I’ve been lucky enough to witness a former supervising partner get the best of a small army of partners, SA’s and juniors on the other side of the negotiating table, and think: “gee… the other side are paying for all that!”.
Meeting Peter reminded me of that encounter and how time in the market, a global perspective and a range of experience in reputable firms and legal departments can create a powerful combination of expertise and commerciality that clients long for and trust.
Having trained at King & Wood Mallesons in Sydney and London, Peter then spent 15+ years in senior, general counsel roles at ISL Marketing in Switzerland and at Lion in Melbourne and Sydney, before branching out solo to leverage his GC heritage to deliver strategic commercial solutions for his clients.
We sat down with Peter to learn more about his journey:
1. I’ve seen a few testimonials in my line of work, but none quite like this:
“To say Peter is not only ninja like, but an absolute weapon in what he does, is an understatement. We witnessed an entire big firm M&A team try to disassemble him, however akin to a Bruce Lee film or Uma Thurman during the Crazy 88 scene in Kill Bill – there was only one man standing at the end.”
What’s the backstory on that one?
Yes, he's a character that Jaron Mitchell! That was acting for the owners of the 4 Pines brewery business on their sale to CUB (part of the ABInBev empire). I believe one of my value propositions is bringing one, consistent and experienced perspective to the table for all legal aspects of a transaction, vs what I consider the inherent fragmentation risk in the traditional big firm leverage model. So here it was sort of me for pretty much everything across the table from ABInBev’s big firm team of experts plus in-house counsel, but it was of course all professional and amicable … and a lot of fun!
2. What are you best at i.e. your sweet spot in terms of expertise/industry?
I believe my background and experience enables me to cover a fair bit of ground on the corporate/commercial playing field, but my sweet spots would probably be corporate development (JVs, strategic alliances, M&A) and general commercial contracting in a branded FMCG or other IP commercialisation environment. Some of the work of which I’m most proud involved building trust and alignment over many months with prospective JV counterparties on a vision of future business success, and I believe I’m good in that space.
3. What have been your favourite projects/roles in your career?
They’ve all been fun and gone into the mix, but my time working in big international sports event marketing is hard to go past. I spent 4 years in the Swiss HQ of a global sports marketing business, and was lucky enough to work on some amazing events, including the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France. There’s a hell of a lot of legal and other work that goes into events of that scale, including negotiating multiple very large sponsorship agreements with big multinationals, but come event time I was on duty for IP infringement and rights protection. From memory I attended 20 matches at 9 different venues across France over 22 days, including seeing France lift the Cup at the Stade de France in Paris … it was a wonderful whirlwind experience for a sports-mad Aussie boy!
4. Are there any particular areas where a GC/CEO would be best placed to use you as a supplement (or in some cases an alternative) to using their larger/panel firms?
I’m clearly not “like for like” with the big firms, but equally I believe that corporates should look to have a few different horses in the legal stable. My background and skill set will add value where a senior pair of hands is required on a (perhaps non-BAU) project that existing in-house resource is stretched to cover or supervise, or to backfill if existing resource is reallocated. It might be building pro forma agreements in close consultation with commercial teams. I’ve even performed a quasi in-house role on a major long-term corporate project, assisting on instructing the big firm external.
5. You’ve been operating solo for some six years now, how have you found the experience and can you offer any tips and traps for other senior executives who’re considering this mode of work?
Like anything, the grass is always greener! The work doesn’t fall from the sky of course, but for me it works. Within reason I get to work with people who I want to work with and for. I am learning all the time and really enjoy having to get across new stuff. And it allows me to play my part in juggling the commitments of a pretty busy young family. So I guess my counsel would be get clear on what’s important to you and your happiness, and on the potential trade-offs that you’re good to accommodate to achieve that, and satisfy yourself that a gig like mine has a good chance of delivering on it.
Peter is available now for ad-hoc corporate/commercial advisory, transactions and outsourced general counsel engagements – feel free to get in touch with us below 👇🏻