A graphical representation of Victoria’s P&E lawyers’ hourly rates is almost the perfect Bell curve. Some 53% of individuals sit within the $500-$700 per hour band that most commonly houses mid-tier and many national firms.
What is surprising though is that, unlike in other Australian jurisdictions, it’s not always the case that Partners at large international firms sit above $700 per hour, mid-tiers generally favour the $500-$600 band and specialists reside under $500 per hour. In Victoria there’s no such pattern. Partners at large national and international firms regularly sit under $700 per hour while some local and mid-tier firms are happy to roll their partners out substantially in excess of $700 per hour.
Melbourne also lacks a wealth of lower priced quality P&E lawyers when compared to other major Australian cities. Only 24% of Melbourne’s P&E lawyers price themselves under the $500 per hour mark, in NSW 45% of the market sits under $500 per hour.
We’d suggest two possible reasons for Melbourne’s lack of pricing conformity with the rest of the Australian P&E market:
- Clients are presented with only a handful of genuine, quality options when it comes to planning and environment lawyers. Year in, year out, we’re surprised by just how short our lists of leading firms and lawyers are in the Melbourne P&E market. A small number of market participants keeps supply levels low regardless of demand.
- The presence and dominance of Best Hooper and Maddocks (and to a lesser extent Russell Kennedy) largely takes the typical aggressive mid-tier element out of the market. The larger firm’s aren’t forced to respond to it quite so much and there’s also little room left for new specialist firms to emerge and keep pricing levels on the low side.
Some 86% Melbourne’s P&E lawyers use alternative pricing with fixed pricing (89%) and capped fees (78%) being the most common methods. Stage-based costing was popular with P&E lawyers in all Australian markets and Melbourne is no exception with 56% adopting it.