Gilbert Tobin leads law firms in mergers and acquisitions

The law firm, smaller than its rivals, has worked on the biggest M&A deals in 2014.

It has been a good four-plus months for Gilbert Tobin. The 26-year old law firm managed by its cofounder Danny Gilbert has surpassed bigger rivals such as Allens, Herbert Smith Freehills and King & Wood Mallesons to be the number one in mergers and acquisitions among law firms in Australia, according to Bloomberg and Mergermarket data.

“We’re out to prove there’s an elite M&A practice in town,” Gilbert Tobin Melbourne-based partner Craig Semple told Data Room in an interview.

Gilbert Tobin this year has advised on 2014’s biggest takeovers, including the proposed $2.15 billion takeover of David Jones by South Africa’s Woolworths and commodity trader Vitol's $2.9bn acquisition of Shell’s Australian assets. It also advised Aurora Oil & Gas on its $2.6bn takeover by Baytex.

The number one spot among law firms in advising on M&A has been attained with about 25 partners focused on M&A at Gilbert Tobin, says Mr Semple. Bigger rivals such as Allens and Freehills may have as many as 80 to 90 M&A partners, he says.

“We feel much more connected to the investment banking community,” says Mr Semple. “We’re all deal junkies.”

A former partner at Mallesons, where he worked for 18 years before joining Gilbert Tobin in January, Mr Semple credits Mr Gilbert for much of the firm’s success. The managing partner has recruited high profile dealmakers such as Peter Cook, John Schembri, Andrew Bullock, Neil Pathak and Janet Whiting as “go to partners” on deals.

“It’s a very focused place,” says Mr Semple. “It feels like a real partnership without the corporate structure that restricts partners pursuing their practices.”

Companies, he says, value experience and judgment not process.

“We’re very commercial and we have confidence in our own intelligence and capabilities without the need to display it which helps our clients get the best outcome,” says Mr Semple.

(Reporting by Brett.Cole@businessspectator.com.au)

(Editing by Miranda.Maxwell@businessspectator.com.au)