Allens Arthur Robinson is arguably Australia’s leading law firm – and
certainly it’s one of the more profitable. AAR has just moved into new
offices in Sydney in the new tower structure on the corner of Phillip
Street, where they’ve got lots of room and the kind of state-of-the-art
video and computer equipment that would make Optus and Telstra go green
with envy.

But
all is apparently not well at AAR. The firm advised James Hardie as it
became clear just how far Hardie had gone to avoid its responsibilities
to asbestos victims. That’s continuing to rattle around the AAR
offices, with suggestions of an ongoing investigation.

Then
there’s partner Michael Ball, the lawyer for News Ltd who was mentioned
in the C7-Kerry Stokes case as the person who allegedly passed on the
phone number of a former Seven network CEO, Julian Mounter, to a
reporter on The Weekend Australian.

That
upset
presiding judge, Justice Ronald Sackville, who has been giving Noel
Hutley SC, News Ltd’s lead barrister in C7, a tough time, and AAR is a
bit touchy about that situation.

Then there’s former Allens lawyer and partner Ian Philip, now News
Ltd’s chief legal adviser, who admitted in the C7 case earlier this
month that he told pork pies and misled Telstra, a partner in Foxtel.

But
the decision that’s really concerning legal beagles at Allens (minions,
associates and the like) is the suggestion that the existing partners
have decided there will be no new partners created for the 2006 year.

Usually there is a flood of big ads in the AFR or The Australian
announcing who has slithered up the greasy pole of a law firm to
associate, senior associate, consultant, and holiest of holies,
partner. It seems AAR’s existing partners want to grab as big a
share of their record year for profits as possible, and don’t want to
share it with any newbies.

And why not? After all,
being lawyers to Macquarie Bank and its offshoots is reason enough to
treat 2005 as the best ever year at AAR. The cash has just rolled in.
So much for the season of charity and goodwill.