Damien Sullivan is group general counsel at international building and construction materials group, Boral. He tells NZ Lawyer about what makes him chose one external firm over another and how the best advice he was ever given came from a martial arts instructor when he was ten...
In your opinion, what are the advantages of working in-house over working in a traditional law firm?
It provides the opportunity to more broadly deploy your problem-solving skills. Being part of an enterprise and working with professionals with very different skill sets creates a more collaborative environment that helps you think laterally.
In what areas of Boral’s business do you most commonly engage external lawyers for?
We use externals in many specialist areas such as regulatory matters, competition law, IP, IR, but also when the project at hand requires more resources than we have internally. In those scenarios in-house lawyers become a critical interface between the business and external lawyers.
When engaging external lawyers, what factors make you decide to choose one firm over another?
Usually through existing relationships with trusted individuals, or lawyers vouched for by those we trust. Law firms are still a collection of individuals and selection is based on assessment of those individuals for the task at hand rather than firm brands.
What is the one thing law firms could do to improve the services and advisory they provide?
Invest more time in getting to know your client's business, and less in marketing through cocktails and lunches.
Do you ever miss working in private practice?
No, not really. That's not to say I didn't have a great experience at Skadden and elsewhere.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Maintain balance in all areas in your life - given to me by Chong Chul Rhee, Taekwondo master when I was 10
Complete this sentence: “If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…”
Probably running my own business (maybe coffee related)