Being a corporate and commercial lawyer specialising in trade practices, insolvency and water industry-related work left Watson feeling he was better suited to the opportunities on offer at TressCox, rather than a firm with a “primary focus on insurance, as illustrated by the recent acquisition of the Abbott Tout’s Sydney insurance practice”.
“TressCox offers a practice on the east coast which attracted me in part because of its experience in the water industry,” he told Lawyers Weekly.
“They have a very well-established practice in Sydney working for the Sydney Catchment Authority, primarily. They are also acting for North Queensland Water. And they saw an opportunity for me to add increased depth to their expertise … because I have private sector experience, having worked on re-use projects in South Australia and Victoria.”
Water is something both Watson and TressCox believe will offer increasing opportunities over the coming years.
“We’re certainly doing our best to get our fair share of that work,” he said. “We believe it is a very hot topic at the moment, and we see a real need for re-use projects as just part of the sort of work we expect to fall out of this.”
Watson was a partner at the predecessor firms of Deacons in Melbourne, before joining Hunt & Hunt in 1989, acting as firm chairman for the last 18 months before moving to TressCox. Although the two senior associates under his supervision at Hunt & Hunt have each gone to the Bar, all of Watson’s clients have followed him to his new firm.
“We’re busy rebuilding a team here at the moment. I’m working with another group of partners and a number of lawyers under them, so I’ve got their support at the moment, but I’m looking at getting more involved,” he said.
Along with his specialist work at his previous firm, TressCox was attracted to Watson’s significant involvement with the insolvency and reconstruction committee of the Law Council of Australia, of which he was once chairman, but now acts as a committee member.
“I was chairman at a time when the committee was only working in Melbourne and Sydney and I took on the role of making that a national committee,” he said.
“We now meet each month on a common agenda with committees in Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra, and it is one of the more successful Law Council committees.”
The committee is heavily involved in the latest personal property securities reform, having just issued a second discussion paper.
“That is going to impact on the corporate insolvency area, particular secured creditors, or creditors who think they are secured at the moment. And we are working on a submission at the moment, in relation to that paper,” he said.
“The other thing is we’re watching closely the corporate reform agenda in the insolvency area. There were suggested proposals put out for discussion, late last year in December, through the Law Council and the Insolvency Practitioners Association of Australia. We’ve put in submissions in response to that, and we wait to see the new legislation that comes out,” he said.
“Just the timing of its introduction is not clear at the moment, but the governments have had a lot of responses from the profession, most of it very favourable for the initiatives they are proposing.”