Justin McDonnell

Justin McDonnell

Justin McDonnell is a Partner in the Brisbane office of King & Wood Mallesons where he concentrates on resolving commercial disputes. He has extensive experience in matters involving issues such as resource disputes, trade practices, telecommunications, insurance, mergers and acquisitions, insolvency and banking. Justin has particular expertise in dealing with large pieces of litigation involving numerous documents and witnesses that have significant commercial and strategic importance to clients. Most of these cases have been successfully resolved through Justin's use of mediation and other dispute resolution procedures.
Justin has been nominated as a leading lawyer in a number of surveys. Most recently:

  • in 2018 he was listed in Best Lawyers in 11 categories including bet-the-company, litigation, alternative dispute resolution, insurance, government, class action, product liability and international arbitration as nominated by peers in Best Lawyers. In 2015 and 2017, Justin was listed as the Queensland Alternative Dispute Resolution Lawyer of the year. In 2016 and 2018 he was listed as Queensland International Arbitration Lawyer of the year;
  • as the leading Queensland litigator in Dispute Resolution Asia Pacific in Chambers Global for the last 5 years; 
  • in 2010 by The Australian newspaper as one of the leading 100 lawyers in Australia as nominated by 160 general counsel in the Legal Benchmarking Report; and
  • in 2013, the UK Lawyers Monthly awarded Justin the 2013 Australian Insurance Lawyer of the Year award.
  • for some years in Doyle's Guide as one of three preeminent commercial litigators in Queensland.

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Representative matters

  • Acting for Seqwater in the Class Action concerning the 2011 Queensland Floods in the largest class action in Australian legal history with an estimated $2 billion claim;
  • Acting for Shine Lawyers in a $250m class action against the Firm for alleged non-disclosures;
  • Acting for the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program;
  • Acting for Tatts Group Ltd in litigation in the Queensland Supreme Court involving about $250m concerning a Product Agreement with Queensland Racing after acting for Tatts Group Ltd in the Queensland Racing Industry Commission of Inquiry;
  • Acting for Gladstone Ports Corporation in successfully striking out two class actions concerning dredging at the port; currently acting in a further class action involving dredging;
  • Acting for clients in the 2001 Floods; Health Payroll and Racing Commissions of Inquiry in Queensland;
  • Acting for BHP in judicial review challenges in the Queensland Supreme Court on coal royalties totalling over $380m;
  • Acting for a number of foreign currency loan cases for Westpac and AGC;
  • Acting for Westpac in settling litigation arising out of the demise of Southern Cross Airlines in a $50 million claim;
  • Acting for Telstra in telecommunications litigation, including settling the $100 million Pacific Star and $560 million All Services litigation;
  • Acting for ANI in settling litigation with claims up to $150 million arising out of its takeover of Palmer Tube Mills;
  • Acting for PricewaterhouseCoopers in successfully defending litigation in the Queensland Supreme Court, arising out of the collapse of the Emanuel Group with claims over $500 million; obtaining an indemnity costs order after a 9 month trial;
  • Acting for Brisbane Airport Corporation in successfully defending claims in the Federal Court that a proposed large scale retail development at the airport contravened the Airports Act. This was a precedent decision on the commercialisation of airports;
  • Acting for large resource companies in gas supply agreement price arbitrations;
  • Acting for Japanese insurers in a large insurance dispute in the Federal Court for over $600 million from the flooding of Ensham Coal Mine in January 2008;
  • Acting for BG in the 400 George Street litigation successfully in every hearing to the High Court, dealing with important issues on the legal effect of deeds;
  • Acting for the former Chief Justice of Queensland (Justice Carmody) in a successful appeal of an Information Commissioner decision to allow release of inter-judicial communications;
  • Successfully acting for Woolworths in a number of planning appeals concerning competitor operations in Queensland;
  • Acting for solicitors, accountants and insurers in professional negligence claims, firms including Herbert Smith Freehills, DLA Piper, MurphySchmidt, Norton Rose Fulbright, Hemming & Hart and Sparke Helmore;
  • Advising corporate clients on directors & officers liability insurance, including comparisons of varying policies and drafting indemnities for directors;
  • Advising resource clients on issues concerning force majeure, drafting indemnities and disputes involving commodity sales and joint ventures;
  • Acting for corporate and banking clients in ATO, ACC and ACCC investigations, including dealing with allegations of insider dealing, misleading conduct, third line forcing and price fixing;
  • Advising clients on the possible access to the United Nations Compensation Commission for reimbursement of losses sustained during the First Gulf War as well as acting for a number of American and Japanese banks in London in dealing with Gulf War sanctions; and
  • Acting for the successful applicant in Bell v. ASC regarding the presence of legal advisers at an ASIC investigation examination and also in claims against the ASIC regarding the right to access documents.


  • 1981: Bachelor of Commerce degree, University of Queensland
  • 1983: Bachelor of Laws (Hons) degree, University of Queensland
  • 1987: Master of Laws (Hons), Cambridge University
  • 1987 - 1990: Linklaters & Paines, London
  • 1991 - 1996: Feez Ruthning (now Allens), Brisbane
  • 1996 - 1997: Senior Associate, Mallesons Stephen Jaques, Brisbane
  • 1998 - to date: Partner, Mallesons Stephen Jaques (now King & Wood Mallesons), Brisbane

Professional memberships/committees

  • Senior Counsellor for the Queensland Law Society since 2013;
  • Senior Solicitor on Lexon Insurance panel for the Queensland Law Society to deal with Insurer/Insured disputes – one of only two Brisbane lawyers;
  • Member of Australian Insurance Law Association;
  • Member, Queensland Supreme Court Judge's Rules Committee (Costs Sub-Committee), including the Justice Muir reviews in 2002 and 2005 and the Justice Douglas review in 2010 – 11;
  • A past Chairman of the Queensland Law Society Litigation Rules Committee (2008 -13) and on the committee for over a decade;
  • Member of the Queensland Supreme Court Better Resolution Group (2009 - 12);
  • Queensland Law Society representative on the University of Queensland Student Union Election Tribunal (2009 to date);
  • QLS representative on the Federal Court Practitioners’ Liaison Committee in the early 2000s;
  • The author of the QLS response on the proposed joint expert witness reforms to the Queensland Uniform Civil Procedure Rules (2005)’ the QLS and the Large Firm Group response on the proposed Federal Court Rules in 2010 and on the proposed class action practice direction for the Queensland Supreme Court in 2016;
  • A practitioner participant for Federal Court consultations with the Brisbane legal profession on urgent interlocutory matters, Corporations panel, fast track and the new Federal Court work streams.


Joint author: the chapter on Insurance Intermediaries and Clients in the text "Law of Commercial and Professional Relationships" (1996) and the chapter on Australia in the Global Legal Insight text of "Bribery and Corruption" (2013).

Over 70 seminars since 2000 on legal topics internally, for clients or external organisations, including the QLS, on topics as diverse as large litigation, bribery and corruption, insurance, class actions, legal professional privilege, evidence; contract law; force majeure; legal risks for dam operators and exclusion clauses

Presented to University of Queensland LLM class on Class Actions (2017).

At the 2013 QLS Annual Law Symposium, the then Chief Justice de Jersey of the Queensland Supreme Court commented: “Over the last couple of years, the court has worked closely with the profession to refine our process for supervised cases (that is, cases where a trial would last more than five days), and it is appropriate that I express thanks today for the QLS contribution led by Justin McDonnell of King and Wood Mallesons. The result of this initiative should see more focus on limiting disclosure of documents and their efficient electronic management, as well as the traditional goal of limiting and defining the scope of any trial by reference to the real issues, and avoiding surprise.”

KWM roles

Roles include: the Firm’s Partnership Committee, National Ethics partner to assist with Firm ethical issues, on the former Risk Committee and Legal Excellence Committee responsible for maintaining high legal skills; the Due Diligence teams for the Firm in assessing the 2004 merger with the Hong Kong firm of Kwok & Yih and the 2012 transaction with King & Wood.
Co-chair of the Firm’s Bribery & Corruption Group and chair of the India Business Interest Group. On the Firm’s Global Investigations, Fraud and Compliance and International Arbitration Groups.

The Brisbane office conflicts partner, professional risk partner to deal with complaints and issues concerning the Firm and also act as Partner in Charge when needed. National Dispute Resolution Education partner (2000 - 2016) and within Brisbane since 1998.


Legal insights

Western Australia’s Court of Appeal has found the Electricity Networks Corporation liable in negligence in relation to damage caused by the Parkerville bushfire in January 2014.

06 July 2021

At least 60 class actions were filed in Australia between 1 July 2020 and 30 April 2021.

24 May 2021

In MZAPC v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the High Court dismissed an appeal from the Federal Court of Australia concerning the “materiality” threshold for jurisdictional error.

21 May 2021

In a unanimous decision handed down on Friday, the Full Court of the Federal Court upheld a decision of Justice Katzmann that found Ethicon Sàrl and related companies liable for damages and other...

09 March 2021

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