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On the job as a partner in the technology team at Herbert Smith Freehills
Damien Bailey studied Social Sciences at University of New South Wales and law at Bond University and is now a partner in the technology team at Herbert Smith Freehills.
What is your role?
I am a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, where I’ve specialised in legal issues related to IT, telecommunications and commerce for the past five years. I have clients in Australia, America, the Middle East, and Asia. Because I run the technology team, I spend a lot of time supervising new graduates and helping them to develop as lawyers.
Where did you study?
I grew up in Maitland in the Hunter Valley, and that’s also where I went to primary school. I moved to Sydney for high school and subsequently completed a Bachelor of Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales. Afterwards, I studied law at Bond University.
What drew you to law?
I enjoyed social sciences but I wanted something a little more challenging. I love solving problems and debating – both things you get to do a lot of in law.
What’s your professional background?
I previously worked at MinterEllison in litigation. It was a great place to work, but I didn’t feel that litigation was really for me. So when I heard about this role, I met with the HSF partners to discuss it, and, shortly afterwards, made the switch.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role?
We’re lucky because, in this role, we get to work closely with clients throughout the whole process whereby a new technological product enters the market. That starts with reviewing prototypes and patent applications and ends with consumers gaining access to products that can be truly revolutionary. For example, if we’re reviewing regional infrastructure work for a new internet cable, then the successful passage of the project can result in thousands of people connecting reliably to the internet for the first time. It’s also very rewarding to watch the members of my team develop as lawyers.
Have you worked on any projects that you’re particularly proud of?
My team were heavily involved in Project Loon, an initiative spearheaded by Google X that aims to provide global internet access, even in regional and remote areas, by creating a network of 4G-equipped weather balloons. It was something that’s never been done before, and involved reviewing international aviation law, assessing the practical feasibility of the project, overseeing a proof-of-concept trial, and collaborating with Google X for the actual rollout.
What keeps you engaged?
We deal with a huge range of problems, so there’s always something new to learn about. I also dabble in sports law, which is something I personally find very interesting.
What are some of the challenges you have seen law graduates deal with?
In my team, they’re often surprised by the breadth of the work we do. Because our clients are often launching products and projects, we often end up going beyond our legal roles to focus just as much on the commercial aspects of transactions.
I also find it important to help graduates adapt to the demands of a legal career on their time and their energy. There’s a huge difference between the study of law, and the practice of law: assisting them to make the transition is vital. A huge part of that involves training grads to take the client’s perspective, even when that means focusing on problems that aren’t necessarily legal in nature. The question is always: what does the client want and what does the client need?
Which attributes lead to success among graduates?
The best graduates have the ability to think flexibly and be adaptable. They also have really good interpersonal skills. After all, clients want to deal with professional and friendly people who can communicate well. It’s the key to developing a good client relationship.
What personal qualities make for success in your role?
Even as a partner, interpersonal skills are vital. You need to be able to communicate openly and effectively with colleagues and employees. You also need to be a good manager of people, because you’re going to be responsible for a team – both their successes and their failures.
If you could give three pieces of advice to a university law student, what would they be?
- Don’t have any preconceived notions of what you want to do. You may think, for example, that you want to be a litigator and then discover something else you really enjoy.
- Networking is really important. Try to make sure you’re meeting people and staying in contact with them.
- It’s a long career, so don’t get stuck in your first job or your first role. And don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you don’t get the job you want the first time around. People move around all the time.