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Darwin’s increasing presence in the global legal marketplace

The current US/China tension has “shot a spotlight” on the Asia-Pacific region, and Darwin’s proximity to Asia is going to be “increasingly significant” over the next few years, argues a Northern Territory-based partner.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 11 October 2018 Big Law
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Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Squire Patton Boggs partner and founder of the firm’s Darwin office Cris Cureton said that US efforts to contain China through tariffs, financial and security pressure are already starting to play out in the region.

“The increasing US military presence in Darwin is an obvious example. If China responds by reducing its investments into the US and doubling down on engagement (and investment) within the region, we will see even more opportunities [for legal work] on our doorstep,” he said.

“Darwin, by virtue of its geographical position, shares many of the same advantages that Perth does, albeit on a smaller scale for now. Where you have clusters of industry you have a tremendous opportunity to develop a powerhouse of experience.  Combined with the extensive natural resources of the Territory, you have an attractive location for investment.”   

 
 

“With the right regulatory settings, the Australian government has a fantastic opportunity to encourage global investment in Darwin.”

He noted that the challenges facing the local legal marketplace were not dissimilar to any other location, in that when transactional work is down, disputes work picks up. But there are longer term opportunities that are shaping up as “very promising”, he mused.

“The Darwin legal market is a hybrid. You have a number of significant, locally headquartered SMEs, the Territory government, federal government (in particular, Defence).  That brings in the contractors servicing [Defence Material Organisation], and of course you have the global energy players and the contractors and other service providers working in that market.”

“While many of these entities are based in other parts of the country, they are seeing the value in having a Darwin-based law firm supporting them – provided that firm can deliver the range of services and global outlook necessary to compete in highly competitive, global markets like defence material and energy,” he said. 

The firm’s Asia desk head Tony Chong added there are “unique opportunities” that Darwin presents in terms of interaction with Asia, given it is one of the closest capital cities to that continent. 

“The Territory is very focused on Asian engagement and the government is supportive of further investments in tourism, infrastructure and agribusiness, particularly with Asian connections,” he said.

In light of such opportunities, Squire Patton Boggs are looking at new hires at both partner and fee-earner level in Darwin, as well as bringing in global specialists.

Two of the firm’s associates, Freya Mulvey and Tom Silvester, commented that the prospects on the horizon, coupled with being “afforded far more opportunity” to gain practical experience and develop skills on a diverse range of matters, made working in Darwin an enticing move for younger lawyers.

“The remoteness of the Territory and its proximity to Asia can lead to particularly location-distinctive and intellectually-stimulating legal work,” the pair said.

“Being a smaller jurisdiction means, generally, lawyers in Darwin through their work are able to create and develop strong relationships in their work, which can translate to a greater sense of positively contributing to the community and/or making a meaningful difference through their work.”