The Fair Work Ombudsman has dropped two top-tier firms from its legal panel but made a number of new small-and-mid-sized firm appointments to regional panels.
Baker & McKenzie and Blake Dawson were dumped, along with mid-sized firm Maddocks, while Freehills were demoted from the national panel to regional positions in Victoria and Tasmania.
Blake Dawson national employment practice head Richard Bunting confirmed with Lawyers Weekly that the firm had not been reappointed.
"We have done interesting and significant work and enjoyed a positive relationship with the Ombudsman. We respect that this decision has been made in a competitive process," he said.
"At the same time we continue to be on a number of government panels, including in the workplace relations area, and as a firm we have a major commitment to Commonwealth Government work."
A Baker & McKenzie spokesperson also verified the firm had missed out on reappointment but would not comment further. Freehills did not expect the change to impact significantly on its practice group and Maddocks did not return phone calls.
The FWO cut its national panel from 19 to five firms, establishing four regional panels. New providers appointed include Bartier Perry, Holding Redlich, Lavan Legal, Gadens Lawyers, Maurice Blackburn and Russell Kennedy.
CEO of Bartier Perry Luke Stevens told Lawyers Weekly that the firm was thrilled with the new appointment. "[The appointment] is clearly very significant for our workplace group, both in terms of the company that we share on the panel, but also in terms of it heralding the new workplace regime and what it entails," he said.
"It's a time of great change and uncertainty in terms of employment law, so to be right there in the middle of it with an appointment to the Fair Work Ombudsman is just fantastic."
Stevens said the spin-off from the appointment should raise the profile of the firm in the market and could generate additional work.
The Australian Government Solicitor, Clayton Utz, Corrs Chamber Westgarth, Deacons and Minter Ellison remain on the national panel.
Appointments will last until June 30 2012, with the option of a two-year extension.
The FWO agency increased its legal activity by 15 per cent and spent $5.7 million on external legal services last financial year
It is used by the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Federal Government's Workplace Authority.
- Sarah Sharples