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Allens (law firm)

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Allens (law firm)

Major practice areas corporate and commercial
Key people Michael Rose (Chief Executive Partner)
Ian Wallace (Chairman of Partners)
Date founded 1822
Company type Partnership

Allens is a commercial law firm that operates in the Asia-Pacific region. In Australia, and throughout the Asia-Pacific region generally, it is considered to be one of the top commercial law firms.[1]

Allens is one of the largest law firms in the Asia Pacific region, with almost 200 partners and more than 1500 personnel. Since 1 May 2012, Allens has operated in association with Magic Circle law firm Linklaters, giving Allens access to Linklaters' global network of offices.

Allens also comprises a separate patent attorney firm, Allens Patent & Trade Mark Attorneys, which is closely integrated with the law firm's intellectual property group.


Foundation of the Firm

Deutsche Bank Place, Allens' Sydney office

Allens' origins can be traced to the Sydney firm that became Allen Allen & Hemsley, which had been in existence since 1822, making Allens Australia's longest continuous legal partnership.[2] Former Managing Partner Sir Norman Cowper is credited with developing Allens into one of Asia's leading law firms [3]

Consolidation of the Allens Practice 1920 to 1975

By the early 1920s Allens had gained a reputation as Australia's establishment firm, largely because of its high profile and wealthy clients.[4] During the 1970s the firm acted for the Australian Bankers' Association in relation to the Whitlam Labour Government loans scandle.[4] Prior to the loans scandle, Allens had acted for the Australian banks in the famous Bank Nationalisation Case,[2] retaining Garfield Barwick QC as lead counsel.

Client Relationships

Allens has strong client relationships stretching back over decades and, in the case of Westpac, over 160 years (the second longest lawyer-client relationship in history after the relationship between Clifford Chance and Barclays Bank).[4] In the early years of large firm legal practice in Australia Allens was also able to cement relationships with other leading Australian businesses, including with Sir Frank Packer's Consolidated Press Holdings,[2] later continuing the relationship with his son, Kerry Packer's Nine Network Holdings.[2] Allens is also known to act for 55 of the world's top 100 companies by market capitalisation, including for News Corporation in Australia.

The Allens Affair

In the early 1990s the firm was rocked by revelations that Adrian Powles, a former partner in the London office, had secretly accessed a client's trust account to fund a gambling addiction. Sydney journalist Valerie Lawson published a book in 1995 entitled The Allens Affair that details the Powles case and touches on much of the early history of the firm.[4]

Allens in Victoria

The other major predecessor firm of Allens is Arthur Robinson & Co., which began trading in Melbourne, Victoria on 11 May 1914, just prior to the outbreak of World War I. In 1984, Arthur Robinson & Co. merged with Hedderwick Fookes & Alston to form Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks.

Allens Arthur Robinson was formed on 1 July 2001 by the merger of the Melbourne-headquartered Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks (ARH) and the Sydney-headquartered Allen Allen & Hemsley (AAH), which created one of the largest law firms in the Asia Pacific. The two firms had been associated for 15 years prior to the merger through the Allens Arthur Robinson Group alliance.

Alliance Agreement with Linklaters

Allens dropped the 'Arthur Robinson' part of its name on 1 May 2012. From that date, Allens began operating in an exclusive alliance with Magic Circle law firm Linklaters, with each firm remaining financially independent.[5] Allens and Linklaters will operate two joint ventures in Asia, with one of these focused on energy, resources, and infrastructure services, and another focused on Indonesia, where Allens is already in an alliance with domestic firm Widyawan & Partners.[6][7]

Prior to entering an alliance agreement with Linklaters, Allens had operated in alliance with Magic Circle firm Slaughter & May.

Corporate art collection and involvement with the arts

Since the mid-1970s Allens has built a substantial collection of Australian contemporary art, including works by Rosalie Gascoigne, David Aspden, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Dale Frank and Ildiko Kovaks. These works were purchased early in the artists' careers. The firm's strategy is to continue to support emerging artists. There are over 1,500 works in its offices across Australia and Asia.[8]

Allens provides pro bono legal support to the Arts Law Centre of Australia and has a long history of supporting the arts. The firm acted in the 1971 Literature Obscenity Trial, representing Australian Bookseller Angus & Robertson which had been charged with obscenity for publishing and selling Philip Roth's novel Portnoy's Complaint in Australia.[9] Allens retained Nobel Prize winning author Patrick White as lead witness for Angus & Robertson.[10]

Notable alumni

  • AAH alumnus James Wolfensohn served as President of the World Bank from 1995–2005.
  • William Gummow AC, AAH partner 1969-1976, has been a judge of the High Court of Australia since 1995. At the time of his appointment to the High Court he had been a judge of the Federal Court of Australia since 1986.
  • Sir Norman Lethbridge Cowper (1896–1987) was a partner of AAH from 1924 to 1970 and served for many years as Senior Partner.
  • Sir William McMahon (1908–1988) practised as a lawyer at Allen, Allen & Hemsley between 1933 and 1939 and later served as Australia's 20th Prime Minister.
  • John Lehane (1941–2001), AAH partner 1971-1995, left the firm's banking and finance practice to become a Federal Court Judge.
  • Former Allens partner Ian Renard was the Chancellor of the University of Melbourne.
  • Alan Loxton AM, a former AAH Senior Partner, served as President of the Law Society of NSW, as did former AAH Senior Partners Sir Norman Cowper Kt CBE (above) and William Robin Dill Stevenson OBE.
  • Reginald Barrett, AAH partner 1971-1991, was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 2001.
  • Michael Ball, AAR partner, was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 2010.
  • Anne Ferguson, AAR partner, was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 2010.
  • Andrew O'Keefe former Allens lawyer is now a TV presenter on Deal or No Deal and Weekend Sunrise.


  1. ^ Merritt, Chris. "Big three not worried by new arrivals". The Australian newspaper online. The Australian. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d Jonathan Solomon (2008). "Allens Arthur Robinson". Dictionary of Sydney. Dictionary of Sydney Trust. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  3. ^ Rutledge, Martha. "Cowper, Sir Norman Lethbridge (1896–1987)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d Valerie Lawson 'The Allens Affair' (1995) Pan McMillan Australia
  5. ^ Bloomberg (2012). AAR, Linklaters Agree on Alliance to Compete Internationally. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  6. ^ Allens Arthur Robinson (2012). Allens and Linklaters form integrated alliance. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  7. ^ The Lawyer (2012). Linklaters seals Allens Arthur Robinson alliance. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  8. ^ Art Write 'The art of corporate identity' 18 October 2011 accessed 3 October 2013
  9. ^ Jonathan Solomon (2008). "Allens Arthur Robinson". Dictionary of Sydney. Dictionary of Sydney Trust. Retrieved 20 August 2013.
  10. ^ Jonathan Solomon (2008). "Allens Arthur Robinson". Dictionary of Sydney. Dictionary of Sydney Trust. Retrieved 29 February 2012.

External links

  • Allens website
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