Five minutes with… Andrew McLean

Andrew McLean, partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, tells Australasian Lawyer why he lives by the advice of an AFL coach.

What made you decide to become a lawyer?
As a student I always gravitated towards the humanities, so a combined arts/law degree was a logical choice out of school. I loved both sides of the joint degree but, in the end, was swayed by the career opportunities that the law offered.

How long have you worked at Herbert Smith Freehills and what brought you to this position?
I started as a graduate at Herbert Smith Freehills in 2005. I ended up settling in the Finance team – a decision based on a combination of an interest in working on complex yet ultimately positive and constructive commercial work, and a strong affinity with the people in the Finance team in Perth.
In 2008, I moved across to our Melbourne office and was there for nearly four years. My wife Bec and I then moved to Paris, where I worked for a magic circle firm for two years. I returned to the Herbert Smith Freehills Perth office in July last year, lured by the call of home and the opportunity to work again with this great firm.

What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
I’ve done a lot of work on financing projects across a number of African jurisdictions. Invariably these present challenges that we would not encounter on a domestic Australian financing. It can also be highly rewarding, as the projects can bring much needed industry and employment to countries in genuine need of economic development.
When in Paris I was working on a wind farm financing in Kenya, and was in Nairobi two weeks after the Westgate shopping mall attack.  The mood there was tense, as you would expect, but it was inspiring to observe the people there refusing to be bowed by the threat of attack.

If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
David Foster Wallace, author of my favourite book (Infinite Jest), just to get a glimpse of how a brain like that works; Matt Berninger from The National, to decipher some of his lyrics; and Ross Lyon, coach of the Fremantle Dockers (you’ll get an idea why below).

You’re based in Perth – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
If I had to pick one, the Standard in Northbridge for a drink and a casual bite is a current favourite.

What’s the best piece of advice (work or personal) you’ve ever been given?
It wasn’t a piece of advice given to me personally, rather it’s a mantra often repeated by Ross Lyon, coach of my beloved Fremantle Dockers. It is: ‘Things are never as bad or as good as they seem’.
It might not be the best advice I’ve ever received, but it resonates with me as a simple but effective reminder to remain level-headed when things get difficult, but also to avoid the dangers of complacency in the good times.

Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
I swim regularly, mostly in the pool with a group, but I also did a few ocean swimming events over the summer. I’m a very keen consumer of books and music, and a devoted follower of the Freo Dockers in the AFL.

Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
Ignoring ability for the purposes of this question, I would be writing great novels.

What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the legal space in Australia in 2015?
The Australian economy is in a period of change, and corporate firms must adapt quickly.  Being responsive to those changes, and being innovative both in terms of solutions offered to clients but also the way in which legal services are provided, will become all the more important.

If you had Tony Abbott’s job for one day, what would you do?
I would look at a referendum on the electoral rules for the Senate. The legislative process is now often at the mercy of a small minority, which in my view is limiting the policy agenda on both sides of politics.

What do you love about your job?
The people I get to work with, both within Herbert Smith Freehills and our clients. Working with highly motivated and intelligent people on complex work is a real privilege.

What would you change about your job right now if you could?
Ideally my dog would be able to come to work with me.

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