Mark Waters, a commercial litigation and OH&S lawyer, joined CIE on 1 February.
“I wanted to work for a firm with people who are like-minded to me, with a fresh approach to legal practice,” said Waters, referring to lawyers who had come out of mid and top-tier firms and were of a similar age to him.
Waters said CIE Legal offered a “genuine alternative” to clients in terms of fee structure and arrangements.
“Based on my experience in dispute resolution, I saw an opportunity to grow my practice into a more mixed management type practice that offers alternatives to straight out fee-for-service arrangements,” he said, adding that the structure of mid or top-tier firms is “very unlikely” to allow such alternatives.
“CIE is innovative and already does very well in terms of fixed-fee and retainer-type arrangements … and that’s allowed this firm to really develop close relationships with clients that go beyond the traditional client-lawyer relationship.”
Waters will lead the firm’s push in commercial dispute resolution and supplement its existing skill base in litigation, health and safety law. He told Lawyers Weekly he is looking forward to the opportunity CIE has to grow its client base into “new and unexplored territory”.
With Australian states and territories currently coming to grips with the harmonisation of OH&S laws, Waters has plenty of advisory work ahead of him.
“[OH&S harmonisation laws] are all over the place in terms of implementation nation wide,” he said.
So far, only NSW, QLD, NT and the ACT have implemented the new laws, but all other states are “lagging behind”, he said.
“A lot of clients are concerned about the changes brought about by harmonisation and that stems from a lack of understanding of whether or not there’s any real change in a practical sense.”
Waters said that while directors and officers’ liability is greater under the new laws, little will change for them in a practical sense if they are “reasonably responsible corporate health and safety citizens”.
“Most practitioners expect the harmonisation to become a reality in all states in the next 12 months … Let’s hope so. It’s a good thing for any client that is truly national or doing business across state borders,” he said.