By and large it’s been a difficult past few years for Perth’s employment lawyers. A continued downturn in the resources sector combined with the strong competitive forces and pricing pressure seen in all Australian legal markets has placed heat upon a variety of practices. Nonetheless a number of Eastern States headquartered and global firms still covet a WA employment practice and have made concerted efforts to establish such. While traction to date has been minimal we’d suggest that in the next 12 months the market will see at least two new entrants into the Perth employment law market.
Within these new entrants we’re excluding the departure from HLS/arrival of David Heldsinger as a sole practitioner. Come September this year, HLS will lose one of its founding and most respected partners and the WA employment market will see its strong specialist employment law firm option divided but hopefully not weakened.
Many of these new entrants have built their practice on the back of lateral hires from the market’s historically stronger practices. There were initially thoughts that this may lead to a change in the pecking order however this simply hasn’t been the case. The likes of Ashurst and Herbert Smith Freehills all remain atop the market even after having seen some of their next generation of talent move to competitors. Curiously, the only new entrant to seriously challenge the market leaders comes on the back of a lateral hire from a firm without a reputation in employment. Having left King & Wood Mallesons some five years ago, Duncan Fletcher and his team at K&L Gates have managed to now emerge as one of the market’s leading employment practices.
On the employee representation side, with Slater & Gordon’s Toby Borgeest now having joined the Victorian Bar in early 2015 there’s a shortage of options with Mark Cox and his team at MDC Legal now sit as perhaps the only local option.