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HSF: ‘It’s easy to see why a lot of lawyers have come back to Perth’

As the Herbert Smith Freehills Perth office expands to meet growing client needs, there are a number of opportunities the firm is excited about within the West Australian market — which is increasingly a cause for more lawyers to relocate (or return) to the West Australian capital.

user iconLauren Croft 30 March 2023 Big Law
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Earlier this month, the Herbert Smith Freehills Perth team moved into the city’s newest building, One The Esplanade, where the firm will occupy two levels within the 29-storey commercial tower.

Managing partner of Herbert Smith Freehills’ Perth office, Elizabeth Macknay, explained that the firm’s new workplace had been designed to meet the needs of its people and clients.

“The new building offered us a blank canvas to create a tailored environment with state-of-the-art facilities to meet the evolving needs of our people, helping them to perform at their best and deliver outstanding results for our firm and our clients,” she said.


“Set over two floors with spectacular views of the Swan River, Langley Park and the Supreme Court Gardens, our new office will facilitate greater connection and collaboration, enhancing the way we work and further strengthening the culture of our team in Perth.”

The new building has a dedicated multi-faith reflection room that can be used for daily prayer commitments — something that Ms Macknay said had already generated positive feedback. HSF has also opened an in-house café, Café Maali, which means Black Swan in the Nyungar language.

“Now that we have settled in, we intend to welcome as many clients as we can through our doors to see the new digs, and to give the baristas at our in-house Café Maali a workout! We are planning various client events, and we are encouraging our staff to use the new office as a springing board to reinvigorate existing client relationships and make new ones,” Ms Macknay added.  

“There is already a noticeable positive shift in the way we work and collaborate with one another and our clients.”

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly following the move, Ms Macknay said that although the office is part of a global firm, Herbert Smith Freehills Perth is “proudly Western Australian” and has a strong legacy here as one of the oldest, if not the oldest, firms in Perth, dating back to 1868.

“We have carved out a market-leading position in Western Australia and beyond. To achieve this, we have invested in our people and our business, and we will continue to do so. Our new building is just one example of that,” she said.

“This year, we have taken on 15 graduate lawyers — the largest cohort in our office since 2015. In our most recent round of promotions, last year, we promoted three partners and 12 senior associates in Perth — again, the largest cohort of both groups for many years. We are committed to developing and rewarding talent, and we are growing our teams to ensure that we have the very best people in place to partner with our clients.”

This also follows a number of movements within the Perth market in recent times, with firms increasing their headhunting efforts in the state, as previously revealed by Lawyers Weekly.

Ms Macknay confirmed this and said that the energy transition, in particular, presented huge opportunities for the firm’s clients — as the HSF team in Perth is uniquely placed to help them navigate the transition and other opportunities and challenges presented by the environmental, social and governance (ESG) landscape.

“Our Perth office is home to a host of Australia’s leading mining and energy lawyers who have the deep sector expertise needed to help our clients at the forefront of energy transition. We are continuing to invest in this area — expanding our client offering in key sectors such as hydrogen and carbon markets — and as one of Australia’s top law firms in energy transition, we also continue to deliver market-leading client work.

“Another of Perth’s unique strengths that we can leverage for the benefit of our clients is our shared time zone and proximity to various key centres in Asia. We can easily collaborate with our colleagues in Asia to seamlessly deliver international client work. This is becoming increasingly important as more Australian businesses look to Asia and elsewhere for opportunities and investment,” she explained.

“Of course, we have a broader sector focus than just energy and resources. We have acted on many of the state’s largest public infrastructure projects, and our property team continues to be very busy in what remains a buoyant real estate market. We also see continued opportunities acting for private wealth clients, both homegrown and offshore, and we’re continuing to work with our colleagues in other offices on important mandates for those clients.”

These opportunities also mean that the West Australian market will continue to expand, meaning more lawyers are needed in Perth than ever.

“The WA economy continues to go from strength to strength, which has resulted in a strong flow of client work in Perth. We have worked hard to attract great lawyers — direct from university, through lateral hiring and more recently by luring Perth alumni back to the city from abroad,” Ms Macknay noted.  

“I think COVID prompted a lot of people to reassess their living arrangements, and, as I sit in our new office and look out over uninterrupted blue skies, the pristine Swan River (Derbarl Yerrigan), and towards our legendary beaches and coastline, it’s easy to see why a lot of lawyers have come back to Perth.”

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