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Australia > Restructuring and insolvency > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings

Editorial

Index of tables

  1. Restructuring and insolvency
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next generation lawyers

Leading individuals

  1. 1

Next generation lawyers

  1. 1

'First-tier leader' Allens fields 'a strong team of lawyers supporting the outstanding partners' led by insolvency specialist Alf Pappalardo. The group enhances its domestic strength with notable experience in cross-border restructuring and insolvency matters. It handles the full spectrum of work including receiverships, administrations, liquidations and schemes of arrangement with recent mandates including Pappalardo advising Westpac as the primary financier in the collapse of Careers Australia, Matthew Whittle acting for McGrathNicol as liquidators of the Home Australia Group in various liquidator investigations and asset sales, and Chris Prestwich assisting the secured bondholders of Quintis Group with the appointment of receivers and managers and the subsequent sale and recapitalisation process. Other key names include Tania Cini, Geoff Rankin, Clint Hinchen and the 'outcome-focused' Warwick Newell.

Arnold Bloch Leibler focuses on high-profile and complex work with recent examples including acting on behalf of the administrators of the Arrium entities including advising on the deeds of company arrangements (DoCAs) and multiple disputes, advising the voluntary administrators of Network Ten Holdings and 13 other companies in the Ten Group, and assisting Slater and Gordon with its restructuring and the settlement of related class actions. Leading practitioner Leon Zwier heads up the practice, Genevieve Sexton and Michael Dodge advised the majority of the payment-in-kind noteholders on the recapitalisation of Bis Industries, Ben Mahoney acted for a group of term B lenders in the Onsite Rental Group restructuring, and John Mitchell worked with Dodge assisting Moose Toys with various commercial and trade credit insurance matters arising from the bankruptcy of Toys R Us. Jane Sheridan, and litigators Justin Vaatstra, Jonathan Milner, and Susanna Ford are also recommended.

Ashurst's 'first-class' department is a key name in the market for scheme of arrangement structures, distressed investing and insolvency litigation. In a recent highlight, practice head James Marshall advised CPH as a shareholder guarantor of Ten Network Holdings on all issues relating to  the appointment of receivers and managers and its sale to CBS via DoCA; other key mandates include Tony Ryan and Emanuel Poulos assisting ANZ and Wells Fargo respectively with their roles in the restructuring of Bis Industries Group, Ross McClymont acting for KordaMentha as voluntary administrators of trading entities in Aussie Farmers Direct Group, and Michael Sloan representing Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative in litigation against Legend International Holdings relating to the interplay between US Chapter 11 and Australian insolvency proceedings. Camilla Clemente made partner in 2018 and Jason Salman joined the Perth office from Corrs Chambers Westgarth. Senior associate Michael Murray is also recommended.

Gilbert + Tobin counts banks, borrowers, investors, directors and insolvency practitioners as clients with examples including KordaMentha and Oaktree Capital. The team also assisted Bis Industries Group with two creditors' schemes of arrangement relating to its US and Australian debt facilities and the general restructure and recapitalisation of the group, acted for the lenders in the restructure and recapitalisation of Slater and Gordon, and handled the restructuring and voluntary administration of Ten Network Holdings. Dominic Emmett leads the department, which also counts restructuring and workout expert Simon Lynch, litigators Colleen Platford and Crispian Lynch, and restructuring specialist David Clee as key practitioners. Peter Bowden joined from Norton Rose Fulbright.

'Market leader' Minter Ellison handles complex domestic and international insolvencies alongside bankruptcy issues, creditor claims, distressed debt trading, liquidations, directors' duties and voluntary administrations. Examples of the group's recent work include Brendon Watkins advising Steinhoff Asia Pacific on its restructuring, Watkins and practice head Michael Hughes assisting PPB Advisory as receivers and managers with the restructuring of Network Ten and its subsequent sale to CBS, and Hughes acting for Centerbridge Partners on the restructuring of Boart Longyear. Key names for contentious work include Nick Anson, Caitlin Murray, David O’Brien and Melinda Smith. McGrathNicol, KordaMentha, Ferrier Hodgson, National Australia Bank and Westpac are also clients.

Clayton Utz is 'exceptional across the board with a great calmness under pressure, technical knowledge and excellent communication skills' and clients recognise group head Karen O’Flynn as 'level-headed, insightful and a pleasure to work alongside'. Other key individuals include Timothy Sackar, Nick Poole and Alistair Fleming; Sackar advised CBA Corporate Services as security trustee in the debt restructuring of Network Ten, Poole acted for Peabody Energy's Australian group of companies on all elements of its global restructuring, and Fleming represented Westpac in litigation establishing whether the Corporations Act distribution priorities apply in the liquidation of a corporate trustee. Clients also single out Cameron Belyea, who is 'highly responsive, provides sound advice and has a strong ability to solve complex issues'; and Orla McCoy, who is 'truly second to none and has an incredibly professional attitude'.

Building on the substantial recruitment it saw in 2017, Corrs Chambers Westgarth has notable breadth in restructuring and insolvency with considerable strength advising on restructurings in the mining and logistics transport sectors. Cameron Cheetham heads up the department and acted for Rogers Reidy as voluntary administrators of eChoice, Ben Emblin advised McGrathNicol on the liquidation of Babcock & Brown group's assets, and Michael Catchpoole represented HLB Mann Judd in its role as liquidators of Bruck Textile Technologies in litigation relating to an allegedly unlawful restructuring. Other key individuals include Sam Delaney, Craig Ensor, litigators Mark Wilks and Jade Rowarth, and Patrick O’Grady .

Herbert Smith Freehills stands out for its corporate restructuring and turnaround expertise; it recently advised the senior lenders on the restructuring and recapitalisation of the Bis Industries group and assisted Liberty Metals and Mining Holdings with its A$100m restructuring proposal for Cockatoo Coal. Other mandates include advising the Mauritius Commercial Bank on a facility granted to Wollongong Coal, acting for the Queensland Department of Environment and Science on issues arising from the liquidation of Linc Energy, and assisting ANZ with issues surrounding its exposure to Pankaj Oswal and related business entities following its investment in Yara Pilbara Holdings. Paul Apáthy leads the practice, which also includes Mark Clifton, who regularly advises stakeholders in corporate distress situations; and Nikki Smythe, who focuses on special situations lending, distressed debt and structured finance. John Nestel left to establish his own firm.

King & Wood Mallesons fields 'an excellent, top-notch' department, which is globally headed by 'king of litigation strategy' David Cowling and led nationally by Tim Klineberg. The group's work encompasses restructurings, distressed debt and investment work, and insolvency litigation; recent highlights include advising the lenders on their approval of two major asset realisation transactions relating to the Arrium administration, assisting PPB Advisory as special purpose liquidator of Queensland Nickel with multiple recovery actions and investigations, and acting for McGrathNicol as liquidator of the Penrice Group on the successful recovery of unfair preference claims and securing a funding arrangement for an insolvent trading claim. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Ferrier Hodgson and KordaMentha are also clients. Tony Troiani is a key name for insolvency disputes.

Following its merger with now-defunct firm Henry Davis York in late 2017, Norton Rose Fulbright's 'smart and commercial' group gained notable practitioners John Martin and Scott Atkins  who are key individuals along with group co-heads Steven Palmer, who is 'one of the best restructuring lawyers in Australia with incredible intelligence measured by a commercial focus', and Alex Mufford, who has 'exceptional industry knowledge'. The department recently advised a financial institution as trustee for senior noteholders following the appointment of voluntary administrators, receivers and managers to a distressed company. Chris McLeod is also a name to note in the firm's Perth office.

Baker McKenzie excels in the restructuring space and contentious work; it recently advised Emeco Holdings on the implementation of a binding restructuring support agreement and acted for FTI Consulting as administrators of Antares including related litigation and various asset sales. Other high-profile work includes acting for KordaMentha as deed administrators of Ten Network Holdings and 13 of its subsidiaries on its administration including the sale process and related litigation, assisting KordaMentha as administrators of Arrium and its 93 Australian subsidiaries on the operational aspects of its administration, and advising Macquarie Bank and Generation Investment Management as lenders on the voluntary administration of Maria's Farm Veggies. Maria O’Brien leads the team, which also includes David Walter and special counsel Ian Innes.

HWL Ebsworth handles the full spectrum of restructuring and insolvency work on a national level and regularly acts for banks, insolvency practitioners, directors and investors. The group recently acted for the general purpose liquidators of Queensland Nickel in High Court proceedings and assisted the administrators and liquidators of the Koko Black franchise. Key practitioners include Wayne Jenvey, Grant Whatley, David O’Farrell and Adam Young.

Johnson Winter & Slattery's 'great commercial input' allows for 'high-quality advice and a timely response rate' and the team 'is rated very highly across the board'. The debtor-focused group handles the full range of contentious and non-contentious work and is notably active in the energy and natural resources sectors; it recently advised the liquidators of Linc Energy on the administration and liquidation process, various asset sales and related litigation proceedings. The 'highly experienced' David Proudman led the matter and heads up the department. Other key names include litigator Paul Buitendag, who represented Australian Property Custodian Holdings and its liquidators in proceedings against its auditors alleging breach of auditors' duties; and Joseph Scarcella, who advised LifeSmart as representative creditor on the collapse of Courtenay House, Australia's largest Ponzi scheme. Finance lawyers Matthew Allchurch and Jim Hunwick are also recommended.

Colin Biggers & Paisley is rated for its 'excellent service and thorough expertise', which is particularly evident in the construction, property, mining, retail and registered club sectors. The group, led by Peter Harkin, focuses on directors, corporations and restructuring professionals; examples include KordaMentha, John Holland and Bentleys. The 'brilliant' Scott Hedge is also recommended; he recently acted for Grant Thornton as liquidators of Courtenay House Group in investigations into whether it was a Ponzi scheme, advised Hayes Advisory as managers and receivers of K Care on its receivership, and was instructed by McGrathNicol as liquidators of DSHE Holdings on the liquidation of the Dick Smith Group and related shareholder class actions.

The 'highly competent' group at Dentons is 'a reliable safe pair of hands that compares favourably to other firms in the same space', and is led by Justin Bates, who is 'incredibly easy to deal with and is always on top of the detail'. With a key focus on the SME market and the capacity to handle cross-border work, the group recently advised 20th Century Fox on the administration of Network Ten Holdings and its subsequent sale to CBS, represented Bell Group (UK) Holdings in litigation relating to the distribution of settlement funds, and assisted a syndicate of lenders with the Australian aspects of a cross-border restructuring of an ASX-listed company. David McIntosh, Hector West and Kylie Britton are key names in the team, which recently saw substantial expansion following the firm's merger with DibbsBarker including gaining the highly regarded John Stragalinos and Scott Guthrie.

DLA Piper has 'significant expertise in the field', 'knows the insolvency market well' and 'consistently takes a commercial approach to its clients and their issues'. The group is recognised for its cross-border experience; it recently advised Deutsche Bank on the administration process of Paladin Energy and assisted Zetta Jet with bankruptcy proceedings across multiple jurisdictions following its collapse. Department head Kon Tsiakis led the matters and 'knows his clients well'. Amelia Kelly is also a key name to note; she advised the secured surety provider and receivers on the surety providers' exposure to the Diploma Group which collapsed in late 2016.

Gadens Lawyers counts banks, financial institutions and insolvency practitioners as clients and has substantial expertise in the SME market. Key practitioners include Robert Hinton, Scott Couper and Guy Edgecombe; Hinton recently acted for the liquidator of Biodental Remin in several litigation proceedings, Couper assisted BDO as the court-appointed receiver of LM First Mortgage Income Fund, and Edgecombe regularly handles secured and unsecured debt recovery and the recovery of equipment and property. Kimberley Arden made partner and Kathy Merrick joined from now-defunct firm Henry Davis York.

Key names in Jones Day's 'brilliant' team, which handles financial restructurings, receiverships, administrations and liquidations, include group head Roger Dobson, Katie Higgins and litigator Tim L’Estrange. Dobson's recent work includes acting for Lehman Brothers Holdings on the restructure and sale of its claims in the liquidation of Lehman Brothers Australia, and represented the bankrupt trustee of PaperLinX in claims made against group members. Higgins assisted the administrators of Topshop with all elements of its administration and liquidation including the sale of various assets to Arcadia Brands, and L'Estrange worked with Dobson representing the Insurance Commission of Western Australia and the Western Australia State Solicitors Office in litigation relating to the liquidation of the Bell Group of companies. Lucas Wilk is the key name in Perth.

Jason Opperman leads the practice at K&L Gates, which handles transactional advice, planning and litigation work for lenders, borrowers, trustees, asset purchasers and receivers. In a recent highlight, Danielle Funston advised a global investment bank on the provision of a A$65m facility to the restructured Emeco Group following its merger with Orionstone and Andy's Earthmovers; other work includes Opperman assisting PPB Advisory as receivers and managers of certain companies in the insolvent BBY Group, Andrew Chambers advising Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and its subsidiaries on the recovery of monies advanced to borrowers to fund investments in various Great Southern managed investment schemes, and Ian Dorey acting for the liquidators of Octaviar on issues surrounding its liquidation. Westpac, NAB, CBA, BlueScope Steel and Ferrier Hodgson are also clients. Special counsel Eric Boone joined from Baker McKenzie LLP.

Maddocks is particularly active in the contentious space and asset recovery issues; it acted for Ferrier Hodgson as liquidators and special purpose receivers of Banksia Securities in litigation arising from its collapse and represented a finance manager in claims related to the collapse of an investment vehicle alleged to have been unregistered managed investment schemes. The group's non-contentious work includes advising Pitcher Partners as trustees of the bankrupt estate of a mining entrepreneur in a public examination and the negotiation of a funding agreement, and assisting PCI Partners as liquidator of Gordon Ramsey Melbourne with all aspects of its liquidation. Team leader David Newman, Michael Johns and Marelda Hibberd are the key names to note.

Mills Oakley 'has developed a good culture of legal expertise and client-friendly delivery' and the team 'is consistently on top of the law, results-driven and focused on its clients' needs'. Group head Stuart Lewin is 'excellent with clients and always achieves commercial outcomes', Ariel Borland is 'a true star, great strategist and tough negotiator' and Gerard Breen is 'highly knowledgeable'. The group is active in the retail and manufacturing sectors. Recent highlights include commencing recovery actions for Timbercorp Finance and handling its administration and liquidation, and acting for a representative party appointed by the Supreme Court in proceedings brought by the liquidators of BBY relating to the distribution of client monies held by BBY. Matthew Kelly joined from Corrs Chambers Westgarth in 2018.

Piper Alderman fields 'an excellent team that is well skilled and highly knowledgeable in the area' with 'a great depth of talent' including 'technically brilliant' Melbourne-based department head Michael Lhuede and the 'experienced and client-focused' Joanne Hardwick, who has been 'a strong addition to the Melbourne team' following her move from legacy firm DibbsBarker in 2018; Thomas Russell in Sydney is 'quick to develop and articulate compelling arguments and commercial solutions', and Adelaide-based Mike Hayes 'provides solid and reliable advice'. The group's recent work includes acting for US Bank National Association as the US note trustee on the reconstruction of Boart Longyear, and representing Dye & Co as liquidator of Mamounia in multiple Supreme Court claims.

Hall & Wilcox's expertise encompasses restructuring issues, turnarounds, bankruptcies, receiverships, voluntary administrations and liquidations alongside corporate recovery, distressed trading, security enforcement and insolvency-related litigation experience. Wayne Kelcey is a key name to note, particularly for insolvency disputes. Other noteworthy practitioners include corporate insolvency specialist Mark Petrucco and Adrian Lasky.

Jackson McDonald excels in the construction, property, energy, hospitality and mining sectors; it recently acted for Westgem Investments as liquidator of a property development company and two property developers in a claim against its former financiers alleging breaches of finance agreements, advised the deed administrators and liquidators of Ausroc Metals and assisted Dradgin as lessor and creditor with the administration of Paladin Energy. Eva Lin leads the department, which also fields litigators Victoria Butler and Neil Gentilli.

McCullough Robertson's Brisbane-based cross-disciplinary team specialises in alternative solutions in times of distress including workouts, turnaround and restructuring solutions; it also handles the enforcement of securities, debt recovery and insolvency issues. Practice head Scott Butler's recent work includes advising the directors and shareholders of Ostwald Brothers on its voluntary administration and recapitalisation via DoCA, acting for PwC as receivers and managers of NQ Group on a Personal Property Securities Act issue, and assisting the Australian government Department of Jobs and Small Business with issues relating to the recovery of amounts paid by the Commonwealth government under the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Scheme regarding the liquidation of companies in the McAleese and Rivet Groups. KordaMentha, Grant Thornton and Bounty Mining are also clients.

Squire Patton Boggs excels in contentious work under the leadership of class action expert Amanda Banton. The group also counts Graeme Slattery, Shaan Palmer and of counsels Lisa Gallate and Susan Goodman, who joined from Ashurst, as key names to note. Notable recent mandates include acting for Forge Group in litigation alleging breaches of directors' duties following its acquisition of CTEC and the management of the related newly acquired projects, representing the liquidators of two failed managed investment schemes in claims against the company, its directors and the schemes' auditors for loss and damages, and acting for Oztech in a class action relating to senior unsecured notes issued by Octaviar Investment Notes, a failed funds management and financial services company. Deloitte, Hall Chadwick and Ferrier Hodgson are also clients.

Following its acquisition of Kemp Strang in October 2018, Thomson Geer's team now includes Peter Harrison, who advised PPB Advisory as liquidators of DCM Green on its administration and creditors' voluntary winding up following its collapse, and assisted Rabobank Australia as secured creditor of a group of corporate entities with several receiverships and voluntary administrations. Nora Minassian joined from Dentons; Jim Graham and Kevin Pringle retired; Alex Linden joined Henry William Lawyers; Matthew Pike left to HWL Ebsworth; Glen Cussen has launched Cussen Advisory and Sarina Roppolo is now a partner at Kardos Scanlan.

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