This section provides additional information in relation to firm and individuals capabilities as well as any general market trends and influences relating to the legal services aspect of the Australian native title and cultural heritage market. It is compiled on the back of feedback from both solicitors practising within these areas and client referees.
Allens Marshall McKenna was praised “gregarious but with a steady head on his shoulders” while Queensland based Ben Zillmann’s negotiation style was seen as “particularly tough”.
The First Tier of our rankings is typically occupied by a number of firms however, within native title, Ashurst received more than double the number of recommendations than any other firm. Beyond having the largest team and an enviable list of clients it was the “collaborative style” of each member of the Ashurst native title team that earned most praise. Tony Denholder “understands the process” and is a “great negotiator”, Geoff Gishubl “always finds a way to get things sorted” and Gavin Scott is “exceptionally good” and “always listens”.
Chalk & Fitzgerald’s applicant practice was praised with Queensland peers noting the firm’s recent work within their market.
While the firm’s negotiation style might not be every peer’s cup of tea, Clayton Utz’s Queensland based trio of Mark Geritz, Pat Dwyer and Tosin Aro were not short on praise with one client noting of Geritz, “he tells me he know what he’s doing in that area and so far I believe him”.
Dillon Lawyers’ Jeff Dillion’s work on behalf of rights holders and bodies was greatly respected amongst his peers at large national firms. “He drives a hard commercial bargain” noted one peer while another commented that Dillon was “just great to deal with”.
Gilbert + Tobin’s Christine Lovitt was viewed as “one of the pioneers” in the Western Australian native title market and “a pleasure to deal with”.
Gilkerson Legal’s presence within the Australian legal market continues to grow, with the firm’s work on both sides of the native title spectrum being praised and envied by peers. Firm founder Oliver Gilkerson was noted as “absolutely fabulous” and “a quiet shining star”.
Herbert Smith Freehills appointment to partnership and relocation to Brisbane of William Oxby sits as a sign of the firm’s intention to extend capabilities in the area of native title. Were it not for the absence of Chloe Piper on maternity leave the firm may have ranked higher.
HopgoodGanim’s Jonathan Fulcher was seen as “practical and commercial” with his work for junior resources entities noted.
While it’s practice may be dependent upon the skills of just one individual HWL Ebsworth nonetheless remains the country’s leading applicant native title practice. Philip Hunter was seen as “the best native title lawyer going around” and “greatly respected”.
King & Wood Mallesons, who previously seemed to offer minimal attention to native title, are the big mover in the year’s rankings. The hires of Scott Singleton (Brisbane) and Sally Audeyev (Perth) have added significant horse-power with Singleton in particular being viewed as “sharp, sensitive and nothing’s too hard” and praise for his communication style included “he puts his ego aside and is just there to do the deal”.
McCullough Robertson’s Dominic McGann “always keeps the dialogue open” and was seen as “one of the last true gentlemen” nonetheless when required peers also noted that McGann had the ability to significantly modify this style when acting on behalf of certain clients.
Michael Owens “passion” and “spirit” when acting on behalf of applicant bodies and rights holders was noted and as one peer noted “behind the emotion he really knows his stuff”.
A succession of Partner level departures from the Minter Ellison native title practice has seen the firm drop out of our national rankings. As it currently stands Senior Associate Brett Hartley was the only individual at the firm to gain recognition for his work in this area.