The Legal Elite: Wright banks on fresh pastures

PAUL Wright is one of several winners in the Legal Elite 2003 survey who left work at a big national firm to establish his own practice.

He formed Wright Legal in July 2000 after 17 years as a partner at Freehills and one of its predecessor firms, Muir Williams Nicholson.

“After 17 years I just wanted a change,” Mr Wright told WA Business News. “And I wanted to do it before I got too old.”

Mr Wright worked primarily in project finance at Freehills but had to start from scratch when he went out on his own.

“To a large degree my banking practice was left at Freehills,” he said.

“We’ve developed a new practice over here.”

Wright Legal is a boutique commercial law firm active in the resources sector, general corporate work, debt financing and major projects.

Mr Wright has been joined by two former Freehills people – Mason Hills, who has become a partner, and senior associate Trish Chapman.

“Between the three of us we can make a pretty decent team for a transaction.”

Further growth is on the agenda for Wright Legal.

“You can’t stand still so we’re looking to expand our practice,” said Mr Wright, who currently does some work for banks and other lenders, although most of his financing work is now for borrowers.

“The banks want brand name firms. They want the depth of resources and they want the indemnity cover. That is becoming much more important.”

Transactions that Mr Wright has worked on include the joint plan by Woodside Energy and Energy Equity Corporation for a new West Kimberley power station.

He has also worked with LionOre group on financing of the Emily Ann nickel project, Sally Malay Mining on financing of the Sally Malay project, and US-based Resource Capital Fund, which has provided funding to St Barbara Mines.

At a broader corporate level Mr Wright has worked with Peters & Brownes, Futuris Corporation and West Australian Newspapers on the restructure of various debt facilities.

Nearly three years after going

out on his own Mr Wright

seems comfortably pleased with

the move. His decision to form Wright Legal coincided with

the full integration of Freehills, which previously had operated as a national federation.

He speaks highly of Freehills but frankly acknowledges the changing environment.

“There is a lot more pressure in the big firms now than there was 10 years ago,” he said.“I’m a lot more relaxed now than I was then. I feel I’m now in control of my own destiny.”

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