Sparke Helmore loses former chairman Mark Hickey, partners to British newcomer DWF

Mark Hickey
Mark Hickey

Former chairman Mark Hickey and five other partners have left Sparke Helmore, Newcastle’s biggest law firm, to establish a local office of British company DWF.

Partners Ben Burney, Adam Fuller, David Reid, Matthew Smith and Vi-Ky Lam and senior advisor Jason Lambeth have joined Mr Hickey in shifting to DWF, a Manchester-based firm with offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

The departures are predominantly from Spark Helmore’s corporate and commercial division, including specialists in banking and finance and mergers and acquisitions law.

Mr Hickey, a long-time board member who had been with the firm for 19 years, was head of Sparke Helmore’s corporate team in the Hunter. 

He was elected chairman in August 2015, shortly after five partners and 24 other lawyers from the firm’s insurance practice left to join Hall & Willcox, but stepped down last month. 

Mr Burney led the firm’s banking and finance team.

Sparke Helmore, which was established 136 years ago and has about 750 staff across eight offices throughout Australia, was quick to reassure clients that it was business as usual.

“As the leading national commercial firm operating in the Hunter, we are committed to our clients and community in the Hunter,” interim chairman and Hunter commercial group head Andrew White told the Newcastle Herald in a statement.

“Our firm continues to look for opportunities to grow in line with our clients’ needs, as evidenced by the recent merger with [Perth firm] Jarman McKenna.

Sparke Helmore interim chairman Andrew White

Sparke Helmore interim chairman Andrew White

“We remain committed to our strategy and our vision to be a market-leading, independent Australian professional services business that our clients choose for outstanding people, legal expertise and our ability to connect.”

DWF said Mr Hickey would take on the newly created role of chairman of DWF Asia Pac and would have a lead role in developing the Newcastle office.

DWF Australia managing partner Jamie McPherson said the Newcastle launch was a “key piece of our Australian growth plans”.

“With the leading regional economy, a strong workforce and the ongoing development of the city as a metropolitan hub, Newcastle is a great place for us to start building out a new team to better service our clients across Australia,” he said in a statement.