Five Minutes With… Philippa Bergin-Fisher, senior associate at Herbert Smith Freehills.
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
There were signs early on. I’m organised, a planner, I like strategy and I have never minded arguing a case. So the law was a natural fit.
How long have you worked at Herbert Smith Freehills and what brought you to this position?
Ten years. After a year as a judge’s associate I was drawn to Herbert Smith Freehills because of its reputation: as a top tier firm with a supportive culture and a social conscience. And, ten years later I still believe this to be true.
What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with
An offensive language case in which I was representing a young boy who was accused of swearing at a police officer. This was when I was seconded to The Shopfront Youth Legal Centre, which is a joint project of Mission Australia, the Salvation Army and Herbert Smith Freehills, and provides a free legal service for homeless and disadvantaged young people. Despite some initial doubt on the part of the Magistrate, she ultimately agreed that my client had called the police officer a ‘cat’.
If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Christopher Hitchens because we miss him and it would be fascinating to hear his views on current issues, such as the US election. Nigella Lawson since I think she would be great company; intelligent and fun. And Billy Connolly, for all the obvious reasons.
You’re based in Sydney – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
For me, home, as dull as that sounds. My husband is a great cook and I get to spend time with him and my toddler. Otherwise, Cipri Italian.
What’s the best piece of advice (work or personal) you’ve ever been given?
To listen. I haven’t been given this advice as such, but I’ve observed the power of listening properly in leaders at our firm.
Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
Art, theatre, opera, reading.
Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
A storyteller of some kind, probably a novelist or journalist like my grandmother.
What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the legal space in Australia in 2016?
From a disputes perspective, I think ensuring that Australian courts remain competitive forums in our Asia Pacific region and globally for dispute resolution.
If you had Malcolm Turnbull’s job for one day, what would you do?
I would invest in the development of clean energy technology.
What do you love about your job?
I love working closely with clients and learning about different businesses and technologies; the satisfaction of settling a dispute; as well as the trial process. I work flexibly at the moment and I am fortunate that the partners and lawyers at Herbert Smith Freehills help to make that work.
What would you change about your job right now if you could?
To be honest, not much but a new innovative approach that could substitute daily
time entry would be welcome.