Despite activity levels and work volumes having declined the Western Australian construction legal market has seen a number of new entrants of different styles and heritage. The practices of international firms Clyde & Co (November 2013) and Jones Day (April 2014) are still in their infancy however already have turned heads and aggressive East Coast firms such as HWL Ebsworth and Gadens Lawyers have set their sights firmly on the area too.
As it currently stands it’s unlikely these new entrants will weaken the hold the likes of Allens, Clayton Utz and Corrs Chambers Westgarth have on major front-end matters however on the disputes side it might be a different story. Indeed it’s been disputes that have kept many of the market’s construction practices active and that are likely to continue to do so.
While the departure of Stephen McComish to Jones Day has unquestionably weakened the firm’s Western Australian based capabilities on construction disputes Allens continues be a market leader on non-contentious matters. Partner Michael Hollingdale was “intelligent and charming” and noted for his ability to operate effectively with government bodies.
As in other Australian jurisdiction Clayton Utz’s Perth based construction practice manages to hold a significant position of strength by way of team size, practitioner quality and track record.
Clyde & Co’s contractor focused practice, particularly the expertise of former King & Wood Mallesons Partner Beth Cubitt , who was seen as “bright and savvy”.
Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s Chris Ryder was described as “at the top of his game” and “very, very good”while young Partners Spencer Flay and Sarah Leonard also drew praise. As one peer noted “they’ve got the biggest team over there and cover front and back end very well”.
Herbert Smith Freehills’ Melanie Cave was noted for expertise on major infrastructure matters and PPP projects.
At the time of writing Jones Day is still yet to officially launch in Western Australia. Former Allens Partner Stephen McComish will lead the office and is held in high regard on contentious construction matters. There are also strong rumours that McComish will be joined by Norton Rose Fulbright construction litigation Partner Simon Bellas in due course.
Lavan Legal’s construction practice was seen as “the pick of the mid-market” with Partners Rob Shaw and Shane Pentony viewed as “good guys and really good operators”.
Greg Steinepreis’ “reasonable” and “outcome focused” style was praised, particularly on back-end matters with the Squire Sanders WA construction practice seen as “very active in the contractor market”.