‘Stop trying to sound like a lawyer,’ Piper Alderman partner says

Martin Lovell calls for lawyers to “say what they mean”

‘Stop trying to sound like a lawyer,’ Piper Alderman partner says
Martin Lovell

Clear communication is key to the law profession for Martin Lovell. The Piper Alderman partner, who leads the firm’s national projects, infrastructure and construction practice from the Adelaide office, said he wants lawyers to stop trying to “sound like a lawyer” and say what they mean because clients want plain English.

Lovell enjoys helping others to approach deals in new ways and to allocate risk in big projects, and he is especially proud of his work on innovative renewable energy projects in the country that are guiding Australia towards a clean energy future.

In this interview, he also discusses his early love of debate, his team’s growth in spite of COVID-19, the challenges of training up the next generation of lawyers and looking forward to being able to see his friends and colleagues in Melbourne.

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What made you choose a career in law?

I was drawn to law because it requires logic but still leaves enough room to argue a point. From a young age I enjoyed reading, writing and debating (which many of my teachers might have called “arguing”!) and law seemed like a great fit.

What do you love most about your job?

Most of my work is transactional so I’m focussed on putting deals together, not tearing them apart. I love helping people think of new ways to approach transactions or allocate risk on major projects.

What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?

The firm, and our practice team, have been growing even through COVID-19. While the last six months have been an uncertain time, it has been great to see the firm deliver on its values by standing by employees, keeping everyone busy and strengthening team bonds.

I’ve been proud of how people have responded as a unified team in the face of a crisis and how quickly the whole firm has embraced flexible working.

What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so?

Being asked to lead the national projects, infrastructure and construction practice team here at Piper Alderman, as well as working on innovative grid scale battery storage and renewable energy projects around Australia, which are helping drive the transition to a clean-energy future.

What should the profession and law firms focus more on?

Communicating clearly – I can’t say this to young lawyers enough. Clients want lawyers to speak to them in plain English and give clear and concise commercial recommendations. Stop trying to “sound like a lawyer” and say what you mean!

What are the challenges you expect in your practice and in the business of law in general going forward?

Increasingly, clients and in-house counsel want specialised and strategic advice directly from senior lawyers. They don’t want to pay for many of the tasks traditionally done by junior lawyers. Because Piper Alderman has a low-leverage model rather than a more traditional junior-heavy pyramid structure, this generally works well for us. However, I think it presents real challenges for the training of our next generation of legal talent.

What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?

Moving back to our home, which has been under renovation for the last eight months, and hopefully seeing friends and colleagues who are currently in lockdown in Melbourne.

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