Apparently most firms haven’t hit budget in their Queensland corporate practices over the past year. Some of that might be due to personnel movements and the fact that a number are still in building stage but, even from more established players, when talk turns to activity levels there’s still that ubiquitous post GFC word… “patchy”.
For the time being “patchy” should be considered the norm. When it comes to Queensland corporate legal work, the majority of market participants should be advised to forget parochialism and hope for work emanating from the south or internationally.
Gen X Makes An Impact
Some were early bloomers, some pushed their way forward and some worked through a more cautious ascent to their career pinnacle however all now are at the forefront of generational change in the Queensland corporate market. Gen X may not get the press of Gen Y but individuals belonging to it are beginning to be the most significant players in the Queensland corporate law market.
Of the top 13 lawyers in our Queensland corporate rankings well over half are Gen X and the overwhelming majority of such polled higher than many of their more senior counterparts. Looking at these individuals and where they currently house their practice, if these factors stay constant then expect a significant change who’s doing what in the coming years.
Return of the Mac
And HopgoodGanim too…
For the past few years leading local firms McCullough Robertson (the abovementioned Mac) and HopgoodGanim have been steadily dropping down in votes compared to our initial rankings in 2010. That trend has most definitely been reversed. Both rebounded strongly this year and perhaps most importantly from their perspective, efforts at succession planning at each firm appear to be gaining some traction. Admittedly there remains significant key-man risk at both firms but, in line with the generational change listed above, younger partners such as Derek Pocock (McCullough Robertson), Luke Mountford (HopgoodGanim) and Michele Muscillo (HopgoodGanim) now appear to be strong market players in their own right.
The big loser in the Queensland corporate market in recent times has been mid-tier firms. Those mid-tiers with historically moderate corporate/commercial practices have largely fallen off the radar.
A number of other mid-tier firms have placed significant effort into establishing or bolstering their Queensland corporate practice and, simply put, most such efforts have yet to perform at a level that would be considered “par” at more established corporate practices. More pointedly, short of a miraculous market or resources based recovery, there doesn’t appear to be any real upside to many of these corporate practices.
There’s certainly a role for the mid-tier corporate practice in the Queensland market but with the smaller/boutique firm market now having matured somewhat (see below) we’d suggest that in current market conditions a mid-tier firm without a national network and genuine synergies across such will have a corporate practice akin to the dreaded ibis scouring scraps at any opportunity.
The mid-2014 launch of Talbot Sayer marked a further stage in the evolution of the Queensland corporate law market. Talbot Sayer’s early stage success and market impact, the continued strong presence of the likes of GRT Lawyers and, McMahon Clarke having rebounded somewhat from post-GFC struggles sees the Queensland market genuinely having a market segment of smaller/boutique corporate practices. Other Australian jurisdictions such as NSW, Victoria and WA have long had such a segment but the strong corporate practices at leading local firms McCullough Robertson and HopgoodGanim perhaps acted as an inhibitor of such a development in Queensland. There’s still room for one or two more of this style of firm in the Queensland corporate market too.