Five minutes with... David Ryan, DLA Piper corporate partner

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David Ryan, corporate partner at DLA Piper, tells us about the parallels between motorsport and an M&A practitioner, and working on a $150 billion takeover.

What made you decide to become a lawyer?
The challenge. Law is very rewarding from that perspective. And you get out what you put in.

How long have you worked at DLA Piper for and what brought you to that position?
I joined DLA Piper about 12 months ago. Prior to joining DLA Piper I was a Corporate Partner at Ashurst Australia (formerly Blake Dawson).
DLA Piper is a truly global offering that encourages its people to think outside the square. What clients have in me is someone who will look at things from an entrepreneurial perspective - DLA Piper provides me with the platform to be innovative in the solutions I offer clients.

What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
I wouldn’t call it strange, but I had the unique opportunity to be part of the deal team advising BHP Billiton on its proposed $150 billion takeover of Rio Tinto back in 2008. This was an incredibly complex cross border transaction that was very rewarding to work on.

If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Rupert Murdoch - once of the most successful businessmen of all time and a testament to what can be achieved with drive and persistence.
Nigel Mansell - one of the world's best racing drivers. I would enjoy discussing the many great battles he had on (and off) the track with the late great Ayrton Senna.
Robin Williams - just because.

You’re based in Sydney – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
There are many great places in Sydney for that. My current favourite is Bentleys.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?
Learn to love uncertainty.

Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
Wife and family come first, but outside of that it's all about Motorsport.
Motorsport may sound like an unusual hobby for a lawyer, but there are many parallels between it and my work as an M&A practitioner. 
To be successful in motor racing you need to have a talent for it, be prepared to take risks and be able to pull all the right ingredients together over the course of the season. And you need to love the adrenalin. Leading a successful M&A deal is a bit like that. You have to know what you're doing, make the right calls and love the thrill of the deal. 

Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
A professional racing driver. In fact, I made the choice to pursue a career in law only after giving serious thought to heading off to Europe to follow in the footsteps of Australia's two F1 world champions, Sir Jack Brabham and Alan Jones.

What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the legal space in Australia in 2014?
The structural shift in the way legal services need to be delivered in order to be relevant and cost effective for clients. Gone are the days when lawyers could quote an hourly rate and expect to be retained without question. Today it is all about how you deliver an innovative solution to clients that responds to the commercial demands of their business.

If you had Tony Abbott’s job for one day, what would you do?
Commit to heavy investment in infrastructure to make up for the neglect of the past.

What do you love about your job?
The challenge of taking a problem facing a client and working with them to create an innovative solution.

What would you change about your job right now if you could?
Nothing. If you do what you love then you will never work a day in your life!
 

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