I worked for Andrew Windybank as a lawyer between 2007 and 2009. I mainly did private M&A and corporate advisory work, as well as some general commercial work for Richard Suters. The team had a very strong client base, including private equity work out of Sydney and the best mining and engineering services work from the Hunter Valley and Newcastle.
We had a tight knit, relaxed, fun and collaborative team, led by Andrew and James Stevenson (as the key corporate partners). The culture was fabulous – we got to go to the Big Day Out for free in 2009 (I still remember it being at least 50 degrees in the mosh pit for Sneaky Sound System).
In addition to his technical expertise and experience, Andrew is a very determined advocate for his clients and achieves great outcomes as a result. His approach to transactions is practical, commercial and no-nonsense. He is also incredible at mentoring and developing junior lawyers. I particularly admire his generosity in devoting so much of his time to training his team – he allowed us to shadow him, took time to explain transaction documents and gave direct, clear and constructive feedback. I often reflect on how lucky I am to have worked with Andrew, James and Richard – the best possible start to my legal career.
I left Newcastle in 2010 and Andrew has continued to be a wonderful mentor, offering advice and support over the years. Legal careers are challenging and we all need champions to guide us and invest in the careers of the next generation of lawyers. It is quite rare to find people who are willing to take on this role (and who are good at it) – Andrew is one of the best and I admire him for that and try to emulate his approach. I now work at MinterEllison doing primarily private M&A work.
Andrew Windybank was my first manager. At that time (early ‘00s), he was General Counsel for Lion Nathan Australia Pty Ltd. I was just a clueless kid from a regional University – as green as they come – never read a contract.
Andrew and his team at Lion taught me almost everything I needed to know to practice as an in-house commercial lawyer. It was a “baptism of fire” with crazy long hours and high profile matters that lasted two and a half “mad cap” years of misadventure. We worked hard but not without having a bit of a laugh and collecting more than our fair share of war stories. Above all we became really great friends.
Fast forward a few more years and I received a call from Andrew asking what I was up to. I told him I was working on an album with some friends in Newcastle and he suggested I should “get back on the tools”. At the time Andrew was leading the corporate team at a national law firm and worked with James Stevenson. I jumped at the chance.
Andrew and James truly supported me throughout my introduction to private practice as a lawyer. I was able to finish recording my album (Firekites, The Bowery), tour the album, and be involved in some influential work – most notably setting up Renew Newcastle, a social enterprise connecting artists and creatives with short- and medium-term access to unused spaces awaiting redevelopment in the Newcastle CBD.
Thanks to Andrew’s and James’ faith in me and the latitude they gave me to explore the real world value legal skills can provide to clients and their communities, I was able to build my legal career and continue with my passions outside the law.
Andrew and James are loyal to each other, to their clients, and to their staff – this impresses me enormously. In a way, James and Andrew are themselves a yin and yang, an equal and opposite balance. Andrew is very sharp, detail oriented, gregarious and quick witted. I have worked with very few people who can be as strategic and client focused as Andrew.
James is more reserved and laconic, and wastes no time getting to the heart of a matter guiding his clients towards an optimal and pragmatic outcome underpinned by his “no mess, no fuss” brand of common sense. I really enjoyed observing how Andrew and James work side by side as a team because of these qualities.
So, time has marched on and I’m now a senior lawyer with Novartis Pharmaceuticals, a global Swiss company developing innovative medicines. Thanks to the support from Andrew, James and others throughout my career, I am still releasing music (as North Arm, look me up on Spotify). I am forever grateful for the impact Andrew and James have had on my career and, where I can, I pay it forward by being a supportive mentor young lawyers.
Thanks to Andrew and James for this opportunity to reflect fondly on my early days and our time working together. I wish them every success.