07/12/2020 - 11:55

Top tier dispute resolution in uncertain times

07/12/2020 - 11:55


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Top left: Martin Bennett, Gavan Cruise, Bronte English, Shemali Samaraweera and Nathan Ebbs. Bottom left: Nilan Ekanayake, Christine Arthur, Michael Harper and Darren Zusman

While there is light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, many businesses are still facing great uncertainty which will extend into 2021.

This year, more than ever, has proved that uncertain times lead to an upsurge in disputes and create a need for rapid and effective legal assistance.

“Since the courts reopened we’ve been litigating back-to-back trials, with many clients more resolute in their desire to have the courts determine the outcome”, said Nathan Ebbs, Managing Principal of Bennett + Co.

In certain circumstances, litigation is the only way for a client to protect its interests, either by prosecuting a claim or defending one”, said Mr Ebbs.

“Our clients know that we are the best firm to stand with them when the stakes are at their highest”.

No shrinking violet

In some circles, Bennett + Co has a reputation for taking an aggressive approach to resolving disputes.

“We don’t shy away from that but I like to think we are forthright in the pursuit of our clients’ interests rather than aggressive”, explained Mr Ebbs.

“When they have to ‘bet the farm’ people turn to us”.

Mr Ebbs explained that the firm’s competitive advantage, amongst other things, lies in the depth of its courtroom experience.

“We have always been predominantly a litigation firm, practising in the areas of commercial litigation and dispute resolution; competition and consumer law; defamation; energy and resources; and regulation and compliance”.

In June 2020, Business News reported that Bennett + Co represented litigants in 16% (312) of the total decisions of the Supreme Court of Western Australia between January 2011 and December 2019. Its next-nearest competitor was involved in less than half that number (161).

“Clients engage us to litigate because we are good at it. And we’re good at it because we have extensive experience—we are not afraid to be in court”. 

“Of course we don’t prosecute or defend a client’s case in court unless it is completely necessary. But when it is justified, our team knows how to position our clients to get the best outcome”.  

The firm was founded in 2011 by Martin Bennett, widely regarded as one of Perth’s leading counsel.

“Over his 40-year career, Martin has mentored countless practitioners into first-class litigators through his commitment to excellence. He has mentored and taught several Senior Counsel and Judges”, said Mr Ebbs.

“Martin has always led from the front. Now his peerless approach to commercial litigation is ingrained throughout the firm. It drives the high quality of our clients’ outcomes”, he said.

“Our emerging leaders are ensuring that Martin’s approach to solving our clients’ most difficult challenges is carried well into the future”.

Investing in the future

On 1 December 2020, Bennett + Co promoted six outstanding practitioners:

  • Christine Arthur, Darren Zusman and Nilan Ekanayake to the position of Principal Associate;
  • Shemali Samaraweera to the position of Senior Associate; and
  • Gavan Cruise and Bronte English to the position of Associate.

“These promotions contribute to how the firm will look in five to ten years”, said Mr Ebbs.

The latest round of promotions adds to a number of notable appointments in the past two years complementing the firm’s commercial litigation focus and providing a greater service offering to existing and future clients, including:

  • Dave Stewart, Principal, recognised as one of Australia’s preeminent intellectual property specialists;
  • Michael Douglas, Consultant, a former Sydney Law School academic, leading expert on cross-border litigation and lecturer at UWA;
  • Graham Nagle, Corporate Counsel, with decades of corporate experience, including time as senior corporate counsel with Apache Energy, Synergy and ASIC;
  • Inge Lauw, Principal Associate, a commercial tenancy law specialist; and
  • Ebony Sweetnam, Consultant, specialising in intellectual property and formerly senior legal counsel at HBF.

The real Bennett + Co

While the firm might have a reputation for proactively advancing its clients’ interests in an unflinching way, the reality behind closed doors is more than what you see in the courtroom.

“Every business likes to focus on its culture – this year more than ever”, said Mr Ebbs.

“We work hard for our clients but ultimately we’re a close-knit team who look after one another and enjoy working together”.

Mr Ebbs explained how the firm has invested in the development of its team. “We want them to be well-rounded people as well as excelling at what they do for our clients. Work is but one part of their lives”.

“That investment in our team pays off. You see that clearly in the quality of these recent promotions and the outcomes we consistently achieve for our clients”.

“Beyond that we are about family and community. For example, this Christmas we are donating to charity what we would otherwise have spent on client gifts. We recognise 2020 has been difficult for so many people, and our entire team supports the firm’s commitment to our local community”.

“As we approach our tenth anniversary we’re very proud of all of our people and what our firm has achieved”.


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