"I graduated from Melbourne University in 1974. From there I went to work with the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs (OCBA) in Canberra. I left to do my Masters of Law in London, which I completed in 1978, and I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do after that. I hadn't really planned on being a lawyer, but I thought I'd better get a job so I applied for articles at 10 firms in Melbourne and got accepted by every one.
It was pretty rare to have a Masters in those days so I think I was seen as a promising commodity, but I knew very little about the legal profession and I was at a bit of a loss. I spoke to Gareth Evans (then an academic at Melbourne University and a part-time commissioner for the Australian Law Reform Commission) who said that Holding Redlich was an interesting firm, so I joined, and I've been there ever since.
I became a partner in 1984 and managing partner about five years ago. One of the biggest challenges was realising that I just couldn't do all the legal work that I had been doing and that I liked doing - realising that I was going to have to delegate a lot more, but also keep my finger firmly on the pulse.
Another really difficult thing - which I think is probably common to a lot of partners - has been adjusting to being a manager. I'd say 25 per cent of my time is spent talking to other partners. I think I was originally seen as pretty gruff and not very understanding of partners' concerns, so I've had to learn to be more empathetic.
It's amazing how the law keeps going. Lots of things that used to be lawyers' domain - simple issues like conveyancing, probate and wills - have largely fallen off the back of the truck. It's certainly different to when I started in law. Back then there were changes, but they were at nothing like the speed, or the magnitude.
I think it's largely a response to the complexity of life and business and that the current financial situation is going to lead to more complexity. It's been a response to demand - sometimes quiet and sometimes noisy - for things like consumer protection and privacy laws."
Interview by Zoe Lyon
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