An Interview With Norton Rose Fulbright

Australia’s 2020 “Law Firm of the Year” in Insolvency and Reorganization Law

An Interview With Norton Rose Fulbright
Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers

October 22, 2019 02:00 PM

Steven Palmer of Norton Rose Fulbright–Australia’s 2020 “Law Firm of the Year” honoree in Insolvency and Reorganization Law–joined Phillip Greer, CEO of Best Lawyers, to discuss how a changing global landscape in manufacturing and retail has presented unique challenges. In addition, Palmer discusses how their focus on diversity and innovation has positioned them in the marketplace.

This past December, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law passed amendments to the enterprise group insolvency draft model law. Can you explain any significance of this policy and how it might affect or impact Australian markets specifically?

Steven Palmer: We have seen significant impact from the model law already and I think this will successfully complement the current law. We've been involved in a number of these cross-border cases and there is a potential shortcoming in the current model law in that it really focuses on a single debtor across jurisdictions and ignores the fact that there's likely to be an enterprise group that operates across those jurisdictions. You could get by with the old arrangements, but the new arrangements will streamline things a step further. We're pleased with that development. It dovetails in quite nicely with some other changes in Australian insolvency law. They are designed to aid the rehabilitation of businesses, rather than what has been a relatively punitive stance by Australian legislators by global standards in relation to insolvency of organizations.

Are there any major trends you witnessed in the last year and any trends you see shaping over the next few years in this practice area?

SP: There are. Retail in Australia has been a very difficult space. We've had an enormous amount of retail work over the last two years that's both of the formal insolvency and informal restructuring type work, including some active debt trading. What we've also seen is quite significant growth in Perth, in Western Australia where there's a very significant mining industry. That's an area where safe harbor has probably been used more than elsewhere. There's some other interesting trends developing as well. Some changes in the way recycling of waste products that would otherwise go into a landfill has been dealt with by some of the overseas markets where that's historically been exported by Australia. We have seen some real pressure on that industry (which is a very political issue) when governments and councils who have taken great pride in strong recycling programs are suddenly forced to consider using landfills. We've seen quite a lot of stress in that market.

The regulatory environment continues to tighten and that causes pressure on financial services participants, which has a real impact on all aspects of the market. We have developed a very strong risk offering in all of our major jurisdictions to the market, with legal and non-legal expertise provided.

Otherwise, the impact of global issues continue. The U.S. uncertainty and the inherent instability and uncertainty of Brexit cause concern globally. There's constant pressure on motor vehicle manufacturing; electric vehicles will change the dynamic of the automotive industry. There's quite a broad range of issues that are starting to turn into trends. At the moment, the share market in Australia is strong and it has just peaked at a new high in the last day or so. There's some stirrings in the Australian economy. House prices have been dropping and inflation is extremely low. It does appear that we're in for a bit of a rocky ride one way or the other over the next little while.

Norton Rose Fulbright has specific diversity inclusivity objectives. Has this commitment to diversity positioned you to better serve a global clientele?

SP: I think it has. We take diversity very seriously at Norton Rose Fulbright in Australia and globally. We think it's very important that our offering to the market reflects the make-up of the market. We have a longstanding and broad diversity and inclusion strategy with gender diversity and LGBTI inclusion, as two examples of strategic focus—we've got a LGBTIA network which is very strongly supported both by the people that identify in that group but also by others at the firm who recognize the importance of allowing people to be themselves. We had a slow start in Australia where same-sex marriage was only allowed last year after a national survey and much unnecessary politicizing. Our firm strongly indicated its support for that process, which I was really pleased about. We have 33 percent female partners currently at NRF Australia and our team reflects a similar proportion—I think we're probably closer to 30 percent.

Then, in the other senior ranks our female cohort outranks the males quite significantly. I think that percentage (of 33%) will just improve over time. Those things don't really happen by accident; you do need to have strategic programs and other initiatives to support women returning to work after taking periods of parental leave for example. It's something that we think the market has also recognized our efforts in. The market being made up of the broad and diverse group of people, I think is pleased when large organizations throw resources at doing these things carefully and properly. That is what we have done.

Your firm has been recognized for its innovative strategies. Can you discuss examples of innovative initiatives you've provided for your clients that you've put forward for them?

SP: Innovation is something that I think everybody talks about, but a lot of them don't really know what it means. At a very micro level you can undertake “innovative” pricing, you can enter arrangements with clients where you do their work for a fixed fee. There's a whole raft of micro innovative initiatives and then there's some bigger ones as well. One of the good things that global law firms can do is invest in some of those innovative arrangements. We have a number running in Australia and globally. I’ve already mentioned our risk offering. In Australia, we have also launched a chat bot with a major bank that was very well received by our client and by consumers that were interacting with it. It was just a different way to deliver information to people.

Also, in Australia (this just launched last year in our construction group) we launched a program called Deliver&Capture, which supports major construction and infrastructure projects with online contract delivery, claims management, and mobile application portals. Then we've got some labour centers in the U.S. and Newcastle in the U.K. where we can do some commoditized work more effectively. Newcastle is developing a bespoke IT program for us to use on a major new client matter. The one I'd like to focus a little bit more on in Australia is where we've entered into a joint venture with the first majority-owned indigenous commercial law firm, Jaramer Legal. The services that Jaramer will provide are designed to improve economic outcomes for indigenous people. It dovetails into a government policy called “Closing the Gap,” and that's something that we're very proud of and that our team has been a very strong supporter of.

Related Articles

Solving Insolvency

by Best Lawyers

Markus Fellner discusses emerging trends in insolvency and reorganization law and the work his firm has done with the visually impaired.

An Interview With Fellner Wratzfeld & Partner

Anna Inventing: The Importance of Diversity in Innovation

by Emily C. Peyser

A patent from 1887 by female inventor Anna Connelly not only revolutionized fire safety, but highlighted the need for diversity in innovation. Our world is facing big problems that need diverse voices at the table to find solutions that work for everyone. Building diverse teams and encouraging diversity in innovation is a beneficial step forward in resolving our collective challenges.

Diversity in Innovation and Technology

How This Firm Is Shaping the Economic Future of Ukraine

by Best Lawyers

Denis Lysenko discusses how AEQUO has helped build a new business environment.

An Interview With AEQUO

A Globalized Sprint: How Japan’s Insolvency Practice Is Expanding and Preparing for the Future

by Best Lawyers

Emerging legal trends are a relished opportunity for reorganization, while natural disasters present an opportunity for innovation.

Interview with Nishimura & Asahi Law Firm

How PLMJ's Unique Structure Shapes Its Insolvency Practice

by Best Lawyers

A leading attorney with the 2019 "Law Firm of the Year" winner for Insolvency and Reorganization Law in Portugal speaks to Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer.

PLMJ "Law Firm of the Year" Interview

An Interview With Eberhard Braun of Schultze & Braun

by Best Lawyers

The 2019 "Law Firm of the Year" winning firm was recognized in Germany for Restructuring and Insolvency Law.

Eberhard Braun Interview

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Germany™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Germany.

Black, red and yellow stripes

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Switzerland™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Switzerland.

Red flag with white cross

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Austria™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Austria.

Red and white stripes

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Italy™ 2023

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from Italy.

Green, white and red stripes

Forging Bonds, Building Business

by Crystal L. Howard and Lizl Leonardo

As disorienting and occasionally frightening as the pandemic has been, it has also forced lawyers to find innovative new ways to stay connected and do business.

Pandemic Sparks Innovative Ways of Conducting

Memphis Bar Gets First Black Female President

by Anissa Cordova

Best Lawyers is celebrating listed lawyer Tannera George Gibson who has become the first ever black female president of the Memphis Bar Association.

First Black Female President for Memphis Bar

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in Colombia™

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in Colombia™

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in South Africa™

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms.

Announcing 2022 Best Lawyers in South Africa

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Switzerland

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Switzerl

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Austria

by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Austria

Trending Articles

Presenting The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2025

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is proud to present The Best Lawyers in Australia for 2025, marking the 17th consecutive year of Best Lawyers awards in Australia.

Australia flag over outline of country

How To Find A Pro Bono Lawyer

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers dives into the vital role pro bono lawyers play in ensuring access to justice for all and the transformative impact they have on communities.

Hands joined around a table with phone, paper, pen and glasses

How Palworld Is Testing the Limits of Nintendo’s Legal Power

by Gregory Sirico

Many are calling the new game Palworld “Pokémon GO with guns,” noting the games striking similarities. Experts speculate how Nintendo could take legal action.

Animated figures with guns stand on top of creatures

Announcing The Best Lawyers in New Zealand™ 2025 Awards

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is announcing the 16th edition of The Best Lawyers in New Zealand for 2025, including individual Best Lawyers and "Lawyer of the Year" awards.

New Zealand flag over image of country outline

Announcing The Best Lawyers in Japan™ 2025

by Best Lawyers

For a milestone 15th edition, Best Lawyers is proud to announce The Best Lawyers in Japan.

Japan flag over outline of country

The Best Lawyers in Singapore™ 2025 Edition

by Best Lawyers

For 2025, Best Lawyers presents the most esteemed awards for lawyers and law firms in Singapore.

Singapore flag over outline of country

How Much Is a Lawyer Consultation Fee?

by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers breaks down the key differences between consultation and retainer fees when hiring an attorney, a crucial first step in the legal process.

Client consulting with lawyer wearing a suit

Presenting the 2024 Best Lawyers Employment and Workers’ Compensation Legal Guide

by Best Lawyers

The 2024 Best Lawyers Employment and Workers' Compensation Legal Guide provides exclusive access to all Best Lawyers awards in related practice areas. Read below and explore the legal guide.

Illustration of several men and women in shades of orange and teal

Things to Do Before a Car Accident Happens to You

by Ellie Shaffer

In a car accident, certain things are beyond the point of no return, while some are well within an individual's control. Here's how to stay legally prepared.

Car dashcam recording street ahead

Combating Nuclear Verdicts: Empirically Supported Strategies to Deflate the Effects of Anchoring Bias

by Sloan L. Abernathy

Sometimes a verdict can be the difference between amicability and nuclear level developments. But what is anchoring bias and how can strategy combat this?

Lawyer speaking in courtroom with crowd and judge in the foreground

Attacked From All Sides: What Is Happening in the World of Restrictive Covenants?

by Christine Bestor Townsend

One employment lawyer explains how companies can navigate challenges of federal and state governmental scrutiny on restrictive covenant agreements.

Illustration of two men pulling on string with blue door between them

The Push and Pitfalls of New York’s Attempt to Expand Wrongful Death Recovery

by Elizabeth M. Midgley and V. Christopher Potenza

The New York State Legislature recently went about updating certain wrongful death provisions and how they can be carried out in the future. Here's the latest.

Red tape blocking off a section of street

Georgia Proposes Law Requiring Parental Consent for Minors on Social Media

by Gregory Sirico

With data collection on the rise, Georgia lawmakers are currently petitioning for Senate Bill 351, which would require a user's age before social media use.

Teenager with hood on using phone as notifications pop up

Colorado Attorney General Calls For Cannabis Reclassification

by Gregory Sirico

In this article, Best Lawyers highlights a recent call to action by the Colorado state attorney general, requesting a full drug reclassification of cannabis.

Cannabis buds sitting on a checkerboard tabletop

6 Ways a Lawyer Can Help You With Your Medical Malpractice Claim

by Adam Malone

If you believe you have a medical malpractice claim, contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Read on to learn how they can help with your claim.

Doctor in white lab coat showing x-ray to patient in blue scrubs

An Employer’s Guidebook to Responding to Online Harassment

by Belle Harris and Brent Siler

Navigating online defamation against your business requires strategic responses. Two employment lawyers guide how to leverage contracts, understand social media limitations and the risks of legal action.

Image of person pushing giant phone with mouth and words coming out