The Work-Life Quiz: Michael Polkinghorne

Name:

Michael Polkinghorne
Firm: White & Case
Title: Partner
Lives: Paris
Education: LLB Hons, University of Adelaide; LLM Cantab
Work history: 1984-85: Trainee, Finlaysons, Adelaide, South Australia
1986-88: Assistant, Norton Rose, London
1998-94: Associate, Coudert Brothers, Paris
1995-96: Coudert Brothers, Vietnam
1997: Promoted to partnership
1998-2000: Coudert Brothers, Thailand
2000-04: Coudert Brothers, Paris
2004-present: Partner, White & Case, Paris

What was your first-ever job?
Working on a farm south of Adelaide picking cherries for a farmer who was well past his sell-by date.

What was your worst experience as a trainee?
Impersonating a partner when calling a colleague in the New York office; my colleague put it on speakerphone so the partner – who by a savage twist of fate was in that colleague’s office – could hear it all. Don’t trust colleagues, particularly when impersonating partners over the phone.

Where’s the best place to go if you want to find out what’s really going on in the office?
Associate drinks.

What time do you usually leave the office?
Varies wildly.

What do you do at weekends?
Try to convince my wife that my very young children adore going to the rugby.

What’s your favourite restaurant?
A family-run Lebanese place in Adelaide called Quiet Waters – although I’ve not been there for about 20 years.

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you have been?
Happier?

Who’s your hero and why?
My wife, who will be shown a copy of this interview.

What’s the best thing about your job?
The independence.

What’s the toughest thing about your job?
The independence.

What’s your biggest work/career mistake and what did you learn from it?
None, just a large and persistent series of small ones.

What car do you drive?
Peugeot 206 – cars aren’t my thing.

What books are you currently reading?
Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Hiruko Mirakami.

What’s on your iPod player at the moment?The Richest Man in Babylon by Thievery Corporation.

What’s your favourite children’s book?
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

What’s the most exciting deal/case you’ve worked on and why?
There have been a few, although setting up a compensation scheme for Mozambique during the civil war was a particular highlight.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what two luxury items would you take?
Two large containers of luxury items.

What’s the worst partner conference location you’ve attended?
London – just kidding.

What’s the longest you’ve worked without sleep?
Two three-day stints in the early 1990s.

If a movie was being made about your life, which actor would play you and why?
Myself – I’m not sure that anyone else would want to take on the job.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with and why?
Anyone – and I mean anyone – who’s appeared on reality television.

Name: Michael Polkinghorne
Firm: White & Case
Title: Partner
Lives: Paris
Education: LLB Hons, University of Adelaide; LLM Cantab
Work history: 1984-85: Trainee, Finlaysons, Adelaide, South Australia
1986-88: Assistant, Norton Rose, London
1998-94: Associate, Coudert Brothers, Paris
1995-96: Coudert Brothers, Vietnam
1997: Promoted to partnership
1998-2000: Coudert Brothers, Thailand
2000-04: Coudert Brothers, Paris
2004-present: Partner, White & Case, Paris