In an active and fiercely competitive family law market our first tier firms standout largely on the back of their team size, depth and their ability to secure the majority of complex property matters. Beyond these four firms sits a diverse range of service offerings including smaller specialist firms, large commercial firms and non-CBD based firms. From a client’s point of view, the Victorian family law market presents possibly the most diverse and differentiated offering of family lawyers to choose form in the country.
This differentiation may yet increase further as many of the state’s family lawyers also pointed towards what they saw as an impending changing of the guard. For near on 20 years the Victorian family law market has been dominated by a handful of influential and now very senior practitioners whose presence has also resulted in their respective firms sitting atop the market. The death of Michael Taussig QC in 2013 has perhaps brought this issue more firm into the spotlight however in the majority of the market’s top 12 practices gain their positioning significantly on the back of a one senior practitioner.
Finally, the position of the family law practices within the state’s commercial law firms looks to have improved. After a few decades where commercial firms were intent on removing their family law teams many of the “mid-tier” firms now look to be embracing the area (Lander & Rogers being the clear exception to this). The likes of Gadens Lawyers and Mills Oakley have improved their position and presence in the past 12-24 months and other firms such as Holding Redlich and M+K Lawyers have attempted to aggressively enter the market. It’s not yet a significant enough trend to have the leading specialist family law firms concerned but, it is one to be keep an eye on.
Kenna Teasdale’s Warwick Teasdale remains one of the market’s most influential figures and is widely respected by peers. Teasdale was described as “charming” and “always works to get a good results”. Partners Wendy Sylva and Stephen Gregory are also highly rated with Sylva described as “fantastic” and Gregory described as “good in the trenches”.
Kennedy Partners transition away from relying on the substantial presence of founding Partner Ian Kennedy appears to be progressing well. Partners Olivia Grobtuch & and Susanne Khung are viewed respectively as “a real standout” and “intelligent and quick”. Ian Kennedy’s expertise and position as “Australia’s best” on cross-border matters was widely noted.
The only full service commercial firm in our first tier, Lander & Rogers are viewed as having both the market’s largest family law team and the ability to utilise firm’s commercial expertise in other areas of law. Team leader Mark Parker was described as “feisty” and having a “no nonsense style” and a particularly strong in acting for high-net worth professionals. Partner Craig Henderson is described as “very capable”.
Despite the death of founding Partner Michael Taussig QC in 2013, Taussig Cherie Fildes remain one of the market’s strongest family law practices. Senior Partners Debra Cherie and Paul Fildes may have significantly contrasting styles but both are well respected. Fildes was described as “tremendous” and “resolution focused” while Cheries “never takes a backward step”.
Carew Counsel’s March 2013 merger with Hogg & Reid has elevated the firm’s size and market position. While former Hogg & Reid Partners Judy Hogg and Janet Reid may have scaled back to a degree they remain well regarded for their “resolution focused” approach while Partner Peter Carew was viewed as “diligent and practical”. The firm is also a pioneer by way of offering fixed pricing on the vast majority of matters.
Hawthorn based Clancy & Triado are seen as having “one of the best teams around, they’re all very good” by one peer. Partner Kimberly Hunter is “starting to really make her presence felt”. Partner Paul Staindl may share his time between his Mornington Peninsula winery and the practice of law yet still manages to enjoy favour, particularly from the market’s more senior practitioners.
Camberwell based Coote Family Lawyers is perhaps the strongest of the non-CBD based family law practices in Victoria. Partner Gillian Coote is one of the market’s most respected family lawyers viewed as “great to deal with” and “one of the best going around”.
The September 2012 return of Margaret Neal to Marshalls & Dent has added to a team already perennially considered as one of the market’s best. Senior Partner John McBride is “sharp and clever” while Neal’s presence back in the CBD has gained the attention of her peers.
Forte Family Law’s Wendy Kayler-Thomson brings a “considered and calm approach to the table” and partner Jacky Campbell “really knows her stuff”.
Gadens Lawyers’ family law team thrives on the back of Partner Rose Lockie who was described as “very good in commercial matters” and “able to deal with complex property disputes easily”.
After an incubation period of some five years the Mills Oakley family law practices is now a substantial rising force in the Melbourne family lawyer market. Partners John Mazzotta and Damian Harriss are viewed as “very good lawyers who know how to run matters on their merits”.
Westminster Law’s Michael Lefebvre was seen as “always strong” and “has a great bedside manner”.
Within other firms CE Family Law’s David Edney was seen as “pragmatic” and “cost conscious” while Sue Snyder was viewed as “the toughest and most ferocious” campaigner with a strong following within Melbourne’s Jewish community. Schetzer Constantinou’s David Schetzer was noted as a “good operator who works well to get a commercial result”.