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What legal opportunities are there in WA?

Ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities, Perth’s legal industry is booming, with more opportunities in Western Australia than ever before.

user iconLauren Croft 09 August 2021 Big Law
legal opportunities are there in WA
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Following the release of the fifth annual National Profile of Solicitors report, three Perth law firms shared why Perth’s legal industry is growing so rapidly and the opportunities available for law firms in Western Australia.  

Since 2011, the total number of practising solicitors in Australia has increased by over 45 per cent. Comparatively, the number of solicitors practising in the state of Western Australia has grown by almost 50 per cent, going from 4,038 to 5,936 in the last decade.

DLA Piper spokesperson confirmed that Perth is one of the fastest-growing cities in Australia – and the legal industry, in turn, needs to grow rapidly to accommodate those needs.


“Our energy and natural resources (ENR), real estate and projects sectors are booming, major construction projects are in development, companies are expanding or merging, all these needs require the assistance of lawyers to facilitate these initiatives,” she said.

“Couple that with Perth coming in at number six in the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) 2021 ranking of the world’s most liveable cities, why wouldn’t you want to practice law in this beautiful city?”

DLA Piper has had a presence in Perth since 2006 and said that the Western Australian practice has grown to “successfully develop relationships with many companies.”

“In the last few years, we have been proud to work with such Western Australian established and emerging clients such as Fortescue Metals Group, Finbar Group Limited, M/Group, Saracen Minerals, Curtin University, Perth Airport, WACA, Strike Energy and Salt Lake Potash,” she added.

“The Perth office has been successful due to DLA Piper Perth seeing ourselves as a leader in the global market, not just in Australia or Asia Pacific only.”

Dentons Australia chair and Australasia region chief executive, Doug Stipanicev, agreed that the city has experienced strong economic growth in recent years, particularly across financial and professional services and mining.

“This has led to more opportunity for legal service providers to expand, particularly since many Western Australian businesses like their legal matters to be dealt with by legal professionals in WA,” he said.

“Dentons has had a presence in Perth since 2012, when it financially merged with the Sydney office. Perth was also part of the combination with Dentons Global in 2016. Since that time, Dentons’ consistent growth in Perth is a reflection of the trust our clients across Australia place in us to meet their needs in all major Australian capital cities, as well as in more than 204 locations across 80 countries globally.”

Whilst Dentons is focused on “100 per cent growth in Perth” over the next 18 months, Kennedys managing partner Matt Andrews echoed a similar statement for the firm’s new Western Australian presence.

“We opened our WA office on May 1, bringing across a team of 10 from Clyde & Co, led by insurance partner Jonathan Wyatt. Jon and his team have a sterling reputation in WA and just three months in, the response from clients here and in international markets has been overwhelmingly positive, so we definitely count this as a successful operation,” he said.

“National expansion is a priority for us because we know our clients want their advisers to be on the ground. This is especially the case in the insurance sector where national coverage is often a deciding factor for panel appointments.  

“Opening an office in WA was the logical choice to complement our teams in NSW and Victoria and being in the same time zone, is a gateway to, and strengthens our reach into Asia.”

Not only does the DLA Piper Perth practice value the connection the Western Australian presence gives the firm to the Asia-Pacific region, Western Australia’s strong ENR sector “provides a rich base of established and emerging clients looking to expand at a rapid pace.”

“The ENR sector is highly valued at DLA Piper with the global co-chair of energy and natural resources, Alex Jones, operating out of Perth. The WA ENR sector continues to expand at a phenomenal pace,” the spokesperson said.

“Perth is a destination for global inbound capital, particularly from within the Asia Pacific region. We continue to see that capital flow into a diverse range of real estate assets and related projects.

“Perth is experiencing high growth and transaction levels across a range of real estate asset classes, particularly industrial, major residential developments, office and other urban infrastructure development; this trend is expected to continue.”

Jonathan Wyatt, partner in the Kennedys Perth office, said that for some time, local and international commercial law firms have been drawn to Western Australia off the back of this resources boom, his firm included.

“Perth’s economy is dominated by the resources sector. Good producing industries (mining, agriculture, forestry and fishing) represent 45 per cent of the WA economy. In 2019 to 2020, goods exports accounted for 59 per cent of the WA economy,” he explained.

“Consequently, WA has grown this wealth of expertise – within the legal sector and elsewhere  to service the very particular needs of those industries at a very high level. Perth contains a tremendous amount of home-grown legal talent at the bar, private practice, within government and in house.”

Mr Wyatt added that insurers are increasingly recognising the difficulties associated with running Western Australian cases remotely – and as a result, there’s been a trend to prefer law firms that have local market knowledge, and this has encouraged more insurance law firms to open up in Perth.

Mr Stipanicev said he sees this trend as a great opportunity for law firms in Perth.

“With an entrenched national client base the opportunity for Dentons in Perth is to expand our Western Australian client base so we can continue to help facilitate the growth and prosperity of the Western Australian business community through our national and global offering, knowledge and service levels,” he said.

“On the whole, the Western Australian business community largely operates in and works within that state, unlike businesses in other states which may span across more locations.”

Mr Wyatt said that whilst the Perth practice has been able to act as a gateway to work with the Kennedys teams in Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand, COVID-19 has made it more difficult to work with their teams across the other side of the country.

“Many of our clients on the east coast have expressed interest in accessing our expertise on the west coast,” he said.

“One obvious risk in COVID-times is the tyranny of distance – the travel difficulties not only with clients but in connecting my team with their east coast colleagues.  While we’d all like to be able to meet in person, we just have to work around it. We have made the most of the limited opportunities to travel interstate and make an effort to keep the lines of communication open when we can’t.”

DLA Piper echoed concerns about COVID-19, but ultimately said that Perth has stood the test of time.

“Due to COVID border restrictions we have seen significantly increased development in the Western Australian ENR sector, with continuing major investment in Australia’s and WA’s critical minerals industries,” she said.

“Mining exploration and energy expansion in WA has also surged significantly meaning Perth has sufficiently weathered the financial storm thrown at us by the COVID pandemic. We see opportunities in working with these emerging clients and keeping our relationships strong with our current clients by providing any legal services they need during these unprecedented times.”

Lawyers Weekly contacted The Law Society Western Australia for comment on this article, but they did not respond in time for publication.