Perth luring the best and brightest home

23/04/2008 - 22:00

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If recent trends in London and New York are any guide, more Australian lawyers could be following the likes of Tim Lester and Heath Lewis back to Perth.

Perth luring the best and brightest home

If recent trends in London and New York are any guide, more Australian lawyers could be following the likes of Tim Lester and Heath Lewis back to Perth.

Crumbling confidence in banks, weak stock markets and the prospect of a recession in the US have led to a sharp downturn in work opportunities for smart, young lawyers in the world’s financial capitals.

Perth, comparatively, will be looking a lot more attractive.

Mr Lester spent 13 years overseas with international law firm Lovells, where he was a global partner from 2001 and managing partner of its Tokyo office from 2004.

He said this was a period of tremendous growth for Lovells, which increased partner numbers from 130 to 350 while he was with the firm.

“It was the dawn of the international law firm,” Mr Lester said.

His return followed the move back to Perth last year of Clayton Utz partner Heath Lewis, who spent two and a half years with prominent London firm Slaughter and May.

Their return to Perth is part of the “reverse brain drain”, whereby many people have continued their careers in Perth after extended periods interstate and overseas.

Many lawyers returning to Perth, Mr Lester included, need to modify their focus to accord with the opportunities in the local market.

Mr Lester’s main focus in Tokyo was on structured finance and corporate finance transactions.

While family ties were the main reason for his return, he was also attracted by the opportunities.

“I looked at the market, Perth is booming, it just seemed like a logical time,” he said.

He is aiming to combine his structured finance experience with corporate work in Perth, to help local companies raise both equity capital and debt capital.

“I think there is a space in Perth that isn’t being filled,” Mr Lester said.

He accepts that transactions in Perth may not be as large as those he handled in Tokyo, but doesn’t see that as an issue.

“The deals are interesting and the level of complexity is on a par with many deals overseas,” Mr Lester said.

Looking ahead he remains upbeat about the prospects.

“There is lots of capital to be raised, but the banks are pulling their heads in, their risk committees are imposing more stringent criteria, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t money in the market.”

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