The deflation of the resources boom had the WA insolvency lawyers who largely missed out on the spoils of the GFC rubbing their hands with glee. While this was somewhat premature there are positive signs for WA insolvency lawyers with most reporting a more eventful and generally positive start to 2015 compared to 2014.
Problems With Ranking
Our 2015 WA insolvency rankings take on a somewhat pot-bellied shape that distorts the quality of service offering sitting within those firms we classify as “Third Tier” .
That said a methodology is a methodology and, although there was a temptation to use a significant degree of editorial discretion and alter the rankings as published this simply seemed like a manipulation that was geared more towards keeping all firms happy rather than displaying the results as they fell. While all those firms in our 1st, 2nd & 3rd tiers polled well, Herbert Smith Freehills almost doubled the votes of of some other firms in the third tier and Clayton Utz outperformed the highest scoring firm in the third tier achieving almost one and a half times as many votes as that firm.
All Bar One…
The Perth legal market has been the subject of much attention and while Eastern States and International firms alike have launched Perth offices, few have expressly set their sights on insolvency as a desired area of practice.
Bucking this trend HWL Ebsworth lured former Minter Ellison Special Counsel Richard Johnson to its ranks and, it’s a move that on the back of Johnson’s abilities, enthusiasm and genial personality appears to have yielded strong results.
With fellow Melbourne based mid-tier Mill Oakley launching in the Perth market in 2015, its reasonable to expect that Mills Oakley will continue their rivalry with HWLE by bolstering their practice in the short-term.
There’s no shortage of grey hear and testosterone at the upper end of our WA insolvency rankings however the stronger pollers in the next levels of our rankings present hope for a more gender balanced insolvency profession in the WA market in years to come. The likes of Alison Robertson (Lavan Legal), Larissa Strk (King & Wood Mallesons) and Jackson McDonald’s Victoria Butler and Eva Lin sit well placed to feature prominently in our rankings in future years.
The Western Australian insolvency bar has never been particularly deep with options and, in recent times, the 2013 appointment of John Vaughan to Senior Counsel has left the ranks of junior counsel particularly thin.
In this regard while James Healy attracted a degree of favour that was greater than other juniors the state’s law firms appear to be getting increasingly challenged by the absence of any real “insolvency” specialists at the local bar and therefore being left with other talented general commercial barristers to use. The result of this and the comparatively high costs of WA-based counsel has seen a number of firms reluctantly look to and use Eastern states specialist insolvency barrsiters.