INTERVIEWS: Dispute Resolution & Litigation Award finalists – 30 Under 30 Law Awards

Author Richard Schontag
May 12, 2020

Taylor Root is proud to be the principal partner in the Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Law Awards. Richard Schontag, Associate Director at Taylor Root, had the opportunity to speak to this year’s finalists in the Dispute Resolution & Litigation category.

This award recognises a lawyer who has demonstrated skill and expertise in acting across a range of dispute resolution forms, whether via the judicial system, arbitration, mediation, a negotiated settlement or others.

Here are six 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.

Felicia Lay – Cornwalls

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

It is an honour to be nominated for this award. I’m a newcomer to industry and so being nominated for this award provides me with good recognition for the work I’ve done. I feel it also gives me confidence that I made the right decision to move into law.

Your biggest achievement in your career to date?

Being nominated for this award! But also staying true to my beliefs on why I wanted to join the law. I enjoy earning trust from my clients.

What made you choose your practice area?

I started volunteering and then moved into a general law firm. I like the detail-oriented nature of transactions, however I also enjoy the fight and unpredictability that comes with litigation. I also enjoy challenging myself against other people on the other side of the dispute. A lot more legal in nature.

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

My advice to is to talk to lots of people about the different areas so you can get an understanding of what you’d like to get into! There is a lot of variety so it’s good to understand them all.

Gabrielle Sheehan – Clayton Utz

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

For me the biggest thing I got out of it was knowing that I was being recognised in the industry outside of my current firm. We work on a number of matters which a few firms could be involved in so we generally get high visibly but its good knowing it’s industry wide!

It was a friend of mine who recommended I should apply for the award, and I thought I had no chance given the calibre of people, so it was surprising and so great to see my name come up.

Your biggest achievement in your career to date?

I think it’s the Dick Smith matter I worked on where I worked directly with the client and senior counsel – the preparation of our client’s evidence took over 16 weeks and I spent a lot of hours working directly with the client, so we ended up very close.

But to work closely with an individual, take instructions directly from the client, and then to work across multiple disciplines internally, was really eye opening.

I learnt a lot and to be able to achieve something for a client and individual was really rewarding. I also worked with high profile lawyers internally which was a great experience.

What made you choose your practice area?

I think I always knew I wanted to be a litigator. I did a lot of mooting at university and did a lot of competitions and really enjoyed it. So It all stemmed from there.

There’s a lot of strategy and I enjoy advocating for a client. I also enjoy building an argument and I’ve found that regardless of the case of view point, there is always an argument that can be built.

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

Work hard, have a good attitude of being willing to learn, and keep a balance. I think people should also try different things so that they get a feel for different areas.

Henry Hall – Corrs Chambers Westgarth

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

My nomination for this award is a recognition on my investment to my career and personal development.

Your biggest achievement in your career to date?

Successfully getting role in London law firm and working with high calibre clients.

What made you choose your practice area?

I enjoy the complex nature and ability to problem solve for clients.

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

Back yourself and your ability.

Felicity Karageorge – Johnson Winter & Slattery

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

I feel very honoured to have been nominated and the awards are particularly important for recognising talent and providing motivation to juniors in the industry. The recognition is so important and to be named a finalist has been a goal of mine so I’m really pleased.

Your biggest achievement in your career to date?

I was promoted quite early in my career which means I worked with great partners and was given exposure to high calibre work early on. I think that’s been great achievement as it has helped me learn and develop quickly. 

What made you choose your practice area?

I always thought I would be a M&A lawyer, but I clerked in litigation and enjoyed the strategy and legal argument aspects of litigation. Also mastering a case and putting forward your argument to court and representing your clients. The other thing that is really important is coming up with commercial solutions that results in a good outcome for your client. You have to be commercial.

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

Be open minded about what a career in the law looks like. Try different areas and align yourself with good people to help assist and guide you. Working with the right people is key and I find the well-rounded lawyers are ones with experience in different areas.

Jay Tseng – King Wood Mallesons

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

It’s an honour to be among the top young talent in the litigation and dispute resolution practice area.

Your biggest achievement in your career to date?

My two biggest achievements were completed while working full-time and maintaining external commitments, which include the following:

What made you choose your practice area?

I wrote a thesis on international arbitration for my masters dissertation while I studied and lived in London.  I really enjoyed researching on this this and this helped me develop and grow my interest in this area, especially when I started working at a firm in London in international arbitration. I have always had an affinity for disputes and have pursued my interests since I was an undergraduate law student. 

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

For any junior lawyer, they should stay curious and put in efforts to grow their knowledge.

Sharfah Mohamed – Clifford Chance

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

I think as a junior lawyer I do feel like its important to gain recognition for effort. There’s been so many people who have invested in me and its recognition for them too. Personally, regardless of your background, if you put in the effort there’s space to achieve and be recognised.

Your biggest achievement in your career to date?

I was key member acting in team on a piece of complex litigation. I came on quite late and at a critical stage. I was heavily involved in evidence and assisting as a graduate in that matter has been invaluable for my learning and personal growth.

On a separate note I ‘ve also set up a book club that provides a space to open up dialogue on different issues.

What made you choose your practice area?

I differ slightly here as I’m still rotating in our graduate program. I’m currently in banking but enjoyed litigation as I was very immersed in one matter and enjoyed learning the strategic nature of litigation.

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

The advice that comes to mind is to speak to people in all areas of law and gain as much intel as you can about different areas. The law is so broad and vast it’s really important to explore it all and not be swayed by status quo. Do something that appeals to you and what you might want to do with your life.

If you would like to have a conversation about hiring into your team or about your next career move, please contact Richard Schontag, Associate Director | Private Practice | Taylor Root Australia.