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Australia > Legal market overview

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The defining factors of the Australian economy continue to be the strong investment, particularly from Asia, in the booming real estate sector and the persisting downturn in energy and natural resources-related activity.

The corporate and finance markets remain stable with a number of lawyers cautiously optimistic over the short to mid-term outlook. However, the drop in oil and commodities prices continues to affect the legal profession, with practitioners focusing on M&A driven by the larger market players who are adding strategic assets to their portfolios.

Dispute resolution in general remains dynamic and, due to the fact that Australia has some of the world’s most sophisticated and active litigation funders, class actions remain a strong driver of work. Additionally, the construction space is dominated by large-scale disputes in the wake of energy mega projects that are now entering into the operational phase.

Restructuring work has dried up due to a lack of bank-driven work. However, with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) enforcing outstanding debt the market has seen a significant number of mid-cap insolvencies, particularly in the resources space.

The Harper Review, a comprehensive legislative review whose initial findings are expected in 2016, will affect competition law going forward. Current work has been driven by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s increased willingness to undertake enforcement actions as well as a number of sector inquiries, such as the east coast gas inquiry, most of which focus on consumer markets.

The legal market saw a number of new entrants with Pinsent Masons LLP setting up an infrastructure-focused practice, Bird & Bird LLP merging with IP and TMT focused firm Truman Hoyle, and Hogan Lovells opening offices in Perth and Sydney.

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