On 12 December 2013 Seyfarth Shaw announced our Australian offices were officially open for business. Today marks five years since those doors opened.

What better way to reflect than to ask ourselves, what have been the biggest changes in our specialist areas of law over those five years?

“It has become increasingly difficult to make enterprise agreements that are compliant, genuinely enterprise-focused and fit for purpose due to increasing modern award complexity combined with the unworkable approach adopted in decisions of the Fair Work Commission and Federal Court to the BOOT and other procedural aspects of agreement making.”
– Rachel Bernasconi

“Over the past five years, I have observed the tension between sharing improved safety lessons and legal risk. I am concerned about compounding this potential unintended consequence with the rise of the industrial manslaughter offence.”
– Paul Cutrone

“I think the biggest development in employment and industrial law is how courts and tribunals are grappling with modern expectations of what ‘working’ looks like. This means they are looking at how to deal with the gig economy, flexible working arrangements (including working from home and telecommuting), employees wanting lengthy periods away from work and ‘portfolio’ careers. There is a real tension as employers seek flexibility to ensure customer demands are met while balancing the costs of labour vs employee representative groups seeking to pull the other way, seeking automatic casual conversion rights and laws that treat gig workers as employees. The next five years will see this tension play out in the policy debate.”
– Ben Dudley

“The most significant change I have seen is increasing employee mobility. Employees of large international organisations are spending more time on assignment in locations throughout the Asia Pacific, on both a short-term and long-term basis. We see this occurring as a result of organisations expanding their operations throughout the region. Employers are increasingly seeking specialist employment advice on both a single jurisdiction and multi-jurisdiction basis, including to confirm compliance with new frameworks and to ensure the appropriate arrangements are in place.”
– Luke Edwards

“The last five years has cemented a realisation that has been brewing for the last ten years. Enterprise bargaining amidst the current regulatory environment has reached its use-by date for many employers. Enterprise bargaining is no longer an opportunity to secure win-win outcomes but rather a process aimed at reducing the risk to on-going operations.”
– Chris Gardner

“There has been a shift away from spending money on large, wordy paper systems written by lawyers. I question whether anyone is any safer once they are developed. Smart organisations are investing heavily in understanding their key risks, controls and testing the effectiveness of those controls. This is where their efforts need to be.”
– Jane Hall

“One of the most significant developments I have seen in the last five years is the rise in the influence of workplace regulators. Consistent with the overall dynamic facing corporate Australia, we are seeing far more active, better resourced and assertive regulators across various workplace issues. The environment is one of heightened focus on compliance with workplace and safety laws; the financial and reputational stakes are higher than ever for employers who fall short.”
– Darren Perry

“Over the past 5 years, we have seen a number of areas where our Fair Work Commission cannot speak with one voice. While many parts of its jurisdiction have been affected, it is most noticeable in individual claims. How the Fair Work Commission balances even very serious conduct against mitigating factors remains unpredictable and has resulted in flip-flopping which creates ongoing uncertainty. This is costly and time consuming. Faced with cost and uncertainty we are seeing our clients feel pressure to settle rather than defend a sound and rational decision to uphold reasonable standards of conduct. The absence of clear statements of principle from the Fair Work Commission (such as we had in the past) and its increasingly subjective approach creates uncertainty, inefficiency and unfairness of a different kind.”
– Henry Skene

“The changes have been many and varied. What I am seeing is increased competition across a number of industry sectors, which means there is a war to retain and protect the most talented staff, who are the engine of the business. This has led to a big uptick in restraint of trade work – a highly specialised area which can be compared to a game of chess. We are passionate about this area of law and have built a specialist service model that in our opinion is market leading – whether it be getting into court within a matter of days when necessary, to defending applications for injunctions or damages. Our clients recognise that a good restraint is a business asset, and invest accordingly.”
– Michael Tamvakologos

On behalf of the team, we would like to thank the truly valued supporters of Seyfarth Shaw in Australia. We are excited to continue to work with you into 2019, and beyond.


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Photo of Rachel Bernasconi Rachel Bernasconi

“She is magnificent: highly pragmatic and very commercial” quoted a client of Rachel’s in Chambers 2017 – enough said?

Rachel does not shy from challenges supporting employers with highly unionised workforces, with rapid technological change and whose disputes more often than not reach headlines.

With a passion for working closely with large organisations, with both blue and white collar workforces, Rachel finds people driven solutions to problems meeting strategic needs while identifying and mitigating risks.

Photo of Paul Cutrone Paul Cutrone

If the health and safety of your people are your responsibility – you need Paul in your corner.

Recognised for his ability to combine keen insight with practical advice about legal risk management, governance and due diligence, investigations and enforcement action, including prosecutions – he’s a specialist in the health and safety requirements in Australia, and globally.

From briefing your board on responsibilities to being alongside you when the unimaginable happens, Paul’s clients are confident he will be there when and wherever needed.

Photo of Ben Dudley Ben Dudley

Fascinated by what the workplaces of the future will look like – and loves to debate how things will change to get us there – Ben can take you, your organisation and your workforce into tomorrow.

While he doesn’t have perfect foresight (and who does?) his experience working with major employers and supporting their legal needs has given him the in-depth understanding needed to help organisations future-proof their workforces.

Motivated by high-risk and high-value industrial relations and employment challenges. When protecting you and the interests of your workforce, Ben is as comfortable visiting your manufacturing site as he is representing you in the court room.

Photo of Luke Edwards Luke Edwards

If you’re a multinational or Australian based organisation with a workforce that crosses borders, Luke understands your unique challenges.

With a regional speciality in the Asia Pacific, Luke has the legal knowledge backed with in-depth cultural understanding needed to support organisations to operate successfully across the region and in single countries.

Working collaboratively with clients, Luke achieves commercial objectives through clever legal solutions. Crossing borders himself, Luke is admitted to practice here in Australia and the UK.

Photo of Chris Gardner Chris Gardner

“Strategic”. That’s how clients consistently describe Chris.

Starting with the end in mind, he understands that legal advice is only one piece of the jigsaw when balancing strategy and risk.

Clients know they’ll receive advice that fits into the bigger picture.

Best recognised for workplace change and enterprise bargaining, Chris’ work has seen him at the forefront of engagements that matter. Countless employers have benefited from the pragmatic and solution-orientated advice that he is known for.

You may have seen him in Boss magazine, heard him on Qantas Q Radio or Foxtel’s Law TV. He is also famous for his collection of Elvis artefacts.

Photo of Darren Perry Darren Perry

Darren Perry is a partner in the International Labour & Employment practice of Seyfarth Shaw Australia, and is the Managing Partner of our Australian offices. Widely regarded by clients and peers as a leading practitioner in his field, Darren acts in all areas of employment and labour relations law. He has represented clients in a number of landmark cases, including the successful defense of a $100 million class action brought against a major bank. Darren was awarded 2012 Lawyer of the Year for the Employment category of the Best Lawyers International list.

Darren has expertise in executive contracts and remuneration and handling disputes relating to the termination of executive employees. He is prominent in advising major employers on collective bargaining strategies, responses to industrial action and major workplace change projects. Darren is an experienced advocate in all courts and tribunals in which employment and labour-related litigation is conducted.

Photo of Henry Skene Henry Skene

At the forefront of new law, in areas where many others dread to walk, Henry is at his finest.

For legal advice to be truly effective, it must seize an opportunity or solve a problem, aligned with an organisation strategy – exactly what Henry is known for. Delivering solutions that innovate and focus on the long term. Commercially-minded and outcomes-driven, he is uncompromising when advancing the interests of employers and business owners.

His novel application of conventional principles does not stop at the elevator, it continues in his various entrepreneurial interests in farming, viticulture, bee keeping and diamonds.

Photo of Michael Tamvakologos Michael Tamvakologos

Michael Tamvakologos
When clients were asked what they valued most in Michael, one client responded “He is very sharp, quick and commercial, and very good at building relationships with the commercial side of our business; you can put him in front of the CEO or anyone else and know he won’t let you down”, Chambers 2017.

What makes Michael more than a stand-out strategic litigator sought after by leading multi-nationals, is a near complete MBA at INSEAD University (rated by the Financial Times as the No 1 MBA in the world in 2017) which is reinforcing an understanding of the commercial side of your organisation.