Australia: Sydney law firm partner wins $450,000 payout for unlawful sacking - PressFrom - Australia
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AustraliaSydney law firm partner wins $450,000 payout for unlawful sacking

13:30  11 june  2019
13:30  11 june  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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A former partner in the Sydney office of national law firm HWL Ebsworth has been awarded $ 450 , 000 in damages after the NSW Supreme Court found he Tim Griffiths, who is also a published author, successfully argued that the firm 's managing partner , Juan Martinez, had unlawfully expelled him

Law firm partners work in large and small firms that handle a wide variety of cases and practice different types of law . A former partner in the Sydney office of national law firm HWL Ebsworth has been awarded $ 450 , 000 in damages after the NSW Supreme Court found he was "effectively

Sydney law firm partner wins $450,000 payout for unlawful sacking© Luis Enrique Ascui HWL Ebsworth managing partner Juan Martinez.

A former partner in the Sydney office of national law firm HWL Ebsworth has been awarded $450,000 in damages after the NSW Supreme Court found he was "effectively marched out the door" for reasons that were "irrational and wrong".

Tim Griffiths, who is also a published author, successfully argued that the firm's managing partner, Juan Martinez, had unlawfully expelled him from the partnership in August 2015 by sending an email that read, in part: "I do not want you in the practice any longer. I wish to propose you leave tomorrow."

Sydney law firm partner wins $450,000 payout for unlawful sacking© Supplied Former HWL partner Tim Griffiths.

The Supreme Court heard Mr Griffiths had initially been given three months' notice in July 2015 to leave, before Mr Martinez sent the email just weeks later.

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HWL Ebsworth, Australia’s biggest legal partnership , has been ordered to pay $ 450 , 000 to a former NSW Supreme Court judge Stephen Robb found that Ebsworth managing partner Juan Martinez However, Mr Martinez ordered the lawyer by email to leave the firm ’s Sydney office three weeks

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Sydney law firm partner wins $450,000 payout for unlawful sacking
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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Robb found the termination with three months' notice was invalid because Mr Martinez acted without the authority of other capital partners in the firm.

The subsequent attempt by Mr Martinez to dismiss Mr Griffiths virtually immediately was "wrongful" and based on "flawed" grounds.

HWL Ebsworth confirmed it intended to lodge an appeal but declined to comment further.

Mr Martinez had argued that Mr Griffiths spent 90 per cent of his work hours between July 21 and August 12 in 2015 on personal matters, including work related to the promotion and launch of his book Endurance, a novel told from the perspective of Australian photographer and explorer Frank Hurley.

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Sydney law firm partner wins $ 450 , 000 payout for unlawful sacking . Tim Griffiths, who is also a published author, took national law firm HWL Ebsworth to court after his employment was terminated.

Justice Robb found the process by which Mr Martinez arrived at the 90 per cent figure – later revised to 80 per cent – was "irrational and wrong".

"It was erroneous mathematically," Justice Robb said. "Given that this issue was a primary basis for Mr Martinez summarily terminating a fellow partner, the process that he adopted was extraordinarily lax."

Justice Robb said the book was written between 2011 and mid-2014, during a period in which Mr Griffiths increased the level of fees he brought into the firm to about $2.3 million by June 30, 2014.

However, his billings were largely dependent on the work he did for one large client. When the client decided to take that work in-house, Mr Griffiths' billings dropped to $1.5 million in 2014-15 and were expected to decline further.

Emails tendered in court showed Mr Griffiths emailed Mr Martinez on August 17, 2015, asking whether arrangements had been put in place for the handover of his clients and saying his preference remained to see out his three months' notice period.

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Mr Martinez replied with a single sentence: "I have had other things on my mind BUT you should be packing."

Justice Robb said Mr Griffiths left his Australia Square office that day, "but this was not an act of choice ... as he was effectively marched out the door".

In the witness box, Mr Martinez said: "If you want to be an author, you can actually resign from the partnership and be an author."

Justice Robb said the damage done to Mr Griffiths' employment prospects was "relatively extreme". In May 2016 Mr Griffiths started a new role as special counsel in Ashurst's Papua New Guinea office, on a salary of $300,000 a year. He had been earning $435,000 a year as a "fixed draw" partner at HWL Ebsworth, receiving a set cut of profits.

Justice Robb said Mr Griffiths "was not even in a position to explain or attempt to defend himself [to prospective employers], because the grounds given by Mr Martinez for the summary termination were cursory and inexplicable, apart from being unsupportable".

He awarded Mr Griffiths $450,000 in damages, plus costs.

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Sydney law firm partner wins $450,000 payout for unlawful sacking

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