HFW boosts Australia construction offering with Herbert Smith Freehills hire

Michael Debney latest to join firm's construction team in Australia

Michael Debney Image courtesy of HFW

UK firm Homan Fenwick Willan (HFW) has continued to grow its construction practice in Australia, adding Michael Debney as a partner in Melbourne from Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF).

Debney joins after three-and-a-half years as a senior associate at HSF, also in Melbourne. Prior to that he spent more than a decade in industry in legal and commercial roles, including a stint as senior counsel for Qatar Railways Company in Doha and as company secretary for rail operator KDR Gold Coast.

His advisory and transactional construction practice spans the full projects lifecycle, with a focus on the energy, natural resources, industrial plants, transport infrastructure and transport operations and maintenance sectors. He has worked on projects including the AUS$4bn Sydney Trains PPP and TasNetworks' AUS$3.5bn Marinus Link subsea interconnector.

Carolyn Chudleigh, HFW global head of construction, described Debney’s experience in front- and back-end construction, as well as on largescale projects, as “second-to-none".

“His expertise and focus on major contractors is a great complement to our existing construction practice across Australia,” she said, adding that: “His arrival strengthens our front-end construction offering, where we see a lot of demand from clients from industries including road, rail and port infrastructure, energy and renewable infrastructure and general commercial construction.”  

Debney’s move to HFW comes after the firm boosted its construction team in Sydney with the addition of construction disputes partner Jo Delaney from Baker McKenzie in June, followed by the hire of a five-strong construction team from Australian law firm Colin Biggers & Paisley in October.  

Gavin Vallely, local managing partner, said the expansion of the construction team was a key element of the HFW’s growth strategy in Australia. Globally the construction practice now houses more than 70 lawyers across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

HFW saw profit per equity partner jump 30% for the 2020/21 financial year to reach £683,000, while revenue rose 2.6% to hit the £200m mark for the first time. The firm’s Australian offices now account for 10% of its total annual revenue, making it the firm's third-largest market globally after London and Hong Kong – with a possible free trade agreement likely to add further opportunities.  

Going the other way, the firm saw construction disputes specialist Matthew Blycha, who also served as managing partner of its Perth office, head for the door in May after more than a decade to join Ashurst.



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