Herbert Smith Freehills
, tells Australasian Lawyer
why the best advice he’s ever received came from his dad.
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
My family thought I could debate issues for a living and expected me to go to the bar. However, I found I was less enticed by being “on my feet” and more drawn to the strategy and complexities of big cases. The interactions a lawyer has with different people (clients, your team, other parties and counsel) also appealed, along with the work up to, and including, trial. All this led me down the lawyer path.
How long have you worked at Herbert Smith Freehills and what brought you to this position?
This year will mark 10 years at Herbert Smith Freehills
. I started at what was Freehills in 2006 when I came over from London with my then fiancée (now wife). We both grew up in London and needed to get away from endless months of cold and darkness. I was offered an opportunity with Freehills in Sydney and I jumped at it. We had no idea how long we would stay. A decade later we are both Aussie citizens and raising our son here. We love it here and have no plans to return to London.
What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
I’m not sure about strangest, but the most challenging for sheer complexity and number of parties would have been the shareholder class action against Centro.
Another separate matter I was involved in that stands out saw a plaintiff attempt to use the court system to bully and threaten a client into settling a case with no basis. I was very happy when the Court took a stand against it and threw the case out and awarded our client indemnity costs.
If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
A good question! I would probably want a fun, possibly controversial and engaging table so would likely invite John Cleese, Michael McIntyre and Jeremy Clarkson. However, I could also go for an intellectually stimulating table and for this I would invite Sir David Attenborough, Neil Armstrong and Stephen Fry.
You’re based in Sydney– where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
For more expensive food in Sydney, I would say Prime for steaks or Glass Brasserie. For a more reasonably priced meal, my wife and I love Radio Cairo in Cremorne – interesting, tasty food at a great price. I also lived in Melbourne for 18 months and we loved Cookie and Chin Chin.
What’s the best piece of advice (work or personal) you’ve ever been given?
Something my dad told me when I was younger – “Know what you know, and what you don’t know, know that you don’t know it.” The point he was trying to make stuck with me - know the limits of your knowledge, and be aware there are others who know a lot more than you. Something my mentor once told me has also stayed with me – “never take credit for someone else’s work”.
Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
A lot of random things – I like cars, computers, music, martial arts and travelling. But these days I enjoy spending most of my free time looking after my son.
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
…a presenter on Top Gear (UK).
What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the legal space in Australia in 2016?
I’m a class action lawyer, so for me, probably the introduction of contingency fees (or at least the continued debate as to the appropriateness of introducing such an arrangement). The regulation of litigation funders will also continue to be a hot topic.
If you had Malcolm Turnbull’s job for one day, what would you do?
Work harder on global warming issues and the protection of Australia’s natural environment. I’m not an massive environmentalist, but I’m terrified by the seeming lack of care about Australia’s amazing environment.
What do you love about your job?
My Herbert Smith Freehills
colleagues. Quite simply the best lawyers I know, whilst being tremendous people to work with.
What would you change about your job right now if you could?
Install a coffee machine in my office? On a serious note, I wouldn’t change much – I really enjoy what I do.