The defining characteristic of the Queensland planning and environment legal market in recent time has been the sharp drop in work volume. The sharp drop in resources related environmental work due to the downturn in the coal market as well as planning matters being down due to a property market that continues to struggle has had Queensland’s planning and environment lawyers facing somewhat lean times.
Allens‘ mix of Special Counsel Rosanne Meurling’s work on planning matters and Partner Bill McCredie’s skills on environment matters has “developed into a nice looking practice according to one peer”. Meurling’s work acting for Woolworths continues to draw praise.
Clayton Utz’s Karen Trainor was seen as “the standout” when it came to environmental matters and the firm’s environment practice was viewed as one of the few who have managed to remain resilient despite the downturn in resources related work.
The entrance of Colin Biggers & Paisley into our rankings comes purely on the the back of luring Ian Wright and his team across from HerbertGeer in November 2013. Wright was seen as “an expert on infrastructure agreements” and noted for his extensive work with Logan City Council. Young Partner Ben Caldwell was also praised.
Connor O’Meara’s practice style may be somewhat lean but it still managed to draw substantial praise due wholly to the efforts of senior partner Michael Connor. “There’s nobody I respect more” noted one peer.
Although the Brisbane planning practice at Corrs Chambers Westgarth saw the departure of highly regarded Partner Luke McDonald in late 2013 (to a commercial role at Linc Energy) the firm has continued to be the benchmark of the Queensland planning and environment market. Senior Partner Henry Prokuda provides stability while 2013 recruit Michael Leong continues to emerge as one of the state’s strongest planning lawyers with one peer noting “he’s developed into more than just a litigator and has a great mind for front-end work”.
Perhaps its the 2013 name change that has seen Gantt Legal (formerly IPA Law) rise in prominence in the past calendar year. More likely though is a slight upturn in the Queensland property market and the firm’s “leaner” model comprising just the two highly regarded principals in Andrew Davis and Cliff Wirz. Of Wirz, one peer noted, “he’s bloody bright and always does a good job”.
For the time being HopgoodGanim’s planning and environment practice remains in our Second Tier however the gloss does appear to have come off one of the markets previously stronger practices. Partner James Ireland’s work was well regarded however, as Senior Partner David Nicholls approaches the twilight of his career in a property market not littered with the aggressive property projects and clients he has typically acted for, the firm appears to lack the market presence it once possessed.
While King & Company continue to maintain a stranglehold on much of the state’s regional council focused planning work,the firm is not viewed as playing the significant role it once did. Partners Michael Quirk and David Kevin continue to be well regarded.
The biggest success story in this round of our rankings is McCullough Robertson. Previously seen as too reliant on the firm’s strong links with state and local government bodies, the practice has now evolved into a strong unit in its own right. Of particular note was the praise heaped on young Partner Troy Webb who was described as “bright, hardworking and outcome driven”, “a straight shooter” and “really coming into his own”. Partner Stuart Macnaughton’s work for the Department of Transport & Main Roads continues to be recognised however the firm also has added a developer base to its mix with the likes of Australand and Devine now favouring the firm.
Veteran Russell Bowie continues to steer the ship at Minter Ellison’s Brisbane planning and environment practice. Bowie’s market presence may not be as luminous as it once was however as one peer noted “he’s still always up for the fight”. Bowie’s work acting for Westfield was also noted.
Norton Rose Fullbright’s Brisbane planning and environment practice despite, concerted efforts is yet to regain its once lofty market position. The continued presence of veteran Michael Walton has ensured that the firm remains in the mix
Thomson Geer’s planning and environment practice continues to earn respect, particularly for its work on behalf of local government author. Partner Michael Marshall was noted as “a tough campaigner” and as an individual who “runs a very well structured practice”.