The government sector is seeing growing attention from Phillips Fox, which has boosted its practice in Canberra with specialists in that area.
The appointment of three new partners at Phillips Fox includes former Blake Dawson Waldron senior lawyer Stuart Imrie, who has joined the Canberra government and commercial team. Also, former Sparke Helmore government litigation partner Lenny Leerdam joined the firm in January and former Minter Ellison lawyer Lex Holcombe joined late last year.
Managing director Malcolm Shelton-Agar spoke to Lawyers Weekly about the expanding sector and attributed the growth to Phillips Fox’s strategy to make a significant imprint in the legal work that was left open after the government’s decision to scrap its internal government solicitors and open up to external legal providers.
“A number of law firms have been putting practices into the Canberra area to look after [the government’s] legal work. We decided to focus on the government sector to service this market. [The new appointments] are a continuation of this strategy,” Shelton-Agar said.
Referring to the new appointments, Shelton-Agar stressed they were a result of acknowledging the need for specialists in government work.
“Because government work is relatively specific, you need particular types of lawyers to do it. You need those who understand the nuances of advising various government departments. So we have recruited people out of government. All three recruits have government experience,” he said.
The new batch of appointments is regarded by the firm as reflecting its success in the Canberra legal services market over recent years, which has seen strong growth and their appointment to a range of government department and agency legal panels. “We sit on a lot of these panels,” said Shelton-Agar. “Those legal firms who have been focusing on government have, because of expertise, been successful at getting on more panels than others. This has been the case with Phillips Fox,” he said.
Partner Stuart Imrie acknowledged this success at Phillips Fox and told Lawyers Weekly this factor contributed to his decision to join the firm. “[Phillips Fox] have been very successful over the last few years at developing a government legal practice. It’s been based on providing great quality at a reasonable price,” Imrie said.
In his new role providing advice to Australian government departments and agencies — with a focus on commercial issues that include outsourcing, contracting and procurement, commercial property acquisitions and disposals, and public/private partnerships arrangements — Imrie is hoping to achieve his own personal objectives of being able to work for a variety of government clients for a reasonable cost.
“The opportunities in the Commonwealth sector are very expansive and great, and Phillips Fox has demonstrated that it provides a great vehicle to develop that area of practice,” he said. “Phillips Fox and I are a good fit together. In my mind I have made a positive move,” he concluded.