Five minutes with… Sam Luttrell

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What made you decide to become a lawyer?

At the end of school I wanted to be a painter. I guess I ended up studying law because I had the marks. But it wasn't until my fourth year of law school that I really thought I might actually want to be a lawyer. So, when I graduated, I decided to give law a go. I started with a medium-sized commercial firm in Perth and I really enjoyed it. Pretty soon I found it hard to see myself doing anything else. The rest is history.

How long have you worked at Clifford Chance and what brought you to this position?

I joined Clifford Chance in September 2013. Prior to that, I was with Freshfields in Paris. I was attracted to Clifford Chance because they have a big international arbitration practice and offices across the Asia-Pacific. I also knew a number of the partners at the Clifford Chance office in Perth and had a general understanding of the firm's expansion plans, including in my practice area. So it all came together really well.

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

I work mostly on Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) cases. So I get to see some pretty strange stuff from time to time. I have had a couple of interesting experiences going in-country to interview witnesses and collect evidence. Back at the beginning of my career I did a pro bono armed robbery case and my client escaped from the Supreme Court holding cells during recess. That was pretty bizarre; it also made the bail application harder.

If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?

Cicero (history's first great lawyer, for my many questions on Roman law and history); Churchill (for a first-hand account of both world wars and his views on how they have shaped the world we live in today); Ibn Battuta (14th century Moroccan adventurer who, as the greatest traveller of all time, would surely have some stories to tell).

You’re based in Perth– where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?

People who know me would laugh at the idea of me being asked this question! I'm not much of a foodie. Anywhere that does a decent burger and a cold G&T is good enough for me.

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

Law is a language game, and you can't play if you don't know the words. Study the language of law like you would study a foreign language. Get a notebook (hard-back, so you keep it) and every time you come across a word you don't know, look it up and write down the definition. Never underestimate the value of rote learning.

Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?

My main interest outside of work is my family. I travel a lot so, when I am in Perth, I try to spend as much time as I can with my wife and son. We live near the beach, so I am able to combine family time with my other passion, surfing.

Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…

Either a landscape painter or a novelist 

What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the legal space in Australia in 2015?

Technology: many of the new technologies being applied to legal practice are actually labour shifters rather than labour savers. The day of a lawyer is getting longer with every new technology we add. The challenge for lawyers and law firms in 2015 (and beyond) will be to identify which technologies are actually likely to lead to efficiency gains, and then determine whether it makes sense for lawyers or support staff to operate the new technology concerned.

If you had Malcolm Turnbull’s job for one day, what would you do?

I would establish a government-funded exchange program for young Australian lawyers and law students, and offer to send them to developing countries to work in government departments, courts and universities.  They would learn about foreign law and make valuable connections in the countries concerned (which would then help develop Australia's relationships with the host countries in the longer term). They would also learn problem solving skills and how to work in resource-constrained environments.

What do you love about your job?

International arbitration is living comparative law and so it really satisfies my academic side. I love all the different legal systems and traditions involved. I also love the historical dimension of the cases I work on, and the fact that the assets and investments at issue are often globally significant. 

What would you change about your job right now if you could?

I would change the public perception of ISDS and what I do as an ISDS lawyer. I am concerned that the public perception of ISDS is increasingly far removed from the reality of the process.

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