Law in Focus: In conversation with Emma Warren, Partner at Allens

Wilson Pateras are expert accountants and financial advisors for lawyers who support clients by creating a clear roadmap to achieving their financial goals.

To better acquaint you with our exceptional accounting services and wealth management solutions, Wilson Pateras are proud to present our ‘Law in Focus’ blog series. This series will showcase several of our talented legal clients, welcoming individuals from professional categories into conversation with a trusted Wilson Pateras expert.

In each blog, Wilson Pateras Principal Mark Forte sits down with a senior Melbourne lawyer to discuss their career trajectory and approach to building financial security. Today, Emma Warren, Partner and Projects and Development Practice Group Leader at Allens, shares her insights with Mark from Allens’ stunning 101 Collins Street premises.[1]


Mark Forte: Emma, did you always want to be a lawyer?

Emma Warren: For a long time, I did want to be a lawyer. I’m not quite sure why. I liked the idea of what law might be like, as opposed to what it actually was. I also thought I might have wanted to be a journalist!

Mark Forte:  And when it came time to make your career choice, what compelled you to study law rather than journalism?

Emma Warren:  I was like most people in Year 12, thinking about what marks I would get. If I got the marks to do law, I decided that I would pursue it. I thought law was an interesting career that would open doors to a whole range of options. I liked the idea of negotiating. I liked the idea of being able to help people. I liked the idea of doing something constructive. So, it seemed to me that law would have all those components.

Mark Forte: What are three common misconceptions people have about lawyers?

Emma Warren:  The glamour.

Mark Forte:  It’s not glamorous?

Emma Warren: It’s not! If you watch Suits or similar types of shows, the matters they address are completed in twenty-four hours. They switch disciplines on a daily basis and it’s all very glamorous and fast-paced. In reality, working in the law is nothing like that. I don’t go to court. All my work is contractual negotiation. It’s a great job. It’s very intellectually stimulating, but I would say the glamour is not there – that would be one misconception. The other would be that working in the law is not as argumentative, aggressive or combative as people think. Most of the time I work with everyone involved in the transaction. Whether we’re on the same side or not, we’re all working towards a common goal.

Mark Forte:  Emma, can you tell me about the category of law you specialise in?

Emma Warren:  My area of focus is major infrastructure projects – mainly government projects – like the procurement of road, rail or large pieces of infrastructure for example Southern Cross Station. I like the satisfaction of the finished project. You see something at the end of it, you see a road or a train station or a stadium. I like that concrete, tangible aspect to it. I like the fact that these are such broad projects and you learn so much about different technologies, different industries, different sectors. I know more about road, rail and stadiums than I thought I ever would! You’re learning about a whole range of sectors and you’re considering a whole range of legal issues as well.

Mark Forte:  Can you tell me a bit about your career trajectory?

Emma Warren:  That’s one of the things about law – there’s no standard career trajectory. I started out in employment and litigation law.. I then moved to our Perth office and worked in mining and resources law for two years. I then took a year out of law and moved over to the human resources department, managing our recruitment function. I then stepped back into law and started working on government projects and other construction projects. I then became partner. When I became a partner, I was pregnant with my first child and I’ve had two children as a partner. I’ve worked part time, I’ve worked full time, I’ve done the whole range!

Now as a more senior partner in the firm, I split my time between my practice and leading the Projects and Development Group. I also sit on the firm’s Executive Committee and have a number of positions around the firm. I’ve done a lot of different things in my career, so I don’t think it’s standard trajectory!

Mark Forte:  At what point in your career did you decide that you needed to engage an accountant or business advisor to support you?

Emma Warren:  Not until I became a partner. Engaging a specialist accountant to assist was recommended to us by the firm.

Mark Forte:  Until such time as a lawyer makes partner, how do they usually handle their tax and finance matters?

Emma Warren: I think most do it themselves. Lawyers are good at filling in forms and we understand enough about tax. What we don’t benefit from in that situation is expertise. It’s like people saying they will do their own will, or their own conveyancing. Sure, we could probably do okay, but when you have more sophisticated financial arrangements and income to protect, things change. There is complexity to our arrangements that needs to be properly managed .

Mark Forte:  Now that you are supported by Wilson Pateras, are you now focused on any particular financial goals? Retirement, business development, or super management?

Emma Warren:  Yes. Over time, I’ve had particular help with investment strategy. The key to these strategies is simplicity for me. Personally, I don’t want to play the stock market. I’ve instead gone down the path of property investment. Having advisors like Wilson Pateras who can get across those investments quickly and know how they should be reflected in my tax arrangements and claims is very helpful.


Mark Forte:  Are there any common finance or tax-related quirks that tend to pop up in your industry?

Emma Warren:  I think lawyers think they can do a lot of things themselves, but they shouldn’t necessarily. It’s ironic really, because we rely on our clients valuing our specialist advice and yet sometimes we don’t take that advice ourselves. I think that’s actually very important – to put yourself in the hands of specialists and receive the benefit of their expertise. That’s probably something that as lawyers, we can find difficult.

Mark Forte:  And what would you say is the greatest challenge to lawyers today?

Emma Warren:   I could say innovation, but I think we see this as more of an opportunity than a challenge. Innovation means a whole lot of things to different people, but to us it means bringing innovation in the way we deliver legal services to our clients. Clients are expecting things to be done faster and in a more innovative way. But innovation is, in our view, working more collaboratively with our clients on solutions that are bespoke. Previously, lawyers would deliver a standard service – you would come to your lawyer and they would tell you what you needed to know – now it’s much more about working with the client to understand the problem and to collaborate on solutions.

We also like to use cutting edge technology.  And it’s exciting that we can now deliver services much more efficiently and effectively to our clients in an innovative way. We also like to focus on anything that’s making waves in the industry. The challenge is really how to be a positive disrupter.

Mark Forte:  Speaking of communication, how do you find communicating with your Wilson Pateras financial advisor?

Emma Warren:  I have a great arrangement with Amy Buglass who looks after me in terms of my tax arrangements. She’s very responsive.

Mark Forte:  How does that work?

Emma Warren: Amy is fantastic. She’s terrific. She has a direct line of communication with our commercial team here. When she needs to gather information for our tax arrangements, she will speak to them directly and she’ll often just send an email with all the items she requires. Amy is always on top of the legislation and will let me know when there are changes in requirements and obligations. She’s very helpful in letting me know of considerations I haven’t thought about in terms of deductions. She will notify me of when deadlines are looming, too. She’s very bright.

Mark Forte:  Those were really wonderful answers, Emma. We thank you for your insights and look forward to continuing to support you throughout your career.

Emma Warren:  Thank you!

[1] (The views expressed are personal to the interviewee and not the views of Allens)

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