Ally McBeal and useful party advice

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Five Minutes With… Jeremy Birch, Herbert Smith Freehills senior associate.
 
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
Wanting to be like the greats: Ally McBeal, Sandy Cohen and Alan Shore. I wanted to be like Uncle Phil in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air too but the thought of having to live with Will Smith took the magic out of that dream.
 
How long have you worked at Herbert Smith Freehills and what brought you to this position?
I worked at Freehills for three years in Perth, Herbert Smith for 2 ½ years in London, then Herbert Smith Freehills since the merger in Sydney and Hong Kong – all up almost 9 years. What brought me to this position? An inability to stay in one place for an extended period of time and a nerdish love of law. 
 
What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
A matter where the temperament of sea lions was a relevant issue. Sea lion jurisprudence is very niche.  
 
If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
I still haven’t worked out what’s going on at the end of Inception, so I guess Christopher Nolan would be one. Steven Spielberg, so he could talk me through how Han Solo survived a nuclear explosion by hiding in a fridge in Indiana Jones 4. And maybe a third person to take notes and send follow-up questions. I am a stickler for detail.
 
You’re based in Sydney – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
Mr Crackles on Oxford Street. Because sometimes after a long day you just need a big container of pork and nothing else.
 
What’s the best piece of advice (work or personal) you’ve ever been given?
There’s a jerk at every party and if you can’t find them, you’re it.
 
Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
I hike, run, learn Spanish, watch films and have recently started doing reformer pilates – because handling a serious commercial dispute requires good core strength.
 
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
A screen writer, a tech entrepreneur or whatever profession may have featured prominently in the last few movies I watched.  I just watched Sicario so I’ve been thinking maybe an idealistic FBI agent enlisted by a government task force to fight the war against drugs at the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
 
Probably also broke.
 
What do you think will be the single biggest issue facing the legal space in Australia in 2016?
For big firms and large institutions it’s an ongoing issue: efficiency; doing more with less. The disaggregation and demystification of legal services will continue to change the way commercial law is practiced.
 
If you had Malcolm Turnbull’s job for one day, what would you do?
If I was Malcolm Turnbull for a day I would insist everyone call me “the ‘bull” and hope it catches on. If I just had his job I would probably call for a Royal Commission into how I managed to become Prime Minister for a day. I would then appoint myself as Royal Commissioner.
 
What do you love about your job?
Being able to work (and laugh) with very bright colleagues and clients on solving difficult, interesting problems. I also love the diversity of working at global firm like Herbert Smith Freehills – I get to work with people from different places, cultures and backgrounds which makes the day much more interesting on a personal level.
 
What would you change about your job right now if you could?
I think introducing ‘feats of strength’ as an ADR mechanism would mean less desk time. That would be a plus.
 
  • Hans Solo on 6/06/2016 11:03:15 AM

    Everything I learned about being a lawyer, I learned from Jeremy Birch.

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