Name: Jessamy Gallagher

Organisation: Paul Hastings

Role: Partner

Location: London

Trained at: Minter Ellison and Herbert Smith Freehills in Sydney

Year qualified: 2000

Read her Hot 100 profile

What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?

Realising with an abrupt and undeniable jolt that I was not cut out to be a litigation lawyer. This revelation occurred during my first and only court appearance.  I was appearing in the New South Wales District Court, having been sent there by my supervising partner to urgently file some documents with the judge. Things went off course fairly rapidly with said judge tearing my documents in half and extravagantly flinging them at me from the bench on the basis that they had been incorrectly stapled.  Naturally the court that day was standing room only so the humiliation was fairly complete.

However a few kindly and more experienced fellow practitioners followed me out of the court room and explained that this judge was a particularly ill tempered individual and I was the third person that week to have made the same “egregious stapling error”.  Needless to say, I spent the slow walk back to the office coming up with some fairly creative answers to the inevitable question: “so, how did all that go?”  And I still have flashbacks when confronted with a stapler.

What is the thing in your professional career that has terrified you or taken you out of your comfort zone the most?

Well, leaving aside spending 27 heart-stopping minutes believing that I’d left a decoded press release for a rescue rights issue in the back of a taxi, putting myself forward for firm leadership positions has most terrified me and taken me out of my comfort zone.  When you work alongside so many immensely talented and able practitioners, it is truly daunting to consider whether you might have something to offer as part of a leadership team.

However, I had always been encouraged to put myself forward at all stages of my career by Aedamar Comiskey, long before she became Linklaters’ senior partner. I also quickly realised that I had the same responsibility to encourage forward and upwards the many talented and diverse people coming through behind me, including the talented female associates, and you can only do that if you’ve walked the walk yourself.

What is the wisest thing anyone ever said to you (and who said it)?

When I was very junior and new to Linklaters, I had the privilege of working with one of our most legendary now retired partners, Tim Clarke, who had been involved in many if not all of the 1980s privatisations of industries of great interest to infrastructure investors today – airports, gas, electricity, telecoms, water etc.

Tim’s advice to me seemed very simple: “Don’t open the document before you’ve written yourself a short note setting out everything you want to see in it”.  He was teaching me to be an active participant in shaping the narrative of the transaction, rather than simply reacting to whatever the author had put down.  I think about this advice a lot and it has shaped me much more widely as a lawyer: the criticality of being a proactive driver and shaper of a deal and not just a reactor and reviewer of the status quo.  I truly believe this is essential for an effective M&A lawyer, one who genuinely adds value by helping create the deal – as opposed to simply documenting it.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?

You can do it on your own terms and in your own way.  In fact, you have to – there is literally no other way because the job is too demanding for you also to be maintaining any kind of inauthenticity about who you are.  And help others as soon as you can; the power of sponsorship can never be underestimated and can transform the careers of others.

What’s your best friend from law school doing now?

This always makes me feel a bit guilty because, of my friendship group at law school, I’m the only one who went the “full corporate law”.

One of my best friends from that time has spent many years working in government in the antidiscrimination and equality space; another is a member of parliament, and a third works as a general counsel in the health care system.  It does make you reflect on the responsibility of large and profitable law firms to give back, a consideration which is now at the forefront of every organisation in a way that will hopefully prove ultimately to be transformational, including for the local communities in which we operate.