securities class actions; ‘proactive, thoughtful and knowledgeable’ competition specialist Peta Stevenson provides ‘timely client support’.

Market-leading’ plaintiff-side class actions boutique Maurice Blackburn Lawyers handles a high volume of high-profile class actions spanning securities, shareholder rights, natural disasters, competition and product liability. Jason Geisker and group head Andrew Watson launched proceedings against Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda regarding the well-publicised diesel emissions defeat device scandal. Ben Slade and special counsel Richard Ryan acted for the investors in the Clem Jones Tunnel in a class action against AECOM regarding the latter’s allegedly misleading traffic forecasts for the tunnel; the case settled for A$121m. Vavaa Mawuli brought a class action against Seqwater, Sunwater and the State of Queensland alleging negligent operation of the Wivenhoe and Somerset dams during the 2011 Brisbane floods. The practice also brought a shareholder class action against Slater and Gordon that was eventually settled for A$33m. Rebecca Gilsenan is an expert in price-fixing, failed investment schemes, product liability and securities class actions; Brooke Dellavedova is also recommended.

The ‘exceptional’ group at Allens is ‘commercially focused, cost-aware and au fait with large-scale litigation’ across financial services, product liability, natural disasters, competition and shareholder rights. Jenny Campbell and practice head Ross Drinnan defended Westpac in three class actions regarding certain bank fees; the bank also instructed the team in a case brought by a group of US plaintiffs regarding alleged misconduct in the Australian bank bill market. Campbell and the ‘market-leading’ Guy Foster acted for QBE Insurance Group in a class action regarding alleged non-disclosure of a profit downgrade. Other clients include CIMIC and Ford Motor Company of Australia. The ‘vastly experienced’ Peter O’Donohoo ‘approaches every issue strategically’, and the ‘detail-oriented’ Andrew Maher shows ‘an amazing command of complex matters’. Belinda Thompson, Paul Nicols and Duncan Travis are also recommended. Richard Harris left to join Gilbert + Tobin.

Clayton Utz fields four partners that spend most of their time on class actions; product liability claims are a particular strength, though the practice also has a strong track record in financial services, shareholder and securities class actions. Colin Loveday and Andrew Morrison defended Johnson & Johnson in proceedings relating to side effects brought about by a range of products used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence, while Greg Williams acted for Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda in a class action regarding the well-publicised diesel emissions defeat device scandal. In the financial services space, Ross McInnes defended Citibank in a high-profile class action relating to allegedly unfair fees, including late payment and overdraft fees. The Australian government is another representative client.

The team at Norton Rose Fulbright has ‘strength in depth’, and is noted for its ‘excellent business acumen’, ‘quick response times’ and longstanding experience in the insurance sector. The ‘commercial, results-focusedTricia Hobson, who heads the group jointly with Cameron Harvey, defended Queensland state dam authority SunWater in a A$2bn class action concerning the 2011 Brisbane floods. She and the ‘thorough, technically astuteNicole Wearne represented the Australian government in a class action brought by hundreds of sailors accusing the Navy for failing to deliver on its promise of training them. The ‘strategic, calmSamantha Kelly defended the manager of the Grand Western Lodge in Millthorpe in a class action regarding the improper treatment of residents between 2000 and 2011. ‘Pragmatic, client-oriented’ product liability expert Toby Biddle pays ‘high attention to detail’. Insurance litigator Matthew Ellis made partner in January 2017. In October 2017, the Sydney office welcomed Ann Donohue, who was a litigation partner at Minter Ellison for over 20 years. Norton Rose Fulbright and Henry Davis York have announced their intention to merge towards the end of 2017.

Especially active in shareholder and securities class actions, Arnold Bloch Leibler’s ‘extremely professional, efficient’ team is headed by Leon Zwier, who defended Slater and Gordon in a shareholder class action regarding its alleged failure to adhere to disclosure obligations; the plaintiffs’ A$250m claim was settled for A$37m. Zwier and Susanna Ford acted for the current and former non-executive directors of Bellamy’s in shareholder class actions regarding alleged misleading conduct and breaches of disclosure obligations. Other clients include Grant Samuel & Associates and two former executive directors of Great Southern. John Mitchell and Jonathan Milner are also recommended.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s department is especially strong in securities class actions, though it also handles natural disaster class actions and mass tort claims. Brad Woodhouse and the ‘whip-smartMark Wilks, who has experience acting ‘on the defendant and the plaintiff side’, defended Australian Executor Trustees (AET) in two securities class actions following the insolvency of Provident Capital; AET was Provident’s debenture trustee. Woodhouse and James Whittaker defended maintenance contractor Thiess Services (now known as Ventia) in a class action relating to the 2014 Parkerville bushfire. CPB Contractors is another representative client. Chris Pagent is also recommended.

The team at DLA Piper is led by public liability expert Kieran O’Brien, who acted for Amaca in group proceedings to determine equitable liability relating to a partnership agreement between two asbestos manufacturers in the 1960s and ’70s. He also defended Liability Mutual Insurance in a class action against primary defendant AusNet Services relating to the 2014 bushfire near Mickleham, Victoria. Indeed, bushfire and wildfire-related matters are a key area of activity for the practice: Perth-based partner Cameron Maclean defended Western Power and its underwriter, Lloyd’s of London, in a class action alleging Western Power’s liability for a 2014 bushfire in Parkerville, Western Australia. The State of Western Australia is another of Maclean’s clients. Perth-based insurance expert Toby Barrie is also recommended.

Minter Ellison’s practice handles class actions across a wide range of sectors. ‘Highly recommended’ practice head Ross Freeman defended Billabong International in a shareholder class action regarding alleged non-disclosure and misrepresentations to the market, and acted for various current and former directors of OZ Minerals in three shareholder class actions relating to alleged breaches of securities laws during the merger that created OZ Minerals. The team also handles plaintiff work: regulatory contentious expert Andrew Gill, who has particular experience in the agribusiness and technology sectors and frequently acts on environmental and government-related cases, represented numerous cattle-export industry players – including AACo, Elders and Consolidated Pastoral – in a class action against the federal government, which banned live cattle exports to Indonesia in 2011. Ann Donohue left to take up a non-legal position in December 2016, before joining Norton Rose Fulbright as a litigation partner ten months later.

Financial services are the key sector strength of Clifford Chance Australia’s team, which is headed jointly by Sydney-based partners Diana Chang, Angela Pearsall and Tim Grave. Grave and the ‘measured, savvy, strategic’ Chang defended S&P Global in numerous class actions regarding ratings it assigned to various synthetic collateralised debt obligations, while Pearsall represented Deloitte in a shareholder class action relating to Deloitte’s role as corporate finance advisor in a 2011 capital raising undertaken by Hastie Group, which went into liquidation in 2012.

Plaintiff-side expert Damian Scattini is the key class actions partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP; he is supported by Michael Mills and Michelle Fox. Shareholder class actions and public liability claims are core strengths of the Sydney-based team: Scattini acted for Petersen Superannuation Fund, as lead applicant, in a class action against the Bank of Queensland and its agent DDH Graham concerning the defendant’s negligence of suspicious transactions undertaken on the managed investment accounts of the bank’s clients.

Noted for its plaintiff-side activity and its financial services expertise, Squire Patton Boggs’ practice is led by Amanda Banton, who acted for numerous public and private group members in the high-profile class action against S&P Global regarding ratings it assigned to various synthetic collateralised debt obligations. She also represented plaintiffs including Coffs Harbour City Council in a class action against ANZ, alleging negligence and misleading conduct during its role in the sale of Credit Sail II financial instruments to the plaintiffs. Shaan Palmer, who is dual qualified in Australia and the UK, is also recommended.

Webb Henderson’s team is particularly strong in securities, competition and consumer law class actions. Securities expert Reay McGuinness is ‘a pleasure to work with’ and ‘one of the best lawyers around’ – he ‘gets to the heart of the matter more quickly than anyone else, and his predictions are uncannily accurate’. Particularly noted for his ‘deep, deep experience in class actions, where he never pulls his punches’, McGuinness acted for AIG Australia as insurer of the defendant in a shareholder class action against Allco regarding alleged breaches of non-disclosure obligations. Andrew Christopher defended Yum! Restaurants in a class action brought on behalf of over 200 Pizza Hut franchisees alleging negligence and unconscionable market conduct. ‘Commercial, sharp, super-organised’ senior associate Michelle Gray is ‘tough and wise beyond her years’.

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