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

Author Olivia Courtney
May 12, 2020

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 first five 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.

Dilek Selvi – Corrs Chambers Westgarth

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

Being a multicultural female Muslim and having studied at a public high school which people are usually unfamiliar with, my nomination and the diversity of the other finalists this year in general means to me (and should to many others) that the legal profession has and is making great strides in recognising a range of diverse professionals. As much as it is such a pleasure and honour to have my work over the past year recognised for such a prestigious national award among such other bright minds, I hope that my nomination also stands to motivate many students and young professionals of varying backgrounds and stories interested in the law to pursue such passion with no reservations.

Your biggest achievements in your career to date?

My biggest achievement would be being promoted to Associate by my partners while getting to be involved in such monumental transactions in banking (such as the financing for the $1.52 billion acquisition of an interest in three Sydney office towers from the ASX-listed Scentre Group and the $1.3 billion financing arrangements for Silver Lake’s acquisition of TEG from Affinity Equity Partners) all within a little over a year of having moved into the banking and finance field from a different practice area.  It is often difficult for young lawyers to transition to a new practice area once they have settled into an area of law. I took a risk in making the change and was conscious of the possibility of slowing my career progression. For this reason, my promotion and now being a 30 under 30 finalist demonstrates to me that you should not be afraid of change or following your passion.

What made you choose your practice area?

I chose to practice in a commercial and transactional area of law because I love the dynamic of highly motivated and sophisticated corporate clients all working toward a common goal and achieving a mutually beneficial outcome. You don’t have to be adversarial to be a lawyer! It truly is rewarding to get to play a hand in the excitement of our clients and the other side when often monumental and challenging transactions reach a conclusion.  More specifically, I chose banking & finance because it is such a pivotal and essential part of such a wide range of transactions and acquisitions, so you often get a chance to work on diverse transactions with a variety practice areas. I find that the complexities involved in some banking & finance negotiations can also be quite thought-provoking and fascinating.

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

Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way and do not underestimate the experience and skills you can gain from the most trivial of tasks or work.  Knowledge and experience are built over time and patience teamed with an eagerness to learn are always a great foundation to get you where you want to go.  Be kind and open-minded toward the people you interact and work with and you will receive the same in return.

James Sullivan – ASIC

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

Law was never an easy choice, but it was always a passion, and I couldn’t have reached where I am today without the support of family, friends, and colleagues. To be recognised for pursuing that passion means the world.

Your biggest achievements in your career to date?

When I was studying law, I always wanted to be given the opportunity to work on test cases and thought it would be something I would have later in my career. However, from day one of working for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, I have had the opportunity to work on novel cases and enforce under-utilised provisions of the Corporations Act. One of the most significant achievements during my career is leading the enforcement of client money obligations for the first time since their inception.

What made you choose your practice area?

 I believe fair and efficient markets are key to a healthy economy and provide vital opportunities for financial security for all who participate. I also have a strong denunciation of white-collar criminals who think it fit to take advantage of others and the market itself. It is the combination of both my belief and sense of justice that meant working in the banking and finance industry was a natural choice.

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

The single best piece of advice I received when I was studying was also the worse piece of advice I received, “those who want to make it, make it.” At the time, I didn’t find it all that useful, but what I would say I took away from it was that you have to take every opportunity that you can get your hands on, even if you can’t quite see where it will lead. The learning, skills and experiences you develop along the way will help you get to where you want to go.

Josh Todd – Herbert Smith Freehills

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

It is part recognition of the perseverance and sacrifices made to date, and part opportunity to acknowledge my family, friends and colleagues who supported me throughout.

Your biggest achievement in your career to date?

No one achievement stands out above the rest, but in looking back at my career so far, I find satisfaction knowing that the complexity of the work, the effort exerted and at times the struggles experienced have helped me to develop my potential to a fuller degree. I have found that the more you do, the more you can do.

What made you choose your practice area?

My practice choice was based on the opportunities for client contact and responsibility and the ability to work at the intersection of law and markets.

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

Humility, integrity, a willingness to learn, patience and resilience are values and attributes that in my opinion serve graduates and junior lawyers well. I would also note that with an ever-changing business climate, the rate of digital transformation and the fact that the world is becoming ever more software-driven, those who are versed in navigating the complexities of the digital environment will be well placed to succeed over the coming years. There is significant career value in developing a technical grasp and literacy in the core technologies surrounding computers, communication networks, distributed ledgers and artificial intelligence at an early stage.

Daniel Taha – Allens

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

This nomination is recognition – of my achievements, my passion for banking and finance law, my commitment to excellence and my network (who’ve helped me get here).

Your biggest achievements in your career to date?

Winning the Law Society’s #innovatelaw hackathon and presenting the solution at the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) Conference Dinner. This achievement opened my eyes to the importance of innovation in legal practise. 

What made you choose your practice area?

The work. I get to help some of our biggest clients navigate complex legal frameworks and deal with matters that have real world implications.

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

Be innovative, ask questions, have a support network (both inside and outside the law) and always check an email before clicking send.

Martin Nguyen – Gadens

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

It’s been truly rewarding and uplifting. Especially during these difficult times, it is very gratifying to have been recognised for the work & effort I have put in over my career. I have always believed that hard work is the definition of success (not just a pathway to “success”) and a nomination like this is an indication that my hard work has had a tangible and meaningful impact.

Your biggest achievements in your career to date?

I am very proud that I am the youngest Senior Associate in the firm & proud that I was able to get there in less than four years since I was a graduate at the firm.

What made you choose your practice area?

Interestingly enough Banking & Finance (front end) was just a rotation I went through as a graduate. Throughout university I always imagined myself being a disputes & litigation lawyer and going to the bar. My first rotation at the firm was within our banking and finance insolvency & recoveries practice, and my practice leader at the time suggested that for my second rotation as a graduate, I should have a cut at a front end team which would improve my litigation skills. So I chose one of the firm’s front end banking teams, always expecting to go back to litigation and instead found myself loving the front end work. I work in a very unique practice that provides coverage across the Small-Medium Enterprise sector and Institutional Banking, so every day is fast paced, and I get a good sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in constantly closing deals. I get to be involved from start to finish, and every transaction is different. I might be funding a fish & chip shop one day or advising a financier on a deal involving financing for a multinational merger the next, or even in my case, helping set up a Bank from scratch! It’s the broad spread coverage that I enjoy, and I’ve also just been incredibly lucky in my career to work with great people and have great and down to Earth clients. 

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

I have been very lucky with my career and I attribute it to two things, being nice and working hard. I think these should go hand in hand. Hard work gets you the experience, technical skills and abilities to be a great lawyer. Being nice gets you the relationships, connections and opportunities to demonstrate how good of a lawyer you are.

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.