THE DOORS of the Melbourne office of international maritime law firm Holman Fenwick & Willan (HFW) were officially opened this month to the detriment of several other major players in the space.
Originally announced in December 2005, the Victorian transport and trade groups of Middletons and Blake Dawson Waldron were plundered to form a new practice under the UK firm’s banner. HFW will be headed in Australia by former Middleton partners Robert Springhall, Gavin Vallely and David Roylance as well as Chris Quennell who moves across from BDW where he has headed up the Melbourne practice for the past seven years. The start up team in Melbourne will consist of nine lawyers, one master mariner and five support staff.
HFW has carved a living out of the highly specialised world of shipping and transport, trade and energy, commercial as well as insurance and reinsurance. London-based partner Marcus Bowman who was in Melbourne to assist with the opening of the office said that many of the magic circle firms had exited the market as they saw it as too hard for the reward that such work returned. “There is a level of speciality involved that is not easily achieved,” he said. Adding that many of the contracts governing such work, regardless of where a ship or company may be located, are written in English Law.
To that end, his company’s new hires may prove even more inspired than at first glance. Springall and Vallely have both practised for considerable periods in London. Similarly, Quennell has practised in Hong Kong and London as well as Australia.
Vallely, who will head up the Australian operation, says that one the greatest challenges of this type of law is that much of it is practised “in real time”. If a ship is leaking whatever into a bay anywhere in the world, on minimal information you need to be able to give astute commercial information quickly.”
In addition to opening what Bowman terms “not the last office in Australia”, HFW has also recently opened an office in Dubai, bringing its total number of overseas offices to eight.
In related news, TressCox has announced that it has also claimed another Middletons scalp in the form of Mary Edquist who will join the firm’s Melbourne office as partner and member of the corporate services team has specialised in the health, commercial projects and infrastructure sectors. She will add depth of the projects group, which consists of Andrew Dewsnap, who specialises in the projects sector, and has relocated to Melbourne from the UK-based firm PinsentMason and Trevor Lloyd, a consultant who has experience within the government and private sectors.