This Special Report covers 36 practice areas.

This will search all specialists in Australia.

Australia In Brief

Australia boasts one of the most sophisticated markets in the world thanks to its flourishing export trade and ability to attract a highly skilled workforce. Despite a slow growth in GDP in 2017 of 2.4 per cent, the economy surpassed expectations in the first quarter of 2018, reaching a solid 1 per cent increase. In addition, 2017 proved buoyant for Australia’s legal community, who have had an interesting year in terms of innovation and development, with the implementation of new regulatory regimes, the expansion of renewable energy and diversification in the banking sector, with Australia seeing its first wave of unitranche financing. We spoke to some of the leading figures within the Australian legal market to gauge the key trends affecting practitioners across the country over the past year.

Sustained population growth coupled with high demand for passenger transport systems has driven the focus of federal and state governments towards reinforcing the country’s infrastructure. In the words of one market-leading source, “Australia chronically underinvested in infrastructure maintenance for a long time, and so it’s a relief that the authorities have finally woken up to it.” With one of the world’s strongest platforms for public private partnerships (PPP), the model is a key means of delivering infrastructure across a wide range of sectors. Despite this, there is a relatively small number of contractors able to facilitate projects on this basis. Nevertheless, practitioners are reporting an uptick in PPP activity, and predict its expanded use in the future to keep up with the “massive need” for project development.

As one of the world’s leading producers of extracted minerals, the natural resources industry within Australia plays a key role in its economic development. For the past few years, mining companies have been struggling to revive the market, following a slump in commodities prices and a drop in global demand. However, sources reported a growing optimism within the sector, with “companies finally becoming more inquisitive and looking at possibilities for organic and non-organic growth”. Given the proximity to China, the largest lithium market in the world, practitioners in Australia noted new opportunities opening up for their clients and predict an uptick in transactions in the near future.

Following a challenging 2016, the energy and utilities industries also appear to be looking up. With plentiful renewable and non-renewable sources, Australia has long been a key player in the global market. It has a relatively stable and reliable approach to power generation; however, sources reported that the past year has seen “a major shift in terms of power generation and the natural gas sector”. This is particularly prominent within the Western Australian market, as swathes of liquefied natural gas projects near completion, leading to questions about the future. One practitioner we spoke to noted: “People are starting to think strategically about whether to hold on to assets or sell out of the downstream,” signalling some very interesting transactions ahead.

The renewable energy market is also attracting considerable attention, as the world’s priorities continue to shift in response to dwindling natural resources. Lawyers we spoke to reported an influx of new financings in this space, noting “the huge amount of money looking to invest in renewables”. The past year proved an interesting year in terms of innovation within the Australian electricity sector. Following the successful completion of a 100-megawatt battery project by Tesla and Neoen in Southern Australia, in response to large-scale blackouts in 2016, Australia is tipped to be the world leader within the energy storage market. This has inspired continued innovation across the country, with the announcement of the Aurora Solar Plant in Port Augusta, South Australia, which is predicted to deliver 100 per cent of the state’s electricity requirements by 2020. These large-scale projects also signal busy times ahead for construction specialists, who predict “an explosion of work in the renewables space”, which is set to continue for many years to come.

With more than $177 billion of industry revenue, franchising plays a key role in the strength of the Australian economy, and expertise within the space is a highly sought-after commodity. The past year has been fraught with difficulty for practitioners however, with one noting: “Despite all the evidence suggesting the success of the franchise model, the industry is being overshadowed by the bad press.” In March 2018, the government announced a new inquiry into the Franchising Code of Conduct, following a plethora of scandals concerning some of the principal players in the market, including  global retail chain 7-Eleven, many of whose franchisee employees were victims of widespread wage fraud. Although the issues related predominantly to the actions of franchisees, it was the franchisor itself that was held to account in the media, resulting in a fierce backlash from the public. As a result, in late 2017 added protection for vulnerable workers was implemented into the Fair Work Act, through imposing liability on franchisors to control the treatment of employees by franchisees. The recent difficulties faced by market players have led to a notable uptick in advisory work for lawyers, who highlighted the call from clients for compliance advice and training. Practitioners also reported the increasingly litigious nature of franchise work, as the number of disputes between franchisors and franchisees continue to rise, in line with the global trend.

“Australia has probably the most sophisticated adoption of alternative dispute resolution in the western world,” one leading mediator told us. Over the past decade, commercial litigation has been curtailed across the jurisdiction as a result of the pervasive nature of ADR across the country. In the mediation space in particular, as a result of budgetary constrictions, commercial organisations’ appetite for ADR has risen dramatically, leading to a surge of work for practitioners. Mediators across our research have also noted a shift in the source of their work, highlighting that “a lot more work is now coming direct from corporate counsel and consultancy firms”. As the mindset of disputes – “problems to be solved, not battles to be won” – continues to gain traction across Australia, the prioritisation of future relationships between disputing parties indicates no shortage of work for mediators in the foreseeable future.

Legal Market Analysis

As new entrants continue to filter into the legal market, the competition in Australia is growing increasingly fierce. Since 2012, four of the Big Six commercial law firms have merged with key international players, a development that has transformed the Australian legal landscape. Our research has found that this trend shows no sign of slowing down, with practitioners noting the “continued rush towards mergers between global players and domestic outfits”, such as the successful combination of Henry Davis York and global player Norton Rose Fulbright in December 2017. Sources also highlighted the following of this trend by medium-size players, including the February 2018 announcement of HWL Ebsworth’s plans to acquire TressCox Lawyers, and the announcement of a three-way merger between Fisher Adams Kelly Callinans and Cullens with Asia-Pacific IP specialists Spruson & Ferguson, which was described as “an interesting development to watch”.

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Analysis: Australia

Australia: Arbitration 2018

In this chapter we highlight 30 standout practitioners who are recognised for their excellence acting as arbitrators and counsel in complex arbitration proceedings.

Australia: Arbitration Expert Witnesses 2018

In this chapter we highlight nine outstanding individuals who are well respected for their excellent work acting as expert witnesses in arbitration proceedings in Australia and internationally.  

Australia: Aviation 2018

In this section we highlight 24 outstanding practitioners in the aviation space. They are noted for their excellence in advising on financial, regulatory and transactional matters.

Australia: Banking 2018

In this chapter we highlight 63 practitioners for their outstanding work representing financial institutions and corporate clients in the Australian and international market.

Australia: Business Crime, Investigations & Asset Recovery 2018

This year we recognise 25 lawyers who stand out for their exceptional work handling corporate criminal litigation, investigations, enforcement proceedings and asset tracing, as well as advising clients on best practice and compliance with new regimes. 

Australia: Capital Markets 2018

In this chapter we recognise 42 outstanding individuals recognised for their work in the field of capital markets. These practitioners are highlighted for their outstanding work in the field spanning areas including structured financing and debt and equity offerings. 

Australia: Competition 2018

In this chapter, we identify 55 leading competition practitioners recognised for their outstanding work in the space including collusion, mergers and monopolies.

Australia: Competition Economists 2018

This year’s research highlights 11 economists for their excellent in-depth analysis and testimonial expertise in competition issues that include M&A dealings and antitrust matters.

Australia: Construction 2018

This year’s research shines a spotlight on 61 leading construction lawyers. The individuals listed here have been highly recommended by peers and clients alike for their expertise in project development, transactions and disputes.

Australia: Construction Expert Witnesses 2018

In this chapter we recognise 12 highly regarded construction expert witnesses. They are featured due to their experience advising and providing expert evidence on a wide range of matters including quantum and delay, and technical issues.

Australia: Corporate Immigration 2018

In this chapter, we highlight 16 individuals who stand out for their excellent work advising corporate entities on the immigration and naturalisation of skilled workers.

Australia: Corporate Tax 2018

This year’s research into the Australian corporate tax market sees 45 practitioners nominated for their excellent work in the field. The research identifies the leading solicitors and barristers in the jurisdiction for their specialist insight into a broad range of areas, including transfer pricing, revenue law and audit management.

Australia: Corporate Tax Expert Witnesses 2018

Our research into the country’s leading corporate tax expert witnesses highlights five individuals this year, who stand out  for their work in a range of areas, including business valuations and corporate restructurings.

Australia: Data 2018

This year, we identify 35 leading practitioners who are recognised for their outstanding work in the data industry including privacy and protection, security, information technology and telecoms and media law.

Australia: Energy Experts 2018

In this section we highlight five highly regarded energy experts from two prestigious consulting outfits.

Australia: Energy, Natural Resources and Mining 2018

This year’s research features 57 energy lawyers. With expertise spanning oil and gas, LNG, renewable and mineral projects, the market has identified these individuals as being among the leading advisers in the space.  

Australia: Environment & Climate Change 2018

This year sees 39 individuals across Australia listed in our guide for their outstanding work in the field. The country is home to a number of top firms, with Ashurst, Clayton Utz and Norton Rose Fulbright all performing well thanks to their members’ expertise in a range of issues, including carbon offsets, environmental incident response and infrastructure projects.

Australia: Franchise 2018

In this section we recognise 26 leading lights in the field of franchise law who draw widespread recommendations for their strong track record advising franchisors and franchisees on an array of related matters.

Australia: Government Contracts 2018

This year’s research highlights 29 government contracts specialists who stand out as the leading lights in the Australian market.

Australia: Insurance & Reinsurance 2018

Our research into the insurance and reinsurance market sees 20 individuals nominated for their stellar work in the space, standing out for their expertise and insight into a wide range of issues, including coverage disputes, professional indemnity and agency agreements.

Australia: Investigations Experts - Digital Forensic Experts 2018

We recognise five digital forensic experts who are considered leading names in the Australian market.

Australia: Investigations Experts - Forensic Accountants 2018

Here we highlight seven standout forensic accountants who come highly recommended for their work assisting clients with disputes and regulatory inquiries. 

Australia: Labour, Employment & Benefits

This chapter highlights 40 outstanding practitioners who are recognised for their excellent work in the labour, employment and benefits field.

Australia: Life Sciences 2018

In this chapter, we recognise 33 top-rated lawyers who boast a stellar reputation for their work assisting life sciences companies with a range of matters including commercial transactions, patent litigation, regulatory matters and product liability defence.

Australia: Litigation 2018

We highlight 13 outstanding litigators for their vast experience representing high-profile clients in a wide range of disputes in various courts across the country.

Australia: M&A and Governance 2018

This year’s research into the Australian corporate market sees 58 individuals listed for their outstanding work in the field. Their practices offer clients a wealth of expertise on matters such as joint ventures, divestments and acquisitions.

Australia: Mediation 2018

In this sector we recognise 21 mediation practitioners who rank as the leading lights in the Australian market for their extensive expertise mediating commercial disputes across a range of industries.

Australia: Native Title Law 2018

In this chapter we recognise 12 excellent lawyers who stand out for their impressive work handling native title and land claims, the negotiation and drafting of indigenous land agreements, related dispute resolution and cultural heritage protection matters. 

Australia: Patents 2018

In this section, we shine the spotlight on 30 patent law experts, who stand out for their vast experience in the field.

Australia: Product Liability Defence 2018

This chapter highlights 10 practitioners identified for their notable work in product liability defence.

Australia: Project Finance 2018

In this chapter we recognise 24 leading lawyers for their exceptional work in advising parties to major project financing undertakings.

Australia: Real Estate 2018

In this chapter we recognise 14 leading real estate lawyers for their excellent work handling a broad range of domestic and international real estate services, including real estate financing, development projects and single asset and portfolio transactions.

Australia: Restructuring & Insolvency 2018

Thirty practitioners are nominated by our sources this year for their superb work in the field of restructuring and insolvency. Our research highlights a highly competitive market, with Gilbert + Tobin, Ashurst and King & Wood Mallesons all receiving multiple listings in our guide.

Australia: Shipping 2018

In this chapter we identify 35 preeminent practitioners in the field of shipping law, whose outstanding work distinguishes them in a broad range of sector-related practice areas.

Australia: Sports & Entertainment 2018

This year we recognise 12 of the foremost lawyers in Australia’s sports and entertainment landscape for their outstanding work in transactional, regulatory, intellectual property and litigation matters.

Australia: Trademarks 2018

We feature 43 outstanding individuals in this chapter who are internationally renowned for their experience handling the full spectrum of trademark matters, from filing and prosecution to portfolio management and litigation.

Australia's Corporate Immigration Review 2018

anne the don[noghue]

Anne O’Donoghue, Immigration Solutions Lawyers

In this article, Anne O'Donoghue of Immigration Solutions Lawyers discusses legal developments the Australian market has faced over the last year. 

Developments In Competition Law In Australia In 2018

Dave Poddar

Dave Poddar, Clifford Chance

The past 12 months have seen significant developments in Australia in the competition law area, in terms of both important policy developments and groundbreaking antitrust litigation. These cases have been brought either by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) or, where criminal cartels have been alleged to exist, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).

The significance of these developments has not yet been fully recognised. It is worth reflecting on both the legislative changes and the reform process that have brought them about. These legislative changes are an important background to Australia’s recent significant antitrust litigation, which has refocused the attention of the business community on the need to be in compliance with antitrust laws.

Recent Developments In Restructures Through Australian Schemes Of Arrangement


Dominic Emmett and Anna Ryan, Gilbert + Tobin

In the latest edition of WWL: Australia, Dominic Emmett and Anna Ryan from Gilbert + Tobin assess recent developments in the domestic restructuring market. 

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Firm Profiles: Australia

2018: Leading Firms

In our second edition of WWL: Australia, we feature 197 firms, from full-service international outfits to specialised boutiques. However, over half of the total listings come from just 10 standout firms, which we profile here.

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