Five minutes with… James Halliday

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James Halliday, partner at Baker & McKenzie will be speaking at the Australasian Lawyer Contract Law Masterclass this year.  He tells Australasian Lawyer what he loves about his job.
What do you love about contract law?

I love the precision and beauty of the law and how it evolves to meet the requirements of the time.  Countless thousands of hours of thought and argument have gone into shaping creating and adapting a set of coherent and fair principles.  I don't envy the job of our judges!

Why is knowledge of ‘Exclusion clauses and consequential loss claims’ so important for lawyers at the moment?

I think there is widespread confusion about this topic which sometimes leads to it being viewed with suspicion or even as a dark art.  In fact exclusion clauses are simple to draft and understand once certain basic principles are understood.

In your experience, what is the biggest mistake that people make when drafting contracts?

Not pausing to think about the commercial objective and slavish reliance on precedent.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given (work or personal)?

Control the things you can and don't worry about the rest.  Also, stop and think about what you're doing.

What do you think is the most significant area of development in terms of contract law at the moment?

I think the statutory developments in consumer law (eg unfair and unconscionable contracts) are having a massive impact on the shape of the law of contract.

What do you love about your job?

Getting to a good commercial outcome for clients.

What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?

I've seen plenty.  Many were very funny but unprintable.  Law is a people business and you see the whole range of human emotion in this job.  One thing I remember was when I was doing a completion in our offices over the weekend and the client brought along a dog they were minding for a friend.  Needless to say dogs were prohibited in the building.  It then proceeded to bite a security guard and do unspeakable things on the carpet.  I was buried in the documents so I didn't even notice what was happening, but I remember wondering why I could hear barking.  I then had to field an extremely irate call from building management on Monday morning.

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