The legal trendsetters

By Justin Whealing|18 June 2013

The three winners of the Environment & Planning Award are trailblazers in an emerging area of the law.

“In Queensland, environment and planning is a dynamic and evolving area,” wrote Brisbane-based Minter Ellison senior associate Michelle Borzillo (pictured) in her submission. “My growing practice is geared towards ... ensuring that important considerations of urban demographics, government policy, climate change, environmental protection and resource industry development can be appropriately balanced to ensure positive outcomes for stakeholders.”

Borzillo, whose major clients include Westfield, Holcim, Sucrogen and the Queensland Government, was promoted to senior associate earlier this year, just over four years after being admitted.

Few lawyers of any age have achieved what Gadens senior associate Scott Higgins has accomplished. Higgins founded and leads the firm’s carbon and clean energy group and has advised on some of the most contentious areas of Australian public policy over recent years, including the Carbon Price Mechanism under the Clean Energy Future Act, the Renewable Energy Target, the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act, the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Act and mandatory building and energy efficiency disclosure obligations.


“I remain convinced that demand for legal services in the areas of sustainability and carbon compliance will increase as Australia shifts to a focus on clean energy and energy efficiency,” said Higgins, already sought after as an expert at industry events.

Henry Davis York associate Sarah Mansfield rounded out the impressive trio of winners.

The only finalist from HDY was supported by a large crew of colleagues on the night.

“My partner nominated me, I had no idea, so it’s very exciting and I have my whole environment & planning team here tonight,” she said shortly after winning the Award.

“It’s one of the few areas of law where you do criminal litigation, civil litigation, transactions and advice work so you do everything; so you are a specialist in the subject area but a generalist as a lawyer, which keeps it fresh and new and everyday is different.


“It’s a fabulous area and I’d recommend it to anyone.”

In addition to her area of practice, Mansfield does pro bono work for the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service, and recently successfully acted for a homeless man facing deportation from Australia.

“Sarah consistently performs beyond any other lawyer at her level with whom I have worked,” wrote HDY partner Elizabeth Wild.

Cornwall Stodart senior associate Dean Katz and Corrs Chambers Westgarth solicitor Tim Poisel were the other finalists in the only one of the 10 Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards where all the finalists came from national firms.

The legal trendsetters
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