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Construction lawyers forced to specialise

Construction lawyers forced to specialise


Sydney’s construction boom is forcing lawyers who practice in the area to specialise in certain aspects of property law, according to a general counsel.

Speaking with Lawyers Weekly ahead of the College of Law’s Specialist Legal Conference, Paul Watkins, Australia general counsel of Stewart Title Limited, said Sydney’s construction boom has prompted lawyers to reflect on their practice.

“It’s definitely forcing property lawyers to specialise more and more,” Mr Watkins said.

He pointed to the increase in apartment block developments and the associated risks as an area that lawyers should be focusing on.

“It’s forcing a lot of lawyers who may have dabbled in various aspects of property law to become specialised in that area, because if you don’t you’re not servicing the demand and people are going to go elsewhere,” he said.

“So where a legal practitioner may have practised in all areas of property – leasing, residential, conveyancing, commercial, industrial and the odd strata or off-the plan – now they should look at specialising.”

Mr Watkins said property practices should also be looking at their internal systems to ensure they can handle the increase in volume of work.

“A boom usually means higher volumes, so when things are booming, files and conveyancing matters are just flooding in the door,” he said.

“That's the biggest challenge because you're generally set up to be able to process a certain volume, and then all of a sudden when that tips the scales, that's when lawyers can start to get into trouble because all of a sudden all of the systems that they thought were OK are deficient.”

Mr Watkins recommends embracing electronic conveyancing to boost efficiency.

“It is forcing the legal profession, which is traditionally very conservative, to embrace change,” he said.

“Unfortunately when you are very busy, that's the least likely time change is going to happen. People tend to implement change when things are quiet, so when these sorts of things happen in a high booming market, it puts law firms under a lot of stress and pressure.”

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