INTERVIEWS: Projects, Energy & Resources Award finalists – 30 Under 30 Law Awards

Author Samantha Jones
May 12, 2020

Taylor Root is proud to be the principal partner in the Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Law Awards. Samantha Jones, Consultant at Taylor Root, had the opportunity to speak to this year’s finalists in the Projects, Energy & Resources category.

The Projects, Energy & Resources award recognises a lawyer who has acted for clients on matters concerning projects, energy and/or resources impacting the Australian economy.

Here are 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.

Connor Stagg – King & Wood Mallesons

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

In one word, chuffed.  I feel fortunate to work in an environment with both clients and colleagues that enabled me to be nominated as a finalist. The recognition is really a reflection on the matters, development opportunities and training I have received from King & Wood Mallesons.

Your biggest achievements in your career to date?

When I look back at all the interesting disputes I have worked and advised on throughout my career, the one which really stands out is a matter I did as a junior solicitor for an international coal company in the Queensland Supreme Court.  It stands out not only for the great result achieved for the client, but my own personal development along the way.  Looking back now I feel like I grew and evolved my legal skills exponentially over a very short period of time due to the teaching and learnings of my supervisor and the amount of autonomy I was provided.  I grew great relationships with the legal team and the personnel at the port, which continue today.

What made you choose your practice area?

I have always been attracted to litigation.  In my first few years of university I worked as a paralegal for a small firm which predominantly did family and criminal law.  Needless to say, I worked out quickly that neither of those areas of law were for me, and I accepted a role on a major construction project in Queensland as a paralegal.  This new role allowed me the opportunity to work on a number of disputes with subcontractors and I have been sold on litigation ever since.

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

Legal conditions are tough around the globe as firms try to grapple and deal with the impact of COVID-19.  My advice in the current environment is to never give up chasing jobs and opportunities, even if you do not obtain a clerkship or graduate offer at the firm of your choice.  There are plenty of opportunities in the market and it only takes a few years’ of experience before all of a sudden the tables shift, firms will come knocking and other opportunities arise which you never knew existed.

Georgia Davis – Clayton Utz

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

Being nominated by the firm is so humbling and great recognition of my work over the last year. It also gives me the opportunity to say a big “thank you” to our clients and the firm for allowing me the opportunity to practise in an area I love!

Your biggest achievements in your career to date?

I think moving more into a Native Title specialty within my team. It’s an area I love and being able to take on more of that work and building a little niche for myself is awesome. Work never feels like a chore!

What made you choose your practice area?

A combination of loving the work my team does, as well as the people I get to work with. The Energy and Resources practice group is so varied, so it never gets boring.

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

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself! Find an area you love to practise in and enjoy the journey.

Katrina Bullock – Greenpeace Australia Pacific

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

It’s an honour to work for an organisation that creates meaningful change in the world every day, and a truly humbling experience to be recognised by my colleagues and peers for my contribution.

Your biggest achievements in your career to date

Supporting our teams as they worked with other members of civil society to convince the big Australian supermarkets to ditch single-use plastic bags; to persuade Equinor to abandon oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight; and to stop the National Energy Guarantee which would have inhibited renewable energy projects and driven up emissions.

What made you choose your practice area?

I enjoy the variety, depth and challenge of my work. No two days are ever the same. As with every job I have ever accepted, the biggest draw card and the determining factor behind my decision is the team I get to work with and the impact we can achieve.

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

You are training now for jobs that don’t exist yet. As a young lawyer your fresh eyes will be an incredibly valuable asset to the profession. Continue to learn, to question and to innovate. Remember that you are never too old to learn, and never too young to teach.

Michael Beukelman – Clayton Utz

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

It’s humbling to be recognised for my hard work and values, and to see my progression recognised alongside peers that have also been nominated.

Your biggest achievements in your career to date?

I have strived to balance my commercial work with pro bono work and community involvement throughout my career so far. Last year, I assisted to keep a vulnerable single mother of three children who was at risk of homelessness in her rental property after the landlord attempted to evict her; provided pro bono advice to two indigenous women who had been improperly removed from their positions as directors on the board of an Indigenous corporation; and organised for Clayton Utz staff to volunteer their time within Victorian prisons with Fitted for Work to assist women soon-to-exit prison with job-ready skills and confidence.

What made you choose your practice area?

I thoroughly enjoy the mix of both transactional and advisory work but was mostly drawn to my team because of the wonderful people I work with who are both very personable and excellent lawyers. 

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

 You never know what’s going to take your interest or where you’re going to end up, so follow opportunities that intrigue you or people that interest you.   Don’t be limited by the traditional idea of success as you travel through the early stages of your career.

Yannis Vrodos – Herbert Smith Freehills

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

Being nominated for the 30 Under 30 Award provides a further platform for me to continue making outstanding contributions to the legal profession, being a profession that I find so rewarding.

Your biggest achievements in your career to date?

While I could talk about achievements from a number of matters and key transactions, my biggest achievement would be being able to find balance. I maintain a busy, dynamic practice, while simultaneously pursuing interests in teaching, community investment, the arts, and wellbeing. A lot of lawyers describe law as requiring other interests to be subordinated or forgotten all together. However, I consider it a significant achievement that I have been able to thrive in my practice, while also having strong interests outside of the practice of law.

What made you choose your practice area?

A measure of modern, civil society is the degree to which that society has built on the age that came before. I chose my practice area of Projects, Energy and Resources because it provided me with an opportunity, through providing key legal advice, to contribute to the development of society through these projects, including energy and resources projects driving the Australian economy.

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

My advice for aspiring lawyers wanting to pursue a career in law is to keep an open mind.

Many aspiring lawyers that I speak to, both through HSF’s Graduate Program and through teaching at the UWA Law School, have a pre-planned journey for where their career will take them. The commercial practice of areas like Projects, Energy and Resources are not a focus in law schools, beyond the legal principles.

Once aspiring lawyers enter practice, keeping an open mind to these commercial-focused areas allows for the optimisation of opportunities. That being said, every commercially-focused area of practice requires (and clients expect) a lawyer to have a strong understanding of the technical law (for example, the law of contract, the Australian Consumer Law, the Corporations Act), which an aspiring lawyer will obtain from hard, persistent study at law school.

If you would like to have a conversation about hiring into your team or about your next career move, please contact Samantha Jones, Consultant | Private Practice | Taylor Root Australia.