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Mills, Michael

Michael Mills

Direct Tel: +61 2 9146 3555
Tel: +61 2 9146 3500 Fax: +61 2 9146 3600

Michael Mills is one of Australia’s leading lawyers for complex commercial litigation and dispute resolution and the founding partner of the Quinn Emanuel Australia office.

He is considered by industry as a "go-to" partner for strategically important commercial litigation, as well as front end insurance, risk advisory and dispute resolution work. Michael brings a rare breadth of expertise and experience, having been the lead defence lawyer for some of Australia’s largest and most complex disputes; as well as having crafted a number of innovative dispute solutions for the benefit of corporate clients, both here and overseas. Michael’s areas of expertise include: Directors, officers and civil liability, Class actions & mass torts, Investigations, Government Enforcement and White Collar Criminal Defense Practice, Other regulatory investigations and resulting disputes, Product liability, Insurance – both insurance and risk solutions for policyholders, as well as insurance coverage disputes and Alternative dispute resolution, whether by arbitration, mediation, early neutral evaluation or other novel means.


Michael is regularly identified year upon year as a leading lawyer by various international guides to lawyers and legal firms, including:

  • Best Lawyers in Australia 2021 – Alternative Dispute Resolution, Class Action Litigation, Insurance Law, International Arbitration, Litigation, Product Liability Litigation, and Regulatory Practice
  • Best Lawyers in Australia 2020 – Class Action Litigation, Insurance Law, International Arbitration, Litigation, Product Liability Litigation, and Regulatory.
  • Doyle’s Guide – Leading Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution Lawyer – NSW, 2019.
  • Best Lawyers – Alternative dispute resolution, Class Action Litigation, Insurance Law, International Arbitration, Litigation, Product Liability Litigation and Regulatory Practice, plus 2016 Class Action Litigation ‘Lawyer of the Year’ and 2017 Product Liability ‘Lawyer of the Year’
  • Asialaw and Benchmark Litigation – ‘Disputes Star of the Year’ – Australia 2018
  • Legal 500 Asia Pacific – ‘Leading Individual’ in Insurance and recognized in Dispute Resolution
  • Chambers & Partners Global and Chambers Asia Pacific – Dispute Resolution and Insurance
  • Who’s Who Legal – Insurance and Reinsurance, Litigation; Litigation - ‘Most Highly Regarded Individual Asia Pac’ 2014 and 2015, a ‘World’s leading practitioner’ in litigation and ‘Most Highly Regarded’ in 2018
  • Expert’s Guide – Insurance and Reinsurance, Product Liability
  • Doyles – Leading Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution lawyer

“Outstanding litigator… Michael Mills at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is a well-recognised trial lawyer whose strategic approach to handling commercial disputes lends him a fantastic reputation in the market.”
Who’s Who Legal 2018 - Litigation


Of course, the true test is results and recently Michael has:

  • Advised GetSwift Ltd and its directors in the defence of 3 shareholder class actions, with the successful first instance and then Federal Court Full Court decision that only one proceeding should continue (case ongoing).
  • Successfully represented Infigen Ltd in the resolution of class action proceedings arising from a bushfire.
  • Represented the Deputy Chair of Southern Cross Media investigatory examinations and responding to compulsory notices issued by ASIC, which led to a rare public acknowledgement by ASIC not to proceed with action.
  • Successfully handled what many commentators described as the most important case to reach the High Court of Australia in the last 25 years – the so-called “Citizenship7” case involving Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and others in the High Court of Australia. We obtained unanimous judgment for our client Tony Windsor.   At the conclusion of the hearing, The Australian newspaper’s Legal Affairs Editor (Mr Chris Merritt) wrote “The depth of Windsor’s legal team did not end there.  Sitting in court behind Gleeson and Merkel were two partners from US litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Michael Mills and Michelle Fox. And behind them were solicitors from the firm, which has a success rate in court that is estimated by the legal press at somewhere between 88 and 91%”. The day after the decision was announced, Mr Merrit wrote: “The great victors are Windsor and his ludicrously high-powered legal team … Their arguments were endorsed by the seven judges.  They took on the best legal brains the government could muster and wiped the floor with them.”
  • Acted as contradictor on behalf of ASIC/Full Federal Court of Australia in the important white collar crime test case of ASIC v Whitebox Trading Pty Ltd.
  • Successfully prosecuted Assured Guaranty’s interests in the contested $1.9 billion refinancing of Reliance Rail Pty Ltd in the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
  • Successfully defended Viva Energy Ltd’s $2 billion IPO, both at first instance and then on appeal in the Supreme Court of Victoria.   
  • Michael is an occasional lecturer in complex litigation and dispute resolution at Stanford Law School, and is a member of RAND Institute for Civil Justice Board of Overseers.
  • Clients describe Michael as: “an absolutely outstanding, strategic and proactive lawyer who deeply understands the issues at hand and often achieves a result you wouldn’t have thought possible” (Chambers Asia Pacific 2015) and “proactive, strategic and highly tactical in all his work” (Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2015).

Michael is the author of Dispute Resolution (2018) a text which The Honourable JLB Allsop AO, Chief Justice commented deals with the crucial issue of how to “quickly and successfully as possible” resolve disputes through a detailed analysis “of the available dispute resolution processes (from consensual to adjudicative)” and dynamics of a dispute; in doing so it is “of immense value to current and future practitioners, academics and students.”

  • “Citizenship 7” Parliamentary references to the High Court of Australia – Achieved a complete victory in a landmark judgment representing Mr Tony Windsor as the contradictor to Mr Joyce in this matter. After an expedited hearing, the High Court ruled in a unanimous judgment that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce (along with 4 other referred Members) were ineligible to sit in Parliament due to dual citizenship. The Court adopted all of Mr Windsor’s submissions regarding the proper interpretation of section 44(i) of the Constitution.  As a result, a by-election was held for Mr Joyce’s vacant seat in Parliament and the Australian Government lost its one-seat majority.
  • Assured Guaranty – successfully acted on behalf of Assured Guaranty in proceedings commenced by the Reliance Rail group against various bondholders. Assured was also a bondholder of Reliance Rail, and supported Reliance Rail’s position that it could effect a $1.9 billion refinancing without bondholders’ consent under finance documents. Dexia and FMS opposed this position, and an expedited trial was held six weeks later. After a two day hearing, Justice McDougall found in favour of the position regarding the refinancing which had been adopted by our client.
  • Viva Energy Australia – successfully defended Viva in 2016 in relation to its proposed $2 billion IPO to be structured as a real estate investment trust (REIT) over its property portfolio of 400+ service stations around Australia.  Eureka and Viva had an alliance agreement and Eureka sought injunctive and declaratory relief in the Supreme Court of Victoria to prevent the REIT proceeding.  An expedited trial was held eight weeks later.  In his judgment, Justice Croft found in favour of Viva Energy and dismissed the proceedings with an order for costs.  Eureka appealed the judgment and the matter was heard by the Court of Appeal in Victoria on 8 March 2016.  Viva was again successful, with the appeal dismissed.
  • Arup – In what was described as the largest matter then before the Federal Court of Australia, successfully resolved on behalf of our client the $2.2 billion proceedings (plus interest and costs) brought by the receivers of the Airport Link toll road in Brisbane.
  • ICWA – currently representing the Insurance Commission of Western Australia in the Bell Group dispute. Following ICWA’s press release about the appointment of Quinn Emanuel, the media reported that: “the State Government has muscled up for the renewal of legal battles over the $1.7 billion Bell Group dispute, appointing… Quinn Emanuel, which is described as the largest law firm in the world devoted solely to business litigation and arbitration…” and that “the WA government has pulled out the big guns in its bid to claw back money…”
  • E*Trade – Represented E*Trade after its Manila office was raided by the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation in May 2016. Thirty-six of their 400+ employees in Manila were arrested for alleged violations of Philippines securities laws and all equipment was confiscated, effectively shutting down their operations in the Philippines. E*TRADE was accused of running illegal trades for US customers. By October 2016 all alleged violations had been dismissed and the office successfully reopened.  
  • Lend Lease — Led Bovis Lend Lease’s successful defence and resolution efforts in relation to the World Trade Centre clean-up litigation, where over 18,000 plaintiffs sued the City of New York, our client and others. The litigation is reported to be one of the largest mass tort actions in the United States. Michael played a key role in driving a resolution strategy which saw all claims resolved with no settlement contribution from our client and historic legislation becoming law in the US, which effectively limited Bovis Lend Lease’s and other contractors exposure to available insurance.
  • Directors & Officers - Michael regularly advises and represents directors and/or executive officers in high profile matters. These have included HIH Insurance Ltd, ABC Learning, Babcock & Brown, Hastie Group, Southern Cross Austereo; plus many others which fortunately never became a matter of public record. To date Michael enjoys an enviable record, with no director nor officer he has represented having ever been criminally prosecuted; nor found civilly liable post the Liquidator’s examinations and/or other litigation.

In addition Michael:

  • regularly advises ASX100 companies on both front end business risk and insurance issues, as well as insurance coverage disputes and solutions; and
  • acts as a mediator on a range of commercial disputes.
  • University of Western Australia
    (B.Juris 1980, LLB 1981)
  • Stanford University
    (JSM., Law, 1992)
  • The High Court of Australia, Federal Courts of Australia
  • Supreme Courts of New South Wales
  • Western Australia Qualified Mediator
  • Freehills (now known as Herbert Smith Freehills)
  • Phillips Fox (now known as DLA Phillips Fox)
  • Malleson Stephen Jacques (now know as King & Wood Mallesons)
  • Best Lawyers in Australia 2021 and 2022 – Alternative Dispute Resolution, Class Action Litigation, Insurance Law, International Arbitration, Litigation, Product Liability Litigation, and Regulatory Practice
  • Doyles Guide - Leading Commercial Litigation & Dispute Resolution Lawyers – NSW, 2020 - Recommended
  • Best Lawyers in Australia 2020 – Class Action Litigation, Insurance Law, International Arbitration, Litigation, Product Liability Litigation, and Regulatory.
  • Doyle’s Guide – Leading Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution Lawyer – NSW, 2019
  • Best Lawyers in Australia 2016 Sydney Class Action Litigation "Lawyer of the Year" and in 2017 awarded “Lawyer of the Year” for Product Liability Litigation
  • Best Lawyer International awards from 2009 to 2015 in the Alternative Dispute Resolution, Class Action Litigation, Insurance, Litigation and Product Liability Litigation categories
  • Chambers and Partners – leading individual for Dispute Resolution and Insurance (2008 - 2016)
  • Legal 500 Asia-Pacific – recognized as a “leading individual” in Dispute Resolution and Insurance 2012, 2014-2016; recognized as a “leading individual” in Insurance for 2019; recognized for Dispute Resolution for 2019
  • Who’s Who Legal? – 2016 recognised as a world leading practitioner in Litigation, in 2015 recognised as World Leading Lawyer in Insurance and Reinsurance and 2012 to 2014 Expert and Leading Lawyer in Commercial Litigation, Insurance and Reinsurance and in 2018 in Litigation and Insurance and Reinsurance.
  • Asialaw and Benchmark Litigation – Disputes Star of the Year – Australia 2018
  • “China: Some Lessons in Mediation”, Australian International Law News, 1993
  • “The Laws of Australia (Chapter 3 - Torts)”, The Law Book Company Limited, 1993 and update texts till 2003
  • “Lessons from America: Professional Liability and Tort Reform”, Australian Bar Review, Vol. 12, 1995
  • “Crisis Management – Liability and Insurance Issues”, Insurance Law Journal, Vol. 12, 2001
  • “Insurance and Risk Solutions for Commercial Projects”, Australian Mining and Petroleum Law Journal, Vol. 20, 2001 
  • “Duty of Good Faith: The ‘Sleeper’ of Insurance Obligations?”, Australian Law Journal, Vol. 80, No. 6, 2006
  • “Many ways to resolve disputes”, The Australian newspaper , 15 September 2017
  • “Onus on the few to prove they are eligible to represent the many in parliament”, The Australian newspaper, 10 November 2017
  • Dispute Resolution - a practitioner’s guide to successful alternative Dispute Resolution (2018, Thomson Reuters)
  • National Chair and Director, LEADR (Association of Dispute Resolvers, 2001-2008 – now known as Resolution Institute) (Since awarded Honourary Life Membership of Resolution Institute for services to dispute resolution)
  • Guest Lecturer, Stanford Law School, 2011-2016
  • Member, Federation of Insurance and Corporate Counsel
  • Member of the Board of Overseers, RAND (Institute for Civil Justice)