Justice François Kunc, a judge in the Equity Division of the Supreme Court, reflects on a piece of commercial litigation involving QCs Tom Hughes, Ian Callinan, Murray Gleeson and James Spigelman that left him in awe when he was young solicitor.
The late 1980s is sometimes remembered as the “Takeovers Boom” and the case that changed me was a takeover case.
It is reported as ICAL Ltd v County Natwest Securities Australia Ltd and Transfield (Shipbuilding) Pty Ltd (1988) 39 NSWLR 214 and was the first piece of substantial commercial litigation I was involved in as a young solicitor.
I had started at Allen Allen & Hemsley in mid-1986 in mergers and acquisitions, assigned to then Allens partner (and subsequent Supreme Court Judge) Reg Barrett. I had worked with him when I was a summer clerk and he was a wonderful mentor. I learned so much working with him on some of the notable transactions of the time.
One of the then favourite commercial responses in a takeover was to litigate. After about 18 months of transaction-based work, I was moved to the litigation department to assist with takeover litigation. It was not long before I found myself working day and night on the ICAL case.
Looking back, five things have stayed with me: the skill of those involved, the speed with which everyone had to work, the courtesy with which it was all done, the diversity of the Supreme Court’s Equity jurisdiction, and the need to be alert to the possibility of law reform.