NOTHING IS quite so satisfying to an Australian law firm at the moment than when one of our own lawyers returns home from a stint overseas.
In an unrelenting talent-short market, the best candidates are hard to come by. Lured by the thrill of Europe, and the United States, many lawyers see a turn in the Northern Hemisphere as a must-do on the career check list. But sometimes they come back.
This week, Australasian firm DLA Phillips Fox’s Brisbane office celebrated a triumph in the appointment of partner Ted Williams, who has returned from Ireland to his home town Brisbane.
A construction lawyer, Williams left the partnership at Ebsworth & Ebsworth to pursue a role in one of Ireland’s largest and most prestigious firms, Arthur Cox.
According to Williams, his experience at Ebsworth & Ebsworth helped lever him into the job that he got at Arthur Cox. But as Ireland’s economy boomed, rapid development ensued, and Williams gained a lot of experience in varied areas (See box, this page). “Particularly with respect to infrastructure projects in road and rail and education and health, as well as PPP projects.” Ireland has had a fairly successful history of PPPs, said Williams.
When the state government in Brisbane put out the East Queensland Infrastructure Plan, Williams said it’s similarity to Ireland’s National Development Plan of 2000 provided a good incentive to return home.
“It seemed to me like an ideal opportunity to return to apply some of the stuff that I did in Ireland to the market here.”
Williams said there are “great benefits” in being back in Brisbane, adding that he sees Australia as more “outward looking” than it has been in the past.
But law is becoming a global business, according to Williams, making it is easier to work in different cities around the world.
“When you’re talking about project finance, the people who are doing that are involved in project finance deals all over the world. So it doesn’t necessarily matter where you are as long as you know what you’re doing. Certainly wherever there’s a decent amount of work it’s good.”
Brisbane is able to offer enough work, he said, particularly in the infrastructure area in Queensland. In his new role at DLA Phillips Fox, the team has ambitions beyond that and is doing work outside Brisbane. “We do work in the Middle East and in Asia as well,” he said.
Williams was attracted to DLA Phillips Fox as well because of its recent alliance with DLA Piper. “One of the attractions about DLA Piper was I saw first hand that clients are attracted to a global presence,” he said.
“I was involved with a few projects in Northern Ireland where I did a lot of work with DLA Piper. They had relationships with clients across Europe and they were able to provide services in all those different jurisdictions. So when DLA Piper and Phillips Fox got together it seemed to me like there was an opportunity for Phillips Fox to move up a gear as well and to take advantage of that network.”
Williams said he would encourage lawyers taking the step to work overseas to look beyond London. “There are other opportunities,” he said.
“London is very good for people who have a short-term view of things, who are there for a couple of years. I gave a commitment of five years and I was there for six years. I took partnership in the firm in Ireland as well but it was only because I’d committed to them for that period of time.”