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INTERVIEWS: Mergers & Acquisitions Award finalists – 30 Under 30 Law Awards

Alexandra Starke Interviews, Market Insight, LawyersWeekly30Under30...

Taylor Root is proud to be the principal partner in the Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Law Awards. Alexandra Starke, Associate Director at Taylor Root, had the opportunity to speak to this year’s finalists in the Mergers & Acquisitions category.

This award recognises a lawyer who has advised on M&A transactions concerning Australia’s business sphere.

There were ten finalists this year. Here are four 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.

 

Ashika Binodan – MinterEllison

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

This is my first-ever nomination - it felt amazing! My colleague nominated me on the day applications closed, which was a lovely surprise.

What would you consider to be one of your biggest achievements in your career to date?

Always hard to pick one! Making Senior Associate was a big milestone – this was something I wanted to achieve and I was thrilled to have been promoted last year.

However, I believe my biggest achievement has been the opportunity to mentor young lawyers. I had the privilege of having some excellent mentors in my career which made me appreciate how important it is for a young lawyer’s development.

What made you choose your practice area?

I specialise in private M&A but thought I would be a litigator!

My path to practising corporate law was a happy accident. When I first started my career in law, I came across partners and senior people who said they 'fell into’ a practice area, and I didn't understand until I did the same! Corporate M&A was one of my first rotations when I first started. I didn't think I had much of an interest in corporate law but ended up loving every second of it.

I find it fascinating for a number of reasons. Its fast pace is enjoyable, as well as the fact that it’s always different: each deal has own issues and attributes. I find the interactions with the client and the other side pleasant because you’re trying to build something together. I didn't plan to end up here but here I am!

The key was to go in with an open mind – I tried it out in rotation because I thought it was an area I should know and be across, even if wanted to be in litigation. I didn't close my mind off to it from the beginning; I embraced it, which I believe had a lot to do with what I got out of it.

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

Try everything! You often go into law with a particular idea of what you want to be, where you want to end up and the kind of experiences you want to expose yourself to. It’s important to be open to new experiences and to apply yourself, because in so doing you will always pick up skills that will serve you well, such as learning how to run a matter, honing your drafting skills, receiving mentorship etc.

In commercial private practice, you tend to specialise a lot (whereas in smaller firms practices tend to be broader). In BigLaw, lawyers become very good at one thing, but specialising too early means you miss out on breadth and diversity too soon and lose the opportunity to grow your skillset. As a grad, I recommend that you absorb everything that's given to you – it will help in the long run.

 

Joshua Butler – White & Case LLP

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

I’m very honoured, it’s nice to be acknowledged. Definitely feeling a bit of imposter syndrome. This is the kind of thing that comes from being in a supportive team and environment. I find I do my best work when supported and working in a high performing team who want to get the best out of me.

What would you consider to be one of your biggest achievements in your career to date?

I ‘ve been fortunate to be involved in some interesting legal tech initiatives over the past couple of years. One project that I really enjoyed working on was setting up the LawTech Hub in Melbourne. LawTech Hub is a collaborative project between Lander & Rogers and YBF Ventures. It is a hands-off incubator for legal tech start-ups: a space where legal tech startups can grow while benefitting from real exposure to the inside of a law firm.

What made you choose your practice area?

I practice in the Corporate M&A space and always had an inkling toward this area of law. I did the grad programme at Lander & Rogers and spent some time in the Corporate team. Once I’d tried it, I knew I was leaning towards specialising in it (as opposed to more litigious areas) – I liked the idea of making a deal and everyone leaving the table happy.

I particularly enjoy private M&A work because parties can be more flexible in reaching the commercial outcomes they seek. Public M&A is also interesting but can be more restrictive structurally. At White & Case I am really enjoying the cross-border work – it’s really interesting and a lot of fun to work closely with our colleagues in New York, London and elsewhere.

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

Look at different firms and speak to as many people as you can from those firms. Find out what makes them tick, how they define their culture and what their interests are. Most people are just focused on looking for a job, but if you can find a place that aligns with your personal values, culture and interests you will excel and have a rewarding career.

 

Marijana Banovac – Herbert Smith Freehills

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

This is my first nomination for a law award and I am excited to be recognised via such an honourable award platform alongside such accomplished individuals!

These awards are particularly meaningful as they give us an insight to the perceived impact we have had on clients and individuals who nominate us. We don’t ordinarily get to see this in the haze of deals that we work on so the nomination was a great way to round out what has been a very busy couple of years!

What would you consider to be one of your biggest achievements in your career to date?

Over the last year I am thrilled to have had a few!

One was travelling to India on behalf of my client to act as their proxy on a deal. This expression of confidence in my ability and judgement was a huge career moment for me.

The one achievement that I’d like to elaborate on was acting on the buy side of an acquisition of a Gold Coast based skincare business early last year. This deal was the high-water mark of deals for me for several reasons. Firstly, the Senior Associate on the deal went on a secondment a couple of months before completion. As a result, I was given the opportunity to step into a more advanced role which was an exciting new challenge. Secondly, despite the intense turnarounds, late structure changes and timing constraints, every legal and commercial issue was dealt with efficiently because of the rapport established with the other side from the outset. Yes, each side clearly explained the reason behind each negotiation position and as a result were able to turn a large volume of documents extremely efficiently. But importantly, each call and email was littered with great banter – meaning every communication with the other side was incredibly enjoyable! So much so, that when I went to the Gold Coast for completion, we all ended up having lunch together! It was an extremely rewarding and fulfilling moment to see each party happy with not just the outcome but also the process and rapport established between all of those involved in the deal.

What made you choose your practice area?

I think corporate law always appealed to me because it involved building business. I did test the waters during university with different internships in sports and employment law, as well as clerkships in different areas (like insolvency, competition and technology, media and telecommunication). Herbert Smith Freehills enabled me to further experience a variety of practice groups during the graduate rotations until I ultimately settled in private M&A. The clients and deal size in private M&A focus on building businesses, fostering friendly and ongoing relationships between buyers and sellers and working together as a team towards a common goal. I particularly enjoy having repeat clients (which is why I like the private equity space) as it allows me to gain a deeper understanding of each client and what makes certain deals tick from beyond just a legal perspective.  

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

Expect to bring your ‘A’ game every single day. Regardless of which firm you end up at and which area of law you pursue, you will always need to be your best because clients come to you for advice not often as a first resort. You always need to be ready to give your absolute best.

Learn to be flexible and say yes! Every new opportunity that presents itself to you – be it an odd casual job pre-law or a random rotation, client secondment or new deal during law. - I have immensely benefited from that mindset as each new opportunity presents a steep learning curve – it’s a great way to test your knowledge and skills and fast track your experience. 

 

Nick Camphin – McInnes Wilson Lawyers

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

There is a lot of prestige around this award. As a lawyer from a mid-tier firm, it’s cool being in the mix with people from Freehills, Allens and Minters. I’m surprised to be a finalist as the size of my transactions may not be as large as that of the top tier finalists, but I’m delighted and honoured, particularly as a junior lawyer.

What would you consider to be one of your biggest achievements in your career to date?

Top tier firms that work with large corporate clients don’t typically need junior lawyers to bring in their own work. In a mid-tier firm like McInnes Wilson, business development is important from the start: it’s about who you know, the files you bring in and your contribution to that work. I have been delighted to bring in a couple of big deals this year, the biggest being a $30 million wholesale telco sale. Being able to achieve that for the firm is unreal.

What made you choose your practice area?

At McInnes Wilson, there is no training program – when I joined, I was put straight into the Corporate team, and thankfully I’ve loved the practice area from the start!

With respect to the mix of work, we do a lot of M&A, but in a legal market like Brisbane you can’t be too specific. In addition to M&A we do corporate restructuring and tax, some banking & finance to the extent that it overlaps with corporate (i.e. security reviews, loan facility arrangements, etc).

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

Don’t think about progression too early on. Put emphasis on learning as much as you can and taking up as many opportunities as you can. People tend to try to progress their careers as quickly as possible to get to top of the ladder but doing so, you can miss out on valuable educational opportunities.

 

f you would like to have a conversation in terms of hiring into your team or about your next career move, please contact Alexandra Starke, Associate Director | Private Practice | Taylor Root Australia.