The past twelve months has been less than buoyant for the majority of the market’s planning and environment lawyers. An uncertain legislative environment combined surrounded by patchy levels of economic activity has seen a number of practices experience their quietest 12 months for some time and even those who have fared well point to an unpredictability in workflows.
The dichotomy between planning and environment as separate areas of practice continues with a number of practice also now dedicating particular resources to the subset specialisations of contaminated land and compulsory acquisition. Few of the larger national and international firms maintain a commitment to planning work with most now placing their emphasis largely on environment work.
Firm Overview & Capabilities
Addisons Lawyers’ David O’Donnell has, after an initial transitional period subsequent to his 2012 moved from King & Wood Mallesons, largely managed to maintain both his and his practice’s excellent reputation and continues to be viewed as “one of the market’s great statesmen”.
Allens Linklaters’ expertise on environment matters was well regarded albeit with the firm not seen as prominent as in previous years. Veteran Jim Parker’s expertise in environmental compliance work within the energy and resources sector was noted as were the skills of Paul Lalich on planning appeal work and contaminated land.
Ashurst’s Sydney environment team were consistently singled out for their work on the environment aspects of energy and resources projects and transactions. Highly regarded Partner Michael Astill left the firm to join the bar this year.
Baker & McKenzie’s planning and environment practice is now almost wholly an environment and climate change practice with Partners Martijn Wilder and Paul Curnow singled out in this regard.
Mary-Lynne Taylor at Bartier Perry and her work on behalf of local government authorities was noted with one peer noting her robust litigation style by saying “she’s as tough as an old boot and always fights hard”.
Beatty Legal’s Andrew Beatty remains perhaps the market’s most respected lawyer across both planning and environment matters and was described as “a gentleman and a scholar” and “absolutely brilliant to deal with”.
Clayton Utz’s role as advisors to the various arms of the New South Wales government saw the firm consistently mentioned. Senior Partners Brendan Bateman and Andrew Poulos were regularly singled out for their excellent work on environment matters with Bateman’s work on contaminated land matters particularly noted.
Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s Christine Covington “experience and knowledge” on planning matters was regarded while one practitioner noted that new Partner Louise Camenzuli is “beginning to make a name for herself in environment”.
Gadens Lawyers’ developer focused planning practice has expanded its focus in recent times and now extends beyond practice leader Anthony Whealy’s “considerable talents” and “good commercial nous”. The firm has also recently appointed Aaron Gadiel and Christina Renner as Partners in the group.
Henry Davis York’s three partner planning and environment team is on the rise with young Partners Liz Wild and Harshane Kahagalle attracting praise. Wild in particular was noted as “across contaminated land issues as well as anyone” while Kahagalle’s “top notch” work on the Barangaroo project was regularly noted.
Herbert Smith Freehills’ Peter Briggs while not viewed as having the same level of prominence as he has in previous years was still regarded as “technically excellent”.
King & Wood Mallesons Sydney planning and environment team continues to gain respect for its work on a broad range of major project matters with Partner Michael Causer regularly noted in this regard.
Norton Rose’s traditional strength of mixing government clientele with developer clients looks to have waned somewhat with the firm increasingly seen to be focusing on developer side clientele. Sydney planning and environment practice leader, Felicity Rourke was consistently praised and regarded as “commercially a level above” and “strategically very strong”.
Sparke Helmore’s Chris Drury remains “tough as nails” and “a gritty fighter”. The firm acts for local government clients such as Waverley Council, Parramatta City Council and Liverpool City Council.
Swaab Attorneys’ merger with property and planning focused Shaw Reynolds sees the firm ranked in our planning and environment section for the first time. Partner Chris Shaw was seen as “a good guy who knows his stuff” and operates across a mix of local government and developer focused work.