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 Western Australian planning and environment market. It is compiled on the back of feedback from both solicitors practising within these areas and client referees.
The Western Australian legal market has been in a constant state of flux on the past few years and perhaps in nowhere more has this been the case than in the area of planning and environment. While the area may not receive the same levels of media attention as hires in resources, corporate and finance the sheer volume of personnel moves and new market entrants that have occurred in within the last year across planning and environment is remarkable.
As such our editorial commentary for this area focuses heavily on the various personnel comings and goings and what each may mean rather than the typical assessment of firm capabilities.
Firm Capabilities (Alphabetical Order)
Allens Linklaters historically environment focused practice looks to have been weakened substantially by the departure of longstanding Special Counsel Robyn Glindemann to Clifford Chance in September 2012.
Ashurst’s Western Australian planning and environment practice has undergone significant change in the past 12 months. Rising star Sally Audeyev left the firm in January 2012 to join Mallesons Stephen Jaques (as it then was) as a Partner leaving the firm’s national energy and resources practice leader and respected native title lawyer Geoff Gishubl to hold the fort on planning and environment matters. In June 2012, environment specialist Kate Winterbourne joined the firm as a Partner after having spent the past four years in-house at BHP Billiton. As it currently stands it’s still too early to accurately assess the impact and benefits of Winterbourne’s arrival.
Partner Brad Wylyko’s status as a “first mover” in the Western Australian environment market ensures Clayton Utz sat in the highest regard.
DLA Piper Senior Associate Sara van den Hoogen was seen as a “bright and commercial” practitioner with strong capabilities on resources driven environment matters.
Planning and environment specialists Flint Moharich, the 2010 breakaway from Lavan Legal’s market dominant planning practice, continues to gain footing across a developer focused client base.
Former Minter Ellison and Squire Sanders planning and environment practice leader Glen McLeod’s decision to establish his own firm, Glen McLeod Consulting Lawyer in July 2012 has provided the market with a yet another quality specialist firm. McLeod was described as “a good operator, especially on planning issues”.
Hardy Bowen Partner Michael Hardy’s reputation on both planning and environment matters was “first class”. “He’s my first choice to refer work to” noted one peer.
The “brilliant” and “cost effective” Tony van Merwyk at Herbert Smith Freehills drew client favour both locally and interstate.
Jackson McDonald’s Julius Skinner was praised for his work on behalf of local government bodies on planning matters.
King & Wood Mallesons’ lure of Sally Audeyev to bolster the firm’s capabilities across environment and native title matters appears to have yielded early results with one peer noting “they’re definitely a presence now.”
“It’s fair to say they’d be the strongest planning practice in the market” noted one peer of Lavan Legal. Partner and team leader Paul McQueen attracted similar praise and Craig Wallace was noted as “developing”. The firm’s developer focus sees it act for clients such as Landcorp, Peet and Mirvac.
Claremont based McLeods continues to be a significant player in acting for local government authorities on planning matters. “They’ve got the local government market stitched up” noted one competitor while another saw firm founder Denis McLeod as “an experienced lawyer who is always reasonable to deal with”.
The rumoured impending retirement of Partner Linda Rowley may impact the market presence of Norton Rose however the firm has already made moves to rebuild its ranks with the attraction of former Squire Sanders Senior Associate Chris Wark and there’s market talk of other hires set to be announced in the the near future.
The departure of Glen McLeod (to establish his own firm) has dramatically affected Squire Sanders’ standing within the Western Australian planning and environment market. Partner Margie Tannock now covers this area yet in the words of one peer “she’s an excellent lawyer but she just doesn’t have Glen’s presence”.