Friday 29th April 2022 from 9am

Wills & Estates Senior Associate Debbie Sage will join Robyn Hyland to talk about the importance of planning for end-of-life care and what options are available.

Celebrating 43 years of legal excellence in Property and Commercial Law: Barry van Heerden gets set to retire


Property and Commercial Law Special Counsel Barry van Heerden is retiring after 43 years in the legal industry.

After a stellar legal career spanning more than four decades, Barry van Heerden is retiring and bids farewell to Attwood Marshall Lawyers on 22 December 2023.

Barry joined Attwood Marshall Lawyers in September 2006 and quickly climbed the ranks to lead the Property and Commercial department from 2009. He became partner in 2011.

We are grateful to have been able to tap into Barry’s expertise over the past 17 years. He has been the driving force behind the development and growth of our Property and Commercial team, mentoring our lawyers and solidifying the firm’s position as a leading legal provider for businesses, investors, developers and property owners across the Gold Coast and Northern Rivers areas.

He obtained his B.Proc degree in 1982 and was admitted  as a lawyer in South Africa in 1986 where he practised in commercial law until moving to Australia with his family in 2002.

In 2004, he completed a Graduate Certificate in Applied Law and was admitted as a solicitor in Queensland. In 2006 he further enhanced his legal qualifications with a Masters in Law from the University of Queensland, after which he joined Attwood Marshall Lawyers.

Over the course of his career, he has built up specialist expertise in commercial law, specialising in leases, the buying and selling of businesses, business structuring and business succession, particularly focused on complex commercial business structuring in the medical and dental fields.

The first “big” case Barry remembers working on was a conveyancing matter for an 11-storey commercial complex in Springwood. He handled all the leases for the businesses in the building.

Fast forward to 2022, and he helped facilitate the $31 million sale of Lake Argyle Resort in East Kimberley from his client the Sharpe family to Australian tourism provider G’Day Group Discovery Holiday Parks Pty Ltd. The 12-hectare property in Australia’s remote north, on the border of Western Australia and Northern Territory, hadn’t changed hands for almost 20 years.

“We worked on that project for more than a year,” says Barry of the leasehold sale. “It was a really good exercise and my biggest one, by far.”

While he has picked up the occasional conveyancing work over the years, his primary focus has in the business and commercial law space.

“I’ve always liked the personal side of business and commercial law – of being part of a clients’ journey from starting a business to growing it two or three years down the line. The structuring part of businesses, and the many ways they can be set up, has also always appealed to me,” he says.

In the 17 years he’s worked with us, Barry has built up an impressive client list of long-term relationships that he will now pass on to be managed by Legal Practice Director Jeff Garrett and Property and Commercial Lawyer Bronwyn Scofield.

Under Barry’s leadership, the Property and Commercial Law department has thrived, seeing out the ups and downs of the Gold Coast property market – through the ‘08/’09 Global Financial Crisis and its aftermath, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic. The team now boasts a current headcount of six property and commercial professionals – servicing Queensland and New South Wales.

Barry stepped down as partner in 2021, taking on the role of Special Counsel as he prepared for retirement.

“The saddest part of life is that life goes on. It doesn’t stop for no-one,” he says.

Before closing this chapter, Barry sat down to impart some key takeaways and words of advice from his long career in law:

How have you seen the legal landscape change during your career?

The biggest change in the legal world has been the sense of urgency that seems to now permeate everything. People expect results right now, and a significant part of this shift comes down to the huge advancements in technology that has reshaped how we work.

In the old days, we had hard copy files and consigned them to the filing cupboard after corresponding with clients, because you knew that a response may take a leisurely week to ten days. The system functioned, but it was just a much slower process.

Undeniably, technology makes our days much easier – so it’s a change for the better, so long as the technology works as it’s supposed to!

What’s it been like witnessing the firm’s growth over the years?

It’s just kept growing. When I joined Attwood Marshall Lawyers there were only about 20-25 people. Now we are close to 65 people, and that number is continuing to rise as we have new hires coming on board next month, expanding the business further.

We’ve had to adapt with the growing market of the local area, certainly.

We were very busy in the Global Financial Crisis. But I don’t think the GFC had as much influence on the firm as Covid, which was really a challenging time for everyone.

When Covid hit, we thought business and property deals would take a sharp dive and stay down. But they didn’t. There has been a boom. We’ve watched so many stories of people buying houses only a few years before and then selling them for massive profits. The market simply went through the roof.

Population growth is a big factor, I think. Southerners have been moving up here for decades, because our house prices remain cheaper than in the big cities. I see each boom as a correction to get the Gold Coast prices in line with other big cities.

And forgetting the market for a moment, why would you not want to live here?

What advice would you give young professionals entering the legal industry today?

Every client is different. Some like to take their time, mull things over for a few days before they get back to you. That’s just how they do it. Others respond right away and expect your attention immediately. So, it’s important to figure out what each client is comfortable with and how they operate. Once you get a handle on their individual preferences and earn their trust by providing sound advice and managing their affairs the right way, they will come back, every time.

That’s what I loved most about this job, I got great satisfaction when my clients came back time and time again.

With new clients, it’s different. They don’t have loyalty because a relationship hasn’t been built yet – it must be cultivated through the service you provide. You’ve got to earn their trust and treat every client like they’re your only client.

As Barry embarks on a well-deserved journey into retirement, we wish him all the best. Congratulations on 43 years of legal excellence, and may the next chapter be as rewarding as the legacy you leave behind.

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Jeff Garrett - Legal Practice Director - Wills & Estates, Estate Litigation, Property & Commercial, Compensation Law, Commercial Litigation, Criminal Law, Racing & Equine Law

Jeff Garrett

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Wills & Estates, Estate Litigation, Property & Commercial, Compensation Law, Commercial Litigation, Criminal Law, Racing & Equine Law
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The contents of this article are considered accurate as at the date of publication. The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and is of a general nature only. Readers should seek legal advice about their specific circumstances. 

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