Before I launched what is now Fenwick Elliott LLP, which is now the largest construction law specialist firm in the UK, I worked as an assistant solicitor with Masons, which was then an out-and-out construction law specialist firm in London. The firm later merged with a general practice to become Pinsent Masons, which in turn has grown hugely, now with some 20 offices around the world.
Anyway, Pinsent Masons is about to open for business in Australia.
Australia is lovely, but a bit weird. It punches hugely above its weight in some areas, such as sport, but way below its weight in others, such as international law. Part of the problem, perhaps, is the State system, which is just too hard for the international mind. So South Eastern Asia tends to go all round the world to London for specialist law, rather than to the much closer Australia. It is not that Australian is devoid of good lawyers. But with some notable exceptions, it is short on specialist construction law firms (by international standards, a lot of work still goes to the big general practices) and hence it tends to be rather expensive. And it is a shade parochial (there are still people who say that you need a “home town” counsel if you want to win a court battle).
Instead, there has been a plethora of mergers and alliances. Australia is a fairly big market of itself. And its major contractors have a substantial reach.
Pinsent Masons have recruited some senior lawyers from other firms for their new offices in Australia. Of the Adelaide crop, Pinsent Masons have garnered Michael Battye’s QED Legal. Michael has been busy building a specialist construction law practice here from nothing, and doing rather well.
I still have some old friends, of course, from my old days at Masons who are still there. For much of my time as a solicitor in London, I was opposed to them time and time again. They were never a pushover.
Personally, I am all for bringing Australia into the international world of construction law. It will be interesting to see what impact Pinsent Masons’ arrival in Australia will have.