Young lawyers call for change

By Justin Whealing|11 April 2014

The billable hour and flexible work options have been highlighted by the finalists of the Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards as areas where the profession needs reform.

The billable hour and flexible work options have been highlighted by the finalists of the Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards as areas where the profession needs reform.

Over 30 law firms and corporations are represented amongst the 59 finalists. With over 150 submissions received across the 10 Awards’ categories, the standards required for a nominee to be selected as a finalist were extremely high.

All nominees were required to answer five compulsory questions, including how a candidate’s nominated practice area and the legal profession as a whole could be improved for clients and lawyers.


“It is my opinion that both lawyers and clients would benefit from serious consideration being given to implementing a way of conducting a law firm that does not rely on the billable hour method,” wrote Clare Kerley, who is from Matthews Folbigg, a one-office firm in the western Sydney suburb of Parramatta.

Kerley has been selected as a finalist in the Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety category. “If the fear of not being able to record enough hours becomes a driving motivator, it is easy to see how ethics, job satisfaction, mental health and the client’s bill may all be adversely affected.”

Kerley’s sentiments were echoed by many young lawyers, with flexible work options, gender diversity and a call for more civility in communications between lawyers also selected as areas that need redress.

“There needs to be a change in the perception around flexible work practices, particularly from an M&A sense,” said Carly White (pictured), a 29 year-old senior associate at Squire Sanders who is a finalist in the M&A category.

In her submission, White highlighted unconscious bias against women as a particular area that needs to be addressed by the profession. In speaking to Lawyers Weekly, she said that clear lines of communication between female lawyers and law firm leaders was required to ensure women could work flexibly and not jeopardise their careers.


“A lot of women in my age group pull out of the workforce or the M&A group at the time they do have children,” she said. “It is about having an open dialogue with your employer and making sure that you are respected for what you do, that there is a discussion about how you manage your practice during those years and those choices are not made for you.”

In addition to being a critical player in the global firm’s push to build a venture capital practice in Australia, White was recently invited to join the board of the Australian Gynaecological Cancer Foundation as a director.

White will be vying for one of the three M&A Awards. The other similarly impressive finalists are Crystal Png from Norton Rose Fulbright, Lucy Repasky from Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Jason van Grieken from Arnold Bloch Leibler and the Minter Ellison duo Steven Wang and Vanessa Warburton.

The Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Law Awards will be held in Sydney at the Ivy Ballroom on Friday 16 May.

You can purchase tickets here.


Minters leads the pack

Minters will be the best represented law firm on the night of the Awards, having nine finalists, which is just shy of Norton Rose Fulbright’s achievement of having 10 finalists last year.

Of particular note are the three finalists Minters has in the Government category.

Andrew Bass, Melissa Lai and Jane Woodward, all from the firm’s Canberra office, join Clayton Utz duo Kathryn McCormack and Eugene Tan, with Jin Ooi from Corrs completing the list.

Norton Rose Fulbright also performed very strongly this year, with the global law firm having six finalists across the 10 categories. The only other firms to have multiple finalists are Corrs (5), CBP Lawyers (3) and Clayton Utz, with Jasmin Singh, a finalist in the Energy & Resources category, joining Tan and McCormack.

Small and boutique firms are also well represented amongst the finalists.

Joining Kerley as a finalist in the Workplace Relations category are Erin Lynch, from the Sydney firm People + Culture Strategies and Niaz Payne from Harmers Workplace Lawyers.

The additional three finalists in this incredibly competitive category are David Burnton from the Melbourne office of Mills Oakley Lawyers, Joel Davis from DLA Piper in Sydney and Kit Yap from NRF in Sydney.  

Alana Long, a lawyer with the Melbourne boutique firm mdp McDonald Partners, told Lawyers Weekly that working in a small firm can provide lawyers with a breadth of experience early in their career which might not be possible at other firms.

“Big firms have very specific teams doing narrow work, while the benefit of being in a small firm is that you get to work across a lot of areas, be it patents, trademarks, commercialisation, and litigation as well,” said Long, a finalist in the Intellectual Property category. “So immediately, your exposure is just that much greater and your ability to learn and develop as a lawyer is heightened in the small firm experience, and that is something I am very grateful for.”

Long is one of five female finalists in IP. Joining her are Emma Bekens from NRF, Baker & McKenzie’s Danielle Benecke, Benita McLennan from Minters and Rebecca Measday from Corrs. Dylan Kerrigan from McCullough Robertson in Brisbane rounds out the impressive list of six young IP lawyers.

Reflecting the fact that just over 60 per cent of law graduates are female, 37 of the 59 Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards finalists are women. Sydney is also the best represented city, with just over half of the finalists.

Lawyers Weekly would like to sincerely thank all the impressive young lawyers that took the time to make submissions.

Choosing the finalists was an incredibly tough ask for the Lawyers Weekly editorial team.

The submissions of the selected finalists will be sent to a high profile judging panel. Three winners will be selected in each category.


See below for a full-list of the finalists:


The Noble Oak Banking & Finance Award

Charles Driscoll: National Australia Bank

Abigail Farrelly: Ashurst

Abigail Haseltine: Gilbert + Tobin

James McNaught: Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Nick Sinclair: Norton Rose Fulbright

Daniel Yim: Gilbert + Tobin


The KordaMentha Forensic Dispute Resolution Award

Tom Bridges: Webb Henderson

Kyrren Konstantinidis: CBP Lawyers

Nikki Mourginos: Holding Redlich

Stephen O’Grady: Minter Ellison

Denee Theodorou: Piper Alderman

Maria Yiasemides: Corrs Chambers Westgarth


The Energy & Resources Award

Lisa Butler: Squire Sanders

Megan Coall: King & Wood Mallesons

Liam Davis: McCullough Robertson

Jasmin Singh: Clayton Utz

Cassandra Wee: Ashurst


The Government Award

Andrew Bass: Minter Ellison

Melissa Lai: Minter Ellison

Kathryn McCormack: Clayton Utz

Jin Ooi: Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Eugene Tan: Clayton Utz

Jane Woodward: Minter Ellison


The Charterhouse In-House Award

Kylie Barrie: Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited

Jessica Dodson: Medtronic Australasia

Dianna Gu: SP AusNet

Nicole Ingram: Legal Services Commission

Michael Simmons: Playfair Visa and Migration Services

Kimberly Statham: Red Bull


The Intellectual Property Award

Emma Bekens: Norton Rose Fulbright

Danielle Benecke: Baker & McKenzie

Dylan Kerrigan: McCullough Robertson

Alana Long: mdp McDonald Partners

Benita McLennan: Minter Ellison

Rebecca Measday: Corrs Chambers Westgarth


The Insurance Award

Damian Clancy: CBP Lawyers

Joanna Laidler: Minter Ellison

Hannah Rose: Sparke Helmore

Michael Rumore: CBP Lawyers

Sarah Sharp: Sparke Helmore

James Sharpe: Norton Rose Fulbright


The M&A Award

Crystal Png: Norton Rose Fulbright

Lucy Repasky: Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Jason van Grieken: Arnold Bloch Leibler

Steven Wang: Minter Ellison

Vanessa Warburton: Minter Ellison

Carly White: Squire Sanders


The College of Law Pro Bono Award

Monique Cowden: Minter Ellison

Joshua Dale: Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers

Jess Easton: Lander & Rogers

Elizabeth Lathlean: Salvos Legal

Patrick Purcell: Norton Rose Fulbright

Stephanie Puris: King & Wood Mallesons


The Workplace Relations, Employment & Safety Award

David Burnton: Mills Oakley Lawyers

Joel Davis: DLA Piper:

Clare Kerley: Matthews Folbigg

Erin Lynch: People + Culture Strategies

Niaz Payne: Harmers Workplace Lawyers

Kit Yap: Norton Rose Fulbright

Young lawyers call for change
Intro image
lawyersweekly logo


Lawyer X inquiry

How the legal profession will change as a result of the Lawyer X inquiry

BGH acquires Healius medical centres

BGH acquires Healius medical centres

JUCY Group sells rental business


NAB launches $2bn Capital Notes 5 offer

Recommended by Spike Native Network