EXCLUSIVE Q&A: CORPORATE LAW EXPAT PARTNER RETURNS TO BRISBANE
12 April 2017, Written by Paris Faint
FOR nine years, corporate specialist Andrew Clark (pictured) called London home while he worked as a partner at Reed Smith LLP, one of the world's largest law firms.
Resolving complex multinational matters became a speciality for Clark. In the morning, he would negotiate joint ventures with Kazakhstan, at lunch he would do business deals with China, and by the end of the day he had signed off on acquisitions between Cyprus and Greece.
Well, doing it all that in a day might be a slight embellishment - however during his time overseas, Clark did have the chance to represent a variety of high-profile interests including international mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and corporate finance.
Now the expatriate has returned home to take up his new Partnership at Moulis Legal, where he is looking forward to taking its corporate practice to the next level.
Brisbane Legal caught up with Andrew to discover what inspired his decision to work in a foreign country and then return home after almost a decade working for a global legal powerhouse.
Could you tell me a little bit about your background in law?
The day I started my articles, I was at the Brisbane office of HWL Ebsworth and I ended up staying on for five years there.
Off the back of what was effectively the mining boom, I got a job In London at a firm called Reed Smith LLP, an international firm with most of it offices in the US.
The firm's largest office is in London. I was employed there to do capital markets work, but of course the markets crashed at the end of 2008 - so instead I did a lot of work in joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and general corporate and commercial work. I stayed there for nine years and eventually made partner in 2016.
What first inspired your decision to work in London?
The desire to travel to be honest. It certainly wasn't a huge desire to follow a career progression through London. My (now) wife and I took the usual backpacker trip through England a fair few years prior to that, but we always wanted to go back.
In 2008, I guess the timing was right because by that point I'd had enough experience. My wife is a teacher, so her work also aligned particularly well. We thought it was the best time to go.
What were some of your biggest highlights working in the UK?
One of the great advantages of working in the UK is the varied experience you get on the transactions. Most of my transactions were very internationally focused.
We worked for clients like Microsoft on all their inbound UK transactions and for other clients such as the Kazakh government for several of their joint ventures with counterparties like China, Canada and France. The great thing I enjoyed about working overseas is the very nature of the instructions you receive.
It sounds like a very complex multinational web that you had to deal with on a day to day basis?
Absolutely. I guess one of the things I learned is that you need to know the law and underlying legal requirements to do the transaction, but you also have to understand the culture of the various countries that you are counterpartying with.
It was almost as important as the legal requirements; understanding how those different cultures would typically negotiate a legal transaction and work within that. It made a big difference in getting the best result for our clients.
What inspired the move back home to Australia? Was it an easy decision to make?
It was for family reasons. We always had a desire to return home at some point, and that was the catalyst which pushed us over the edge so to speak.
I think the reality is that Brisbane is a fantastic place to raise a family. The outdoor lifestyle, the weather and us having family here. It wasn't a difficult place to come back to.
What does your new partnership role at Moulis Legal involve?
I'm only up to week two, so at the moment a lot of what I've been doing is having coffee with various people!
But in seriousness, Moulis Legal has a lot of expert lawyers in some quite specific sectors in international trade. We have great IP lawyers, great dispute resolution lawyers and experience in areas like the mining industry.
I've been brought on board to help tie all of that experience together and help build and develop a corporate presence for the firm in Brisbane and Australia more generally.
What are you most looking forward to about your new role?
I think not having to work in various time zones with people who don't speak English.
It's all very different. The firm that I came from was a very big international firm. One of the top 15 largest firms in the world. What I'm looking forward to most is working in a culture that is a bit more relationship driven and focuses more on delivering commercial advice that clients are really happy about receiving. Also, just getting a bit of an understanding about how the international trade aspect works and trying to build that into a corporate practice.
Considering you've moved overseas for several years and returned, what advice would you give to other lawyers who might be interested in going long distance?
From my perspective, I think that if you have the opportunity to do international work I'd absolutely take it. There are various kinds of transactions you can do in the UK and elsewhere - the experience you gain there you will never get here, no matter how many years you do in a Brisbane firm.
It's being able to negotiate in a different language or having to deal with different cultural issues or just having to think on your feet and try and negotiate in a different jurisdiction under different laws. It gives you a breadth of experience that when you do eventually come back to Brisbane there will be no end to the benefit in your career.
I'd absolutely encourage people to go overseas if they have the opportunity, and spend a bit of time exploring the world and better understanding how the legal practice works elsewhere.
Author: Paris Faint