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Partner Profile: Carolyn Pugsley

Partner Profile: Carolyn Pugsley

Every week we ask a law firm partner a series of rapid-fire questions about their career. This week: Herbert Smith Freehills' Carolyn Pugsley.

Which firm are you with?

Herbert Smith Freehills.

When did you join that firm?

I started with Freehills as a paralegal in 1999 when I was in my second year of university, then took up a graduate position in 2003.

When were you made a partner of that firm?

I was made a partner in July this year, so I’ve still got my training wheels on so far as partnership is concerned.

Which firm were you at most recently prior to this?

I’ve been at Freehills since I was 19 and it’s the only firm I’ve worked at. My only break during that time has been an exchange to the Kellogg School of Management in Chicago to complete part of my MBA studies.

What practice group are you with?

I’m in the head office advisory team, which is part of the corporate practice group. I specialise in providing corporate governance advice to senior executives and boards of ASX-listed companies.

What has been the most significant change to your practice area during your career?

When I started in the head office advisory team in 2003, the nature of the work was largely compliance-driven and focused on interpreting and advising on provisions of the Corporations Act and the ASX Listing Rules. These days, corporate governance has become a key focus for ASX-100 companies and encompasses not just legal and regulatory issues, but also a myriad of commercial and reputational factors. In guiding our clients, we need to look beyond the law and consider these additional factors.

What has been a major career highlight for you?

Moving up from Melbourne to build a dedicated head office advisory presence in the Sydney office was a highlight. It was a big challenge to not only bring new lawyers into the team (there were only two of us to start with), but also to try and target new clients who could provide us with a workflow. We had to develop a clear proposition of what we had to offer both potential clients and team members, and then invest heavily in building relationships. It’s the most personally attached I’ve ever felt to the success or failure of a work project, and riding the highs and lows has been a great learning experience. Five years on, we now have a team of nine lawyers and a strong client base, and I get a great deal of pleasure from the relationships that I have with my team members and clients.

What do you like about being a lawyer?

I love the fact that I get to work with a mix of clients across different industries, and that my work gives me exposure to strategic issues being considered at a board level. I also love the fact that I get to work with such a motivated and talented team of people, both within my immediate team and across the firm more broadly. It’s something that can easily be taken for granted.

What do you find challenging?

Like most lawyers, I find the biggest challenge is getting the balance right between investing time and energy in my work and maintaining time for family, friends and outside interests. As time goes on you get a bit smarter about how you manage this, but it’s never easy.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

I have become a big fan of yoga, Pilates and other activities that allow me to “wind down” in a healthy way (as opposed to just eating loads of ice-cream, which is another favourite pastime). I am also a sports tragic, so I really enjoy watching and attending sporting events (which is a good thing given my husband works in the sports industry and the Fox Sports channels are always on in our house).

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