Despite a seemingly favourable economic environment for Queensland’s insolvency lawyers to reap rewards most are experiencing tough times and few can see any real light at the end of the tunnel.
Tough times haven’t necessarily dampened the spirits of some firms though with the likes of HWL Ebsworth, Mills Oakley and Kemp Strang all seeking to increase their presence in recent times.
Perhaps only HWL Ebsworth’s efforts have gained any real traction to date. The hire of Matthew Broderick (from Gadens) and David O’Farrell (from Minter Ellison) has significantly increased the HWL presence in the market but to date, the lack of a unified approach from these individuals and the firm’s existing insolvency partners sees unfulfilled potential.
Out With The Old, In With The New?
At the top end of the market Allens sits upon a precipice. After not gaining re-appointment to the Suncorp panel in 2014 the firm’s Brisbane insolvency practice took a hit. There’s no questioning the quality of the individuals within however banks can be a fickle beast and there’s no guarantee that the other large banks will show Allens as much favour as Suncorp did. The smart money is on Allens to stay at the top of our rankings come 2016 but there is also the potential for significant decline.
When Henry Davis York opened its Brisbane office in 2011 we backed the firm to succeed. We were wrong. Four years on and there’s still only one partner in the firm’s Brisbane office and there continue to be questions regarding overall traction. Brisbane has historically been a market where Southern firms have entered and prospered but maybe not so much these days. At the moment the HDY Brisbane office does no favours to the HDY brand nationally and there must be questions as to how long a one Partner office in Brisbane can continue. It’s still too early to tell whether or not Kemp Strang’s Brisbane office launch in 2014 looks set to go the same way.
Finally, there are strong rumours of partner/senior departures this June in some of the mid-tier firms. If these hold true then expect at least one of such firms to drop significantly in the mid-bracket of our rankings in 2016.
Angry & Proud Of It
Three smaller litigation and insolvency focused firms, Tucker & Cowen, James Conomos Lawyers and Russell Law, continue to play a significant role in the Queensland insolvency market.
James Conomos Lawyers is viewed as being the most commercial and practical outcome focused of the three and, now with the rise of the promising Wiebke Hermann to the firm’s arsenal is well entrenched as one of the market’s strongest insolvency firms.
Both Tucker & Cowen and Russell Law have forged their strong market positions on the back of a “take no prisoners” style that while not suited to every matters, does earn begrudging respect from competitors.
While there’s no shortage of quality at the senior end of the end of the Queensland Insolvency Bar there’s issues in relation to depth generally in the ranks of Junior Counsel. Much of this appears to be due to the fact that the majority of Brisbane’s stronger insolvency practices tend to have a small stable of two or three juniors who they brief and rarely broaden their scope.