May 26, 2024
Doyle's Guide

Editorial Commentary – Construction, Melbourne 2015

Victoria’s construction lawyers have seen better times than most of their counterparts in other Australian states in the past year. Front and back-end workflows have been reasonably strong and the state’s front-end construction lawyers have also benefitted from being active on a range of larger projects in other Australian states. Contentious matters have also been seen as increasing and developing into the levels and style seen in states such as NSW and Queensland.

Within this framework the usual suspects have continued to prosper and there’s been only moderate change to our rankings. Somewhat surprisingly firms such as Ashurst, Herbert Smith Freehills and King & Wood Mallesons all polled comparatively strongly as firms albeit that these firms have generally weakened in presence in most other Australian jurisdictions and offer only a small personnel commitment to construction in the Victorian market.

When it comes to sitting at the top of our rankings though team size does appear to matter and it should be seen as no coincidence that the market’s four largest construction teams dominate our rankings (Clayton Utz, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Minter Ellison & Norton Rose Fulbright). Amongst these four firms Corrs perhaps sits ahead of the others simply due to the depth across both front and back end matters. The firm’s lure of Andrew Stephenson and Michael Earwacker from Clayton Utz in late 2013 appears to have paid dividends and given Corrs the strength in back-end matters that it previously lacked.  Conversely, Clayton Utz while still remaining the benchmark on front end matters. now finds itself in the unfamiliar position of being without a top-flight construction litigation presence in the Victorian market.

While both Corrs and Clayton Utz are typically highlighted for the strength of their government practices, the more consistent presences of Minter Ellison and Norton Rose Fulbright continue to be the contractor/ private sector favourites in the Victorian market.

Mention should also been made of Allens and Molino Cahill. Allens, a firm whose construction practice other Australian states has been weakened significantly, have managed to improve their positioning in the Victorian market and stalwarts Emma Warren and Nick Rudge were regularly singled out for performing in less than ideal circumstances. Molino Cahill, a team comprised of a number of ex-Allens lawyers) have improved their presence and look well positioned as the most likely to lead the charge as Victoria’s back-end construction market moves towards higher volumes of disputes.

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