From law to M&A

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A vibrant M&A market in Australia, spurred by sudden rush of private equity deals, has sparked a rush for talent in the investment banking industry, with at least one major international bank turning to the legal profession to fill senior positions.

Last week, Andrew Clarke, a partner with law firm Allens Arthur Robinson, announced he had resigned to take up a role as managing director and head of M&A at Citigroup covering Australia and New Zealand. He replaces John Hanson, who left for Merrill Lynch in August.

Andrew Banks, managing director at Talent2 International, says the hiring of lawyers for M&A roles is not unusual. "They have been recruiting lawyers for 20 years, but this (hiring) is a sign that companies are focused on getting the right person rather than someone from a particular sector."

Ian Wilson, an executive director of Boyden Global Search, tells us there has "always been a trickle" of lawyers who moved to investment banks, attracted by the prospect of being involved in the origination and structuring of deals.

"It takes a certain personality type to move from one place to another," Wilson says, noting that lawyers are normally remunerated on hourly rates, whereas investment bankers relied on the success of a deal for the bulk of their remuneration. "But you don't have too many going the other way."

Both Wilson and Banks say there has been a lot of activity at the top end of the Australian investment banking industry, particularly with the sharp increase in deals in 2006. Thomson Financial says M&A deals were up 56% in the country in the first three months of 2006 compared with the same period in 2005.

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