April 13, 2024
Doyle's Guide

Editorial Commentary – NSW Construction, 2015

New South Wales’ construction lawyers on average haven’t had an outstanding last 12 months however they’ve fared considerably better than their counterparts in other Australian jurisdictions.  Activity in front end matters in particular has been significantly more robust than in other Australian states and a steady volume of back end matters have provided a number of mid-tier firms with strong financial performance.

Within this framework Clayton Utz remains the dominant construction practice in town.  Previously speculation sat as to just how the firm would fare when Doug Jones stepped away from the firm’s Partnership however with that event now having occurred the firm’s construction team remains the largest in the market and so entrenched in acting for a host of Government agencies that, for the foreseeable future, it will remain at the very least within our First Tier of firms in both the front and back end.

There’s been no shortage of speculation as to many of the larger global firm’s commitment to a domestic construction practice and indeed the fall-out and personnel departures from the traditional “top-tier” firm’s construction practices. However, it would seem that either such fall-out is yet to take full effect or, alternatively, clients are happy with a generalist commercial litigator with a construction/projects strong to their bow as long as the firm’s brand is IBM-style strong.  Given the significant personnel departures from the likes of Allens, Ashurst and King & Wood Mallesons we expected these firms to perform poorly in our NSW rankings (as they have largely done in other states) however all still tracked virtually in line with previous year’s results .

Perhaps it’s this ability to leverage of a strong brand that has seen a range of global firms establish or expand their construction capabilities in the NSW market in recent times.  Firms such as Clyde & Co, Holman Fenwick Willan, Jones Day and Pinsent Masons have the brand and now the local personnel to make an impact in the NSW construction market however, with the exception of Jones Day, their local market presence is limited.

On the flip-side many of the local mid-tier firms have also sought to increase and by and large have enjoyed a strong degree of success.  Leveraging of a large number of mid-sized disputes (particularly with respect to large inner-city apartment projects) Gadens, HWL Ebsworth and Maddocks Lawyers all now sit comfortably with the higher levels of our rankings.  Of note was also the rise of a number of practitioners within the firms who sit on the cusp of our Preeminent ranking.  Matt Stulic and Paul Deschamps stand out in this regard and are widely regarded as outstanding operators.

The ranks of NSW construction solicitors joined the rest of Australian’s construction lawyers in lamenting a lack of genuine depth and quality at the bar.  Certainly NSW’s stronger construction barristers sit comfortably amongst Australia’s best however, when the number of ranked individuals featured is almost half that in other areas of specialisation.


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