While many law firms took a staunch approach to advising tobacco clients in the early 2000s, a number of firms are again looking at tobacco following the global financial crisis.

“Some law firms still won’t act for us, who we have approached previously, however, this was before the GFC. After the GFC there were one or two more who were very interested in acting for us,” said British American Tobacco Australia general counsel, Gareth Cooper. “The approach to dealing with controversial industries in Australia, seems to be the law firms are taking a much more mature approach to it, in my view.”

BATA is well familiar with law firms not wanting to represent big tobacco. In 2001, under the legal leadership of Fred Gulson, BATA was “sacked” by Clayton Utz during a litigation case, known as McCabe case. Subsequently, BATA was forced to find a new representative before proceeding with an appeal, which they then won. Corrs Chambers Westgarth was hired as a replacement, and is currently representing BATA in legal action against the Federal Government’s proposed plain Davidoff packaging legislation. BATA also regularly uses Baker & McKenzie.

Cooper has also noticed a changed in how firms advise BATA since he first arrived six years ago. “When I first came here I found them to be quite conservative,” he said. “But I have noticed a change in the last 12- 24 months, I think somewhat bought on by the pressure we have brought to bear, but I think there is a recognition now with other law firms coming into the market change is upon the legal industry and those who embrace it will benefit the most.”