First Kiwi lawyer ever appointed to head major global network

by Sophie Schroder26 Sep 2014
A lawyer has become the first Kiwi to be appointed as chair of the World Services Group (WSG), one of the largest global membership networks in the world with about 20,000 professionals across more than 115 countries.

Robert Falvey, senior international counsel at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, has been appointed to lead the network for the 2014 to 2015 term, stepping into the shoes of past chair Sergio Michelsen, a partner at Brigard & Urrutia.

As an expert in mergers and acquisitions, Falvey has been recognised as a leading lawyer by the International Financial Law Review, and his long standing corporate clients include Coles Myer, Koch Industries and Progressive Enterprises Limited.

The lawyer, previously the chair elect of WSG, told NZ Lawyer he’s “chuffed” to move into the new role but jokes that he’s quickly discovering just how much more work it involves.

Falvey’s Kiwi firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts has been a member of the WSG for about 10 years.

He’s been at the firm for almost 30 years - and for a large chunk of that as a partner - before he decided he’d like a more transitional role that complemented his extensive cross-border transaction experience.

Consequently, Falvey became Minter Ellison Rudd Watts’ “international networking guy” as he fondly refers to it, which involves further developing the firm’s existing networks.

“[Being a member of WSG] is an extension of the role…it’s a natural way of augmenting it,” he says. “It works very well – these organisations are an alternative to the global firms in a sense. In many ways we’re very like [global firms] if you look at some of these brand names in big markets. Our challenge is to make sure our brand as a WSG member firm is prominent in our target market.”

As a multidisciplinary organisation, WSG’s membership is non-exclusive and includes not only legal professionals, but also financial services and accounting firms.

Members are selected based on strict objective standards established by the board of directors.

These include being among the leading local, national or international business in their service area, having the highest professional reputation within the professional community, and having unparalleled depth of practical experience in the relevant region.

Falvey says it’s this rigorous selection process that is of particular benefit to the WSG member firms.  

“It’s the quality assurance and peace of mind for the referring firm as they send work out into the big wide world,” he says.

In the Australasian region, Minter Ellison Rudd Watts works closely with its Australian counterpart, Minter Ellison, which was a founding member of WSG.

Former Minter Ellison chairman and current partner Peter Bartlett has also served as chair of the group - from 2007 to 2008.

And as WSG has only one representative law firm per country or state, Minter Ellison Rudd Watts holds an enviable spot in the Kiwi market.

While there’s no doubt that Falvey’s latest appointment lends even greater opportunities to the firm, he points out that it’s actually good for everyone because it’s a chance to highlight New Zealand lawyers internationally.

“I’m representing our brand in New Zealand, the Minter Ellison legal brand, and now the WSG brand… It’s a great honour to be part of it and even more of an honour to be involved on this level, so I’m pretty chuffed.”