Australia

We represent clients from all around the world in Australia every year. We see the globe as having no borders and are unafraid of language hurdles or time zones.

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Australia

Legal Industry in Australia

Despite ongoing Covid uncertainty, corporate law firms in Australia have been active in the transactional space, with the traditionally active Australian mid-market seeing major deals in the resources, technology, retail, and food and beverage sectors. One blockbuster deal was AB InBev’s sale of Carlton Breweries to Asahi for an estimated $16bn, a complex multi-jurisdictional transaction that produced work for a number of firms. In capital markets, the market saw a rise in M&A, secondary capital raisings and IPOs, particularly in the health and life sciences industries. In the competition space, the ACCC remains highly prone to intervention, with a series of sector investigations focusing on Big Tech in particular, while M&A transactions are regularly challenged. Cartel enforcement has also been an active source of work, as have changes to Australia’s foreign investment legislation.The adminstration of Virgin Australia dominated the insolvency market, the aviation market having been more affected than other industries, in part due to government support programmes, which have seen a number of ‘zombie’ businesses shielded from insolvency proceedings, though restructurings and distressed acquisitions have been a staple for most practices.Third-party litigation funders have been increasingly active due to the introduction of contingency fees, while increased government scrutiny has seen an uptick in class actions. In terms of financial services litigation, the findings of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services in its 2019 report have led to an increased level of activity by government regulators including the ASIC and APRA. Within the energy and resources sector, the Juukan Gorge incident involving giant Rio Tinto has led to an increased focus on ESG issues. Funds and institutional investors are even more aware of the need to support companies that align with their corporate and personal values and ethics following this major incident. This development has also prompted a growth in owner-side native title mandates, as Traditional Owners seek to protect against similar damage to cultural artefacts.Broadly, the market remains dominated by the Big Six, comprising Allens, Clayton Utz, Ashurst, Gilbert + Tobin, King & Wood Mallesons and Herbert Smith Freehills – all major corporate firms that combine bench strength with broad practice area expertise. International players such as Baker McKenzie have a solid foothold, particularly within transactional work and the growing tech space, while the likes of White & Case and Clifford Chance continue to expand their presence. A number of domestic firms including Johnson Winter & Slattery, Minter Ellison and Corrs Chambers Westgarth are also solid performers, often challenging the traditional Big Six for top mandates.
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    Most common legal demands in Australia

    Legal Market Overview in Australia

    Australia is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent as well as the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Australia is divided into six states and two territories, with Canberra as its capital. The official language of Australia is English, and the currency is the Australian dollar (AUD).

    Six British colonies, which were created in the late 18th and 19th centuries, were federated and became the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. In recent decades, Australia has transformed itself into an internationally competitive, advanced market economy. It boasted one of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) fastest growing economies during the 1990s, a performance due in large part to economic reforms adopted in the 1980s. Australia’s abundant and diverse natural resources attract high levels of foreign investment and include extensive reserves of coal, iron ore, copper, gold, natural gas, uranium, and renewable energy sources. Australia also has a large services sector and is a significant exporter of natural resources, energy, and food.

    Law firm leaders in Australia are expecting another strong year in 2022 as the red-hot mergers and acquisitions market fuels billings. But they are concerned the ongoing talent shortage will intensify.
    The top-tier firms are also working on fine-tuning the more flexible working arrangements that have come about following the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Firms are entering 2022 after two consecutive years of strongly growing billings, despite the fact that Australian cities spent large parts of 2020 and 2021 in lockdown.
    M&A will continue to provide much of the growth. Australian firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth expects the “frenzied activity levels” of 2021 to continue into next year.
    Along with M&A and anything connected to it, such as finance and competition, firms will be busy helping clients decarbonize and transition to renewable energy, and will also focus on tax controversies as the government seeks to maximize revenue following close to two years of cash handouts to businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 lockdowns, Bruce Cooper, chief executive partner at Australian top-tier firm Clayton Utz.
    As workloads and billings increased in 2021, firms struggled with a talent shortage that was exacerbated by huge salaries offered to associates willing to leave to work in London and the U.S.

    Firms are also fine-tuning their flexible working arrangements, as working from home two or three days a week has become the norm for most top-tier firms even as lockdowns have been lifted.
    According to the Law Society of NSW’s National Profile, as at October 2014, there were 66,211 practising solicitors in Australia. The largest proportion of solicitors were registered in New South Wales (41.6%), followed by Victoria (24.5) and Queensland (15.7%).
    Australia’s Law Firms See a Strong 2022, But They Will Continue to Face a Growing Talent Shortage
    Law firm leaders in Australia are expecting another strong year in 2022 as the red-hot mergers and acquisitions market fuels billings. But they are concerned the ongoing talent shortage will intensify.
    The top-tier firms are also working on fine-tuning the more flexible working arrangements that have come about following the COVID-19 pandemic.
    Firms are entering 2022 after two consecutive years of strongly growing billings, despite the fact that Australian cities spent large parts of 2020 and 2021 in lockdown.
    M&A will continue to provide much of the growth. Australian firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth expects the “frenzied activity levels” of 2021 to continue into next year.
    Along with M&A and anything connected to it, such as finance and competition, firms will be busy helping clients decarbonize and transition to renewable energy, and will also focus on tax controversies as the government seeks to maximize revenue following close to two years of cash handouts to businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 lockdowns, Bruce Cooper, chief executive partner at Australian top-tier firm Clayton Utz.

    As workloads and billings increased in 2021, firms struggled with a talent shortage that was exacerbated by huge salaries offered to associates willing to leave to work in London and the U.S.
    Firms are also fine-tuning their flexible working arrangements, as working from home two or three days a week has become the norm for most top-tier firms even as lockdowns have been lifted.
    Australia’s general rule of law score decreased by less than 0.5% in 2022’s Index. At 13th place out of 140 countries and jurisdictions worldwide, Australia’s rank decreased by 2 in the global rank in comparison to 2019 (11).
    According to World Justice Project Approximately 62% of people surveyed experienced at least one legal problem in the last two years. 33% Were able to access help and 50% Experienced hardship in resolving their legal issue.
    While the prevalence and severity of problems vary in Australia, the most common problems relate to the consumer, housing and money and debt. Also, Less than %33 of people in Australia who experienced a legal problem sought any form of advice to help them better understand or resolve their problem, and those who did seek assistance preferred to turn to a Lawyer or Professional Advice Service (%33).

    Frequently Asked Questions

    This factsheet includes information on options for the service of documents including using the Hague Service Convention, bilateral treaties with other countries, diplomatic channels and private process servers.

    Overseas requesting parties must ensure the request complies with any declarations or reservations made by Australia.

    There may be costs associated with the execution of requests for service. Generally, Australian authorities will forward an invoice for service fees with payment instructions to the foreign litigant. There is no fee for service of documents in South Australia or Western Australia.

    Please note that the Australian Capital Territory currently requires prepayment of the foreign service fee by the litigant. The current fee is listed on the Supreme Court website – external site. Please note: service fees generally increase on 1 July each year.

    Payment can be made by international funds transfer to the ACT Supreme Court. Visit the Hague website for more information.

    Once payment has been completed, a receipt or remittance advice must be forwarded along with the request for service. This will assist the Supreme Court to identify the payment.

    Generally, the taking of evidence overseas for Australian proceedings must comply with the procedural and evidentiary rules of both the Australian court and the overseas jurisdiction.

    In complex cases, we recommend obtaining advice from a local lawyer in the relevant foreign country. For more information, including links to relevant Australian court rules, see Taking evidence across international borders.

    Australian requesting parties must ensure the request complies with any declarations or reservations made by the overseas country.

    There may be costs associated with the execution of the request. The forwarding authority will receive a Statement of Costs/Invoice which is payable by the litigant in Australia.

    It generally takes 3 months to execute a request for service in Australia.

    The time taken also varies according to the state or territory that the request is sent to and depends on where the person to be served is located. If the person is in a remote location, it will take longer than if the person lives in a capital city.

    Requests for taking evidence can often take 6 months to execute.