Blog post | In conversation with… Richard Conway
For our first blog post in the "In Conversation With" series, we speak to Richard Conway, Deputy Group General Counsel of ASX100 company Coca-Cola Amatil. Richard speaks about his incredible legal career so far - which has seen him travel to Thailand, Vietnam, UK and even Russia! With his feet now placed back in Australia, he has taken the time to explain his journey and give some pearls of wisdom to young lawyers and law students. Thanks Rich!
TLC: What made you want to study law?
RC: I actually wasn’t particularly driven to study law. My favourite subject at school, by far, was history – so I knew I wanted to do an arts degree. I arrived at the decision to do a law degree to accompany it after getting my estimated UAI (now called ATAR I believe) from my school career counsellor and seeing that law was just within the estimate…
TLC: Tell us about your journey to how you got to where you are
RC: I certainly didn’t come out of uni with a view that I would be where I am today – generally, my approach to my career has been to take opportunities when they present themselves and see where they lead. Those opportunities haven’t all led exactly where I hoped that they would, but each offered a great learning experience which helped me in my next step.
My journey really started with a part time uni job I had with KPMG. One of our clients was an alcohol industry body who we helped with their approach to public policy issues impacting that sector. Through that 2 day a week job I managed to land 6 months’ work with Diageo based in Thailand, where I helped them with similar government affairs issues in South East Asia. That 6 months turned into 18 months before I was offered a role as a commercial manager, helping develop the strategy around Diageo’s route to market in Vietnam (a job I was very underqualified for, but which I really enjoyed).
After 18 months in that position, I moved to London and started the career I had been planning towards at uni with a graduate position at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. While I think that my time there was critical to building my key legal skills (particularly drafting), I think I found the narrow focus of a junior team member in such a large firm in such an established legal market restricting – so started thinking about moving back to Australia after about 18 months there.
It was when I went to see a recruiter about coming back home that he asked “would you be interested in working in Moscow?”. A few months later, there I was, working for Herbert Smith in private M&A. I loved Moscow and Russia. The work was interesting and the people and culture fascinated me. I stayed for 3 ½ years before finally moving back to Sydney where I worked for Herbert Smith Freehills, also in private M&A for 3 years.
During that time I went on secondment to Boral for 3 months and that opened my eyes to how much I enjoyed in-house legal. I immediately started thinking about roles that I would like and when I saw a role going at Coca-Cola Amatil, I knew that was what I wanted. Luckily, I got that job and have been loving it ever since.
TLC: What is the funniest or weirdest moment you've had in your legal career?
RC: I once went ice-skating in Red Square during my lunch break while working in Moscow – St Basil’s Cathedral on one side, the Kremlin and Lenin’s Mausoleum on the other. It just seemed like a good way to get some fresh air at the time, but seems pretty weird to me now!
TLC: What is your one piece of advice to law students of today?
RC: A common-law degree and a little bit of training on how to use it is in demand in a lot more places around the world than you would have thought. I never suspected there were jobs for common-law lawyers in Moscow until someone told me – but if you’re interested in travelling (and practically speaking, need a job to make that happen) then a little bit of research will show you there’s a wealth of opportunities available!