DLA Phillips Fox is the first non-government agency to be appointed by the Attorney-General to receive service of court documents on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia.
According to partner Lex Holcombe, the move to have 12 DLA lawyers appointed to service under Section 63 of the Judiciary Act 1903 was motivated by a desire to increase competition in the market for government legal services. He said the firm was concerned by the monopoly held by the Australian Government Solicitors office (AGS) over this segment of the legal services market.
"AGS is a government business, and it has a monopoly on quite a large area of government legal practice, so we saw this as a small step to break down some of those monopoly areas," he said.
"There were amendments to the Legal Services directions, which opened the window for more people to be appointed under section 63, so we saw this an opportunity for this firm but also as a basis for a broadening of the range of people who could accept service on behalf of the Commonwealth."
While DLA Phillips Fox can now operate as a shopfront through which people can serve legal actions on the Commonwealth, Holcombe admitted that the appointments don't necessarily guarantee more government work for DLA Phillips Fox.
"The Commonwealth Government is a significant client of ours, [but] we don't think that this is going to lead to a significant increase in our work, because [government] agencies have panels and they have responsibilities to manage those panels, so we saw this more as broadening our relationship with the Commonwealth."
Appointed lawyers are required to accept service in all matters, without instructions.
The DLA Phillips Fox lawyers appointed are: Richard Garnett and Melanie McKean (Canberra), Grant Hooper and Scott McDonald (Sydney), Norman Abrams and Lazarus Dobelsky (Melbourne), Paul Baxter and Sean Sullivan (Brisbane), Joe DeRuvo and Lenny Leerdam (Adelaide), Guy French and Cameron Maclean (Perth).
- Laura MacIntyre