INTERVIEWS: Banking & Finance Award finalists – 30 Under 30 Law Awards – Part 2

Olivia Coutrney Interviews, CAREER ADVICE, LawyersWeekly30Under30...

Taylor Root is proud to be the principal partner in the Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Law Awards. Olivia Courtney, Associate Director at Taylor Root, had the opportunity to speak to this year’s finalists in the Banking & Finance category.

This award recognises a lawyer who has dominated the banking and finance practice area, advising on high-stakes legal matters concerning the industry.

This year there were ten finalists. Here are the final four of the finalists and their thoughts on what these awards mean to them, their successes in their career and their role in their chosen practice area in the Australian legal industry.


Kellie Grubb – Clifford Chance

What does it mean to you to be nominated for a 30 Under 30 Award?

Being nominated for a 30 Under 30 Award is an incredible privilege and honour. There is no shortage of great young lawyers in banking and finance in Australia, so I am very grateful for this opportunity.

Your biggest achievements in your career to date?

One of my biggest career achievements would have to be moving to Sydney to join Clifford Chance. I practised primarily in financial services law and consumer credit regulation for the first few years of my career. When I joined Clifford Chance last year, I had to learn a different area of banking and finance in a much more intense legal market whilst also navigating a new city away from my friends and family. The learning curve was certainly steep, but I am so glad I decided to do it and very thankful to those who have guided, supported and mentored me along the way.

What made you choose your practice area?

I had a mentor suggest that I would suit a transactional seat like banking and finance so when a law clerk opportunity came up in my previous team, I took it. I never had a traditional graduate programme experience, so I have never practiced outside of banking and finance but I’m confident that I’m exactly where I want to be right now.

What advice would you have for students or current graduates wanting to pursue a career in law?

My advice would be to really think about the area of law you might want to practice in and try to stay true to that. Don’t fall into a trap of convincing yourself that you want to do commercial law when you are actually really interested in criminal law, for example. Law can be all consuming, so it is important to at least be interested in and like what you do from day to day!


Andia Javidirad – EY

What does it mean to you to be nominated for a 30 Under 30 Award?

It is humbling and an absolute honour and privilege to be named as a finalist amongst such incredible peers. However, I must admit that it has very little to do with me and is more of a testament to the incredible team I am lucky enough to work with every day at EY. We work hard to help our clients navigate critical issues, shape regulatory change and develop innovative transformation approaches every day and it’s an amazing feeling to be recognised for that. I am grateful to be a part of such a dynamic and diverse team, because we are given unconditional support to learn, grow, challenge the norms of legal services and have fun in the process!

Your biggest achievements in your career to date?

This is definitely a multi-faceted answer as 2019 was a huge year for me both personally and professionally. I am a big advocate for balance and wellbeing because I love my job, but I thrive and am my best at work when I also make time for my other passions such as sport and quality time with my friends and family.

Last year, I was lucky enough to be given a secondment opportunity at one of the big four banks. As the subject matter expert legal adviser, I was involved in one of the largest banking transactions in Australian history and worked with two other EY service lines to ensure that members best interests were maintained throughout transaction completion. During that time, the Royal Commission created an unprecedented and uncertain climate for all financial institutions, so working with the client’s key executives, management team, industry leaders and independent experts to complete this transaction was the most challenging but rewarding experience of my career. I was then promoted to an Associate in the same year I was admitted to practice as a lawyer.

I am also incredibly passionate about health and fitness and it was a huge personal achievement to have also qualified to compete in the CrossFit Games (held in the USA) in the same year. My team at EY is incredibly supportive of everyone investing time and energy into their extracurricular hobbies and passions, so after training (sometimes at the crack of dawn or very late in the evening after work!) hard for 3 years, it felt amazing to accomplish a long-time personal goal of mine while also achieving my professional goals for the year.

What made you choose your practice area?

The banking and finance industry is one of the fastest growing and moving industries in our country. I have always been fascinated by the interplay of legislation and regulation with the functions and frameworks of financial institutions, against the backdrop of the global economy. It is also incredibly engaging to work with such a diverse range of clients, because every day and every matter are different, and it has given me an understanding and insight into how this area of the law effects everyday people and customers like myself.

What advice would you have for students or current graduates wanting to pursue a career in law?

It sounds cliché but pursue your passion (and it’s totally fine if you don’t know what that is just yet)! The law is actually really fun (contrary to what some people might think), but it takes hard work, a relentless desire to learn, a willingness to adapt and commercially pragmatic thinking, so I cannot stress the value and importance of actually being interested in what you are doing enough.


Sarah Johnson – NAB

What does it mean to you to be nominated for a 30 Under 30 Award?

It’s so encouraging to receive recognition like this in the early stages of my career. Whilst I still have so much to learn, this nomination is a great reflection on the amazing mentors I’ve had, who in just a few years have taught me so much and inspired me to pursue a career in law. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to do the same for other young lawyers who are entering the profession.

Your biggest achievements in your career to date?

Aside, of course, from this recognition as a Lawyers Weekly 30 under 30 Finalist, my decision to move to NAB in 2018 was one that has proved to be a great achievement. This transition from a generalist legal counsel role at a global manufacturing company into a specialist commercial legal team at an ASX listed banking and finance group really tested whether my legal skills could be applied in an industry that was completely new to me. The success of this transition has shown that skills developed as a commercial lawyer are highly transferable between industries and has given me the confidence to continue exploring the diverse career that I hoped to find in commercial law.

What made you choose your practice area?

Whilst this recognition focuses on my work as part of the banking and finance industry, my practice area is actually in commercial law. I was ultimately drawn to commercial practice because of its diversity. In my first legal role I was lucky enough to work across many practice areas including intellectual property, consumer, corporate, competition, privacy and commercial law, as well as dispute resolution. Aside from transferability across industries, as a commercial lawyer there is often a need to consider a range of legal issues from these other practice areas, as well as non-legal issues. As a commercial lawyer, I’m able to work closely with senior leaders of the business and guide their strategic decisions. For me, this strategic context gives my legal work meaning. I love working in a team with my clients, driving cross-functional projects and contributing to the business in a broader sense as a trusted advisor and business partner.

What advice would you have for students or current graduates wanting to pursue a career in law?

The legal profession is a diverse one, and there are multiple pathways to success. Consider starting your legal career in-house! I’m lucky enough to have begun my career in two extremely high-performing and nurturing in-house teams at companies I love, and I couldn’t have asked for better legal training!

Value your mentors, whether legal or otherwise. A great mentor in the early years of your career is better than any role.

Take opportunities and don’t be afraid of ‘the deep end’ - it’s the best training ground.


Sarah Rogers – Gadens

What does it mean to you to be nominated for a 30 Under 30 Award?

It means the world to me. It is a privilege to be recognised by my peers as a leading young lawyer and inspire other junior lawyers to achieve their goals at such an early stage in their career.

Your biggest achievement in your career to date?

It's hard to choose one, so aside from being shortlisted as a finalist in the 30 Under 30 Awards in the Banking and Finance category for 2019 and 2020, however here are my top three.

1. In October 2017, two months after being admitted, my first appearance was in the Supreme Court of Victoria before the Honourable Associate Justice Mukhtar for an application seeking leave of the Court to enforce a judgment together with injunctive relief. His Honour handed down reasons for judgment at the time and in August 2018 the judgment was published in the Victorian Law Reports ([2017] VSC 663; (2017) 53 VR 251). This is a significant achievement as I have assisted in developing legal precedent in the banking and finance field.

2. My promotion to Associate, less than two years after being admitted as a lawyer.

3. I appeared in the Practice Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria in an urgent injunctive application against ANZ seeking to restrain it from enforcing its judgment. At the first return I was given 20 minutes notice of an appearance being required. I rose to the challenge to make oral submissions and welcomed the opportunity of developing my advocacy skills as a litigator. The Bank was successful, and The Honourable Justice Cameron published reasons ([2019] VSC 692).

What made you choose your practice area?

My practice area complements both my university degrees of law and commerce (accountancy). Whilst I elected to pursue a career in the legal field, I was hopeful that I would be able to utilise both my degrees, which banking and finance achieves.

What advice would you have for students or current graduates wanting to pursue a career in law?

Be open to opportunities. As a law student a lot of emphasis is placed on securing a clerkship in order to gain entry into a mid-tier or top-tier commercial law firm. From my own experience, whilst the rejection letters are disheartening, they build resilience. It is OK, to not get a clerkship. As an alternative, consider administrative / paralegal opportunities to gain experience and through hard work, commitment and determination you may land your dream job.


If you would like to have a conversation about the Banking & Financial Services Legal Sector in terms of hiring into your team or about your next career move, please contact Olivia Courtney, Associate Director | Banking & Financial Services | Taylor Root Australia.