Law firms unfazed by potential for state infrastructure backflip

Threats to tear up infrastructure contracts have not been enough to faze law firms in one state ahead of an uncertain election being held this weekend

Law firms unfazed by potential for state infrastructure backflip
Threats to tear up signed contracts for Melbourne’s East-West Link by Victoria’s state opposition are not fazing law firms, who expect to remain busy.
Speaking with Australasian Lawyer, Melbourne-based Mills Oakley partner Adam Lunn said there was still "a degree of uncertainty" about the election result.
“There is a lot of talk about there being a change of government, but a change of government still depends on a particular number of seats changing hands," he says.
The decision was unlikely to affect law firms in a big way, according to Lunn.
“There is no sort of agenda on either side for legislative change or for change generally that might really affect law firms as such...For us it is always going to be a case of keeping the fundamentals right, ensuring that we meet client expectations on delivery, service and value.”
Clients with business in healthcare, education, aged care and infrastructure sectors are expected to have the biggest stake in this weekend’s election.
Lunn says even if a change of government is the result of the vote this weekend and the Labor opposition follows through on threats to tear up existing contracts for the East-West Link, law firms would still benefit from new work.
“If the contracts are cancelled, that will give rise to litigation,” he says.
“Tearing up contracts is not something that anyone would like to see happen, but in terms of the impact on law firms, in effect the business will change from work on building those projects to the litigation practices of law firms."
Reports in the Herald Sun on Tuesday this week suggested that plans to trash the contracts could end up costing state taxpayers $1.1bn in compensation.
In addition, Labor would then need to implement its own $6bn transport infrastructure plan, including a ‘Metro Tunnel’ cross-city rail project.
Lunn said despite gross state product figures showing growth of only 1.7% for the 2013-14 financial year, law firms were "extremely busy at the moment".
“M&A has been quieter than it was pre-GFC, but even M&A is picking up, so from my perspective our firm is extremely busy, and when we are busy, that’s a pretty good indication most law firms are busy.
However with the economic figures as they are, Lunn says the best thing would be for a quick return to business as usual for the state of Victoria.
“Elections by their very nature create uncertainty, and the market hates uncertainty, whether that’s in infrastructure, health or education.
“Post-election it would be good to see the dust to settle as quickly as possible, to give confidence back to business  - because that’s what drives the economy.”

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