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Australia > Labour and employment > Workplace health and safety (WHS) > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings


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  1. Labour and employment: workplace health and safety (WHS)
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next generation lawyers

Leading individuals

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Next generation lawyers

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    • Danika Casey - Clayton Utz

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The team at Ashurst handles major safety incidents and assists high-profile clients with investigations, prosecutions and coronial inquests. The Brisbane-based James Hall represented all the major coal mining companies in Australia in a Queensland parliamentary inquiry into the incidence of coal worker pneumoconiosis. Marie-Claire Foley, who is based in Perth, acted for Alcoa of Australia in proceedings brought against it after a fatality at its Kwinana refinery. Other clients include Fletcher Building, Newcrest Mining and the government of New South Wales. The group’s key offices are in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, though George Cooper and Jon Lovell are recommended in Melbourne and Canberra respectively. Lea Constantine heads the department out of Sydney. Trent Sebbens made partner in Sydney in April 2017.

The ‘outstanding, extremely professional, well-informed’ two-partner practice at Herbert Smith Freehills is especially strong in infrastructure, energy and mining. Brisbane-based group head Harold Downes, who counts Sydney Motorway and South 32 among his clients, has longstanding experience in WHS compliance and dealing with workplace regulators, while Steve Bell, who is based in Melbourne, represented two transport infrastructure companies in unrelated civil and criminal proceedings by sector regulators.

With its excellent strength in depth, Clayton Utz’s practice is especially strong in Brisbane, where Hedy Cray and group head Shae McCartney are based; Melbourne-based partners Graham Smith and Stuart Pill are additional names to note. Strategic WHS advice is a particular strength, though McCartney advised several large clients in the wake of high-profile safety incidents, including fatalities and exposure to asbestos. Danika Casey, Robbie Walker and Jennifer Wyborn, who are based in Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra respectively, are also recommended; Casey joined from Norton Rose Fulbright in May 2017.

Noted for its ‘excellent subject knowledge’, Clyde & Co LLP’s team is as strong in dispensing board-level strategic advice and reviewing clients’ safety management systems as it is in litigation and investigations. Widely respected department head Michael Tooma, who can ‘answer any question posed to him’, advised VicTrack on externally assessing its safety framework and culture, and assisted Qube Holdings with all matters arising from the death of a heavy-vehicle driver from fire, including liability, internal and forensic investigations and the coronial inquiry. The ‘engaging, enthusiastic and knowledgeable’ Alena Titterton advised the Department of Defence on delivering safety training courses to over 300 navy personnel. Vector is another client.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s ‘very responsive, commercial and pragmatic’ practice provides ‘a high level of service’; it counts energy and natural resources as particular sector strengths. Jack de Flamingh, who is commended for his ‘solid legal understanding and his commercial management of matters’, advised Glencore on safety matters for 20 of its mines, and assisted Weir Minerals Australia with various WHS matters. John Tuck leads the department. In July 2017, Simon Billing left to set up S Billing & Associates.

Employment boutique Seyfarth Shaw LLP has a full-service workplace health and safety practice; Paul Cutrone and Jane Hall are the key partners in Sydney and Melbourne respectively. Hall acted for Victoria International Container Terminal, Australia’s first fully automated stevedoring operation, on all its workplace health and safety matters. Counsel Joanne Flitcroft and senior associate Sarah Goodhew are incident response experts. Sam Witton joined the Melbourne office from Herbert Smith Freehills in October 2017.

Though particularly busy in the construction and energy industries, the team at Colin Biggers & Paisley handles all manner of WHS work across a wide range of industries. Practice head Greg McCann, who is based in Sydney, defended the CEO of an international mining company in an officer liability case regarding a metalliferous mine site in New South Wales; his other clients include JSN Hanna. The Melbourne-based Cathryn Prowse acted for Aussie Signs on all matters arising out of the 2013 Swanston Street wall collapse that killed three people. Megan Kavanagh advised a national road freight carrier on the coronial investigation and Queensland WHS investigation in the wake of the death of an independent contractor who allegedly committed suicide because of workplace bullying.

The key pillars of HWL Ebsworth’s practice are major incident management, prosecutions, compliance training and strategic and day-to-day WHS advice; the department is noted for its strong connections with insurance clients. Ross Williams, Anthony Lawrence and Colin Almond acted for Frankipile Australia in a WorkSafe investigation and prosecution following a workplace fatality in Victoria. Perth-based group head Sarah Harrison is especially active in the energy, resources and transport sectors, and has handled all of BHP Billiton’s fatalities since 2000. Alan Girle left to join Australian Business Lawyers in June 2017. *Since publication, HWL Ebsworth and Tress Cox have merged.

Construction, healthcare, sport, agriculture and manufacturing have all been sectors of recent activity for K&L Gates’ four-partner practice, which is strong in regulatory work, investigations and incident response, especially with regard to fatalities. Sydney-based department head Gerard Phillips acted for the Hansen Yuncken/Leighton Contractors joint venture on all matters arising out of two fatalities during the Royal Adelaide Hospital project, including a two-week prosecution. John Makris, also based in Sydney, advised an aged-care provider on all issues surrounding a nursing home fire that resulted in numerous deaths. Paul Hardman and Duncan Fletcher are recommended in Brisbane and Perth respectively.

Well known for its work in the wake of high-profile workplace accidents and disasters, the ‘well-trained’ team at King & Wood Mallesons also advises on WHS management systems. Andrew Gray and the ‘prompt’ Murray Kellock are ‘excellent communicators who provide clear, practical advice’. The ‘very client-focused’ Philip Willox, who heads the group jointly with Kellock, acted for Birla Nifty in the prosecution brought by the Department of Mines and Petroleum after a worker at the Nifty Copper Mine in Pilbara, Western Australia was fatally injured. Gray advised SunRice on the regulatory investigation into a workplace fatality in 2014, and assisted it with enhancing its WHS governance regime. Star Entertainment Group is an additional client. Jamie Wells is recommended in Brisbane.

Lander & Rogers’ practice assists clients with incident response, coronial inquests and regulatory prosecutions as well as risk management and WHS training. ‘Very responsive, friendly’ group head Daniel Proietto provides ‘easily understood advice in a timely manner’, and makes clients feel like ‘nothing is ever a problem’; he acted for an energy company on WHS compliance regarding an open-cut mine. Mark Diserio advised a building company on the WorkSafe prosecution that followed an accident involving an apprentice worker. The ‘personable’ Aaron Goonrey is ‘easy to deal with, and provides practical advice with a genuine understanding of clients’ commercial drivers’.

Active in investigations and contentious work as well as advising clients on WHS compliance and regulatory frameworks, Maddocks’ department is based across Melbourne and Sydney, where Catherine Dunlop and Bruce Heddle are the key partners respectively. Dunlop acted for VicRoads on the WorkSafe investigation into and prosecution of the death of a subcontractor in 2011, and on the client’s WHS strategy and supervision. She also advised Monash Health on WHS compliance, occupational violence at its hospitals, and the due diligence obligations of the board members. Transport Safety Victoria is another representative client.

The team at Minter Ellison is based across Brisbane, Perth and Sydney, where the key partners are Samantha Betzien, Craig Boyle and Harriet Eager respectively. It handles incident response, regulatory investigations, WHS training and litigation. Betzien acted for an international construction company with almost 4,000 employees on an investigation and prosecution following the injury of two contractors on one of its projects; Eager advised BOC and its subsidiary Elgas on a SafeWork NSW investigation into a fire-related incident in Muswellbrook that seriously injured two people. Other clients include Places Victoria and Infrastructure NSW.

Norton Rose Fulbright’s ‘commercial, practical, invaluable’ practice ‘actively engages’ with clients when assisting them with incident response, acting for them on regulatory investigations, advising them on WHS training or defending them in litigation. As well as having ‘a detailed knowledge of the law’, Brisbane-based partner and group head Aaron Andersonthinks outside the box and provides excellent practical advice’; clients ‘recommend him without hesitation’. He assisted Wilmar Sugar with applying for judicial review of a regulatory decision rejecting the client’s application for an enforceable undertaking following the death of a worker at a sugar mill. Betterlay Brick & Block Laying is another of his clients. ‘Standout partnerKatherine Morris is ‘great to deal with, and provides spot-on advice’; Samantha Maddern and special counsel Nicki Milionis are also recommended. Norton Rose Fulbright and Henry Davis York have announced their intention to merge towards the end of 2017.

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