Baker & McKenzie nabs three partners and opens first AU office in 32 years

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Top-tier global firm Baker & McKenzie will take advantage of the energy and resource-rich Queensland market with the opening of its new Brisbane office, led by three laterally appointed partners and a significant team of associates.

The office is the first new opening for the firm in Australia in 32 years, national managing partner Chris Freeland told Australasian Lawyer.

He says it reaffirms Baker & McKenzie’s continued expansion into energy and resource-rich jurisdictions – the firm is now in 12 of the 15 areas most laden with such resources.

On a global scale, Brisbane marks the 76th office and the seventh office opening in three years and follows the launch of offices in Yangon, Seoul, Dubai, Lima, Casablanca and Johannesburg.

Freeland says the Brisbane opening is a natural extension to Baker & McKenzie’s offering, especially in the energy and resources sector.

“We think it will be a great addition to the offering here in Australia for our Australian-based clients,” he says, adding that the new partners are some of the best in their field in Brisbane.

They are Philip Christensen, a former partner of Herbert Smith Freehills who has held various board positions since including on Whitehaven Coal’s board; Jo Daniels, who has joined the firm from Allens; and Darren Fooks from Clayton Utz.

The partners are joined by a team of senior associates who have been nabbed from a number of different firms.

Freeland says the Baker & McKenzie has big plans to continue expanding the office in Brisbane with the appointment of more partners and lawyers, but for now the three partners will be supported by the 85 partners in the Sydney and Melbourne offices.

He adds that the decision to open the Brisbane office now is a reflection of an active market.

“We thought about this a lot, and we haven’t gone into it lightly. In part it reflects where the Australian economy is going,” he says. “When we opened in Australia 50 years ago it was just in Sydney and Melbourne, but there has obviously been a shift in the economy and we’ve had an increase in demand in Brisbane.”

This comes both from the energy and resources sector as well as infrastructure, he says.

Freeland says Baker & McKenzie has no specific plans to look at further expansion in Australia, but will continue to follow client demand.

“Never say never,” he says. “If there’s another opportunity to do this in another Australian city then I wouldn’t rule that out.”