13 May 2020

Australian firm McCullough Robertson launches defence and national security business

Picture of an Australian jet fighter

McR Defence will be led by recent partner hires Brett Sangster and Evan Economo, who both joined from Downer Group, an Australian engineering and infrastructure firm.

McR Defence will be led by former Downer Group managing director Brett Sangster and deputy GC Evan Economo

Australian law firm McCullough Robertson has added to its collection of diversified businesses by launching a government-focused professional services unit McR Defence.

The new business will provide commercial, procurement and strategic advisory services to support the Australian government in matters relating to defence and national security.

Kristen Podagiel, managing partner of McCullough Robertson, said: “McCullough Robertson is no stranger to challenging the status quo, leveraging our national framework and resources, to better serve our clients with complementary services… We aim to think commercially about our clients’ needs and how we can create additional value for the businesses and government bodies we work with.”

The Brisbane-based firm, which has around 50 partners and operates out of five offices, said each member of the new team has experience working across Australia’s Department of Defence, including the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group and the National Intelligence Community. The business will also draw on the firm’s experience working in related industries such as critical infrastructure and the oil, gas and energy sectors.

McR Defence will be led by recent partner hires Brett Sangster and Evan Economo, who both joined from Downer Group, an Australian engineering and infrastructure firm.

Sangster, who was previously managing director at Downer, said: “This is a bold but exciting step for the legal industry to be extending their reach into commercial advisory and project delivery services. Defence programs and projects are complex and require the highest level of commercial leadership and input to help them to success. The infrastructure and reputation of a firm such as McCullough Robertson is the ideal platform to provide high quality commercial services to help government to deliver successful programs and projects.”

Sangster, a former army officer, had earlier spells at McCullough Robertson in 2006 and again in 2011, while Economo returns to private practice after more than eight years as deputy general counsel at Downer. He was previously a partner at Australian firm Gadens having started his legal career at Norton Rose Fulbright.

Economo said: “The role that critical infrastructure plays in our country’s future is often understated. The opportunity to further support our clients with complementary services founded on real expertise and experience is extremely valuable. McCullough Robertson is leading the way with McR Defence and tackling something previously relegated to the role of major consulting firms.”

McR Defence will operate out of the firm's Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra offices.

In March Ashurst has launched a consulting arm in Australia offering regulatory compliance, conduct and risk management advice to financial services clients and leadership and governance advice to company boards.

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