I have had four phases in my career:
- Litigation combined with athletics (1995-2004)
- General commercial legal practice (2005-2010)
- Transition to Teaching/Study (2011-2018)
- Scientific Computing and Software (2018-present)
LITIGATION AND ATHLETICS
I have over twenty years legal experience in the corporate sector, providing advice to banks, resources companies, ASX-listed companies, property management entities, landlords, indigenous organisations, small businesses and individuals. My legal advice has covered commercial litigation, contract law, intellectual property, Corporations Act and corporate governance, corporate insolvency and external administrations, commercial leases, mergers and acquisitions, mining business structures, land use agreements, distribution agreements, mortgages and loans, business sale transactions, capital infrastructure for mining projects, derivatives contracts (ISDA), ATO debt disputes, environmental issues and employment law.
Through my degree in law, I developed an interest in the litigation process and Court-based remedies. I participated in the Jessup Moot Team for UWA in 1993-4 and was the 1994 Prize Winner for the Law of Restitution.
Beginning my legal career at Mallesons Stephen Jaques in 1995, I worked in corporate advisory and commercial litigation for 5 years, assisting clients with commercial matters in District, Supreme Court and Federal Courts.
Throughout the period 1996 to 1999 I continued to compete in elite athletics in the 400m, representing Western Australia several times, and achieving a personal best of 47.8 seconds. The balance between working full time in a demanding role in a law firm and achieving these goals was achieved by a strict discipline of training outside of working hours, and using my annual leave to attend national championships.
In 1997, I had a number of significant opportunities for working interstate and overseas, including on a corporate insolvency matter in Santiago Chile, taking witness statement for separate matters in London and Norway, and progressing evidence-investigations in Brisbane and Sydney. This was in a time where email was a rarity and most of the communications were occurring by telephone or fax. In these days of Zoom conferencing, such a broad scope of personal travel seems like a luxury that will not be repeated by me any time soon.
With experience in both commercial litigation and corporate insolvency, in 2000 I was offered a newly created role as an-house lawyer for Taylor Woodings (now FTI Consulting) who specialised in corporate insolvency services. However, my situation was unusual in that I continued to be involved in assisting with Court-based matters I had worked on in the past, including as junior counsel for a matter that was continuing to progress to the High Court. In 2001 and into 2002, I was briefed to appear as junior counsel for a special leave application, which was granted, and was then junior counsel on the successful High Court appeal in 2002.
With continued work in the Court system, I was encouraged to apply, and did apply, for membership of the independent bar, as a member of Francis Burt Chambers in 2003 and 2004. I found this to be stimulating, yet still at odds with my desire to help clients reduce their involvement in the Court processes where possible. I also found that my involvement in cases involving science and engineering had stimulated my desire to become more proficient in these areas. This was both to assist with progressing the work and as a matter of personal interest. I was particularly interested in forensic issues, like the extent to which scientific work could be validated in the course of legal cases before trial, and also the causes of miscarriages of justice, like the misuse of statistics.
GENERAL COMMERCIAL LEGAL PRACTICE
I subsequently returned to work as a solicitor for a few years, and started some tertiary studies in science, computing and engineering. Although I gained further experience in commercial leasing through a medium sized firm, for the main I worked in my own legal practice, whilst I pursued further tertiary studies part-time for a number of years. My focus at this time was in experimenting with a personal and proactive form of legal practice, in which I attempted to apply the lessons of counsel work to general practice, namely identifying legal and factual issues with precision, and proactively attempting to resolve issues with minimal involvement of the Court system, if possible. I experimented with lump-sum costing and up-front case preparation from as early as 2004.
My practice throughout this period included further project work for insolvency matters, including a significant matter related to the corporate insolvency code and tenement system in Chile. I returned to Santiago for a number of weeks in 2008 and 2009 to progress this. In addition to legal research and an English translation of relevant Chilean law, the work included mining tenement due diligence work for financially distressed companies, and subsequent refreshing of tenement status for at-risk assets.
From 2009 onwards, I continued to run a consultancy-style practice, focussing on commercial advisory and dispute resolution. I also tutored Commercial Practice and Trusts at UWA.
I was also introduced to an opportunity to provide general counsel (in-house) legal services, on this occasion to ASX-listed Panoramic Resources, on a contract basis. I assisted with resolution of intransigent litigation, and also provided the usual range of services for a busy exploration and mining company, related to document management, compliance and risk management, mergers and acquisitions, mining tenement administration, environmental approvals and human resource matters. The firm rewarded me with its best new ’employee’ award in December 2009. By mid 2010, however, I was looking for a change.
TRANSITION TO TEACHING/STUDY
In 2011, I took on a role with Curtin Business School for the Equity unit, then I worked as District Cricket Manager for the Western Australian Cricket Association over the summer season in 2012-13. A short period working for a medium sized law firm led me to revisit my plans to do something outside law. I decided to focus on completing a major in computer science, which I did full time over 2015-2016. I tutored in Trusts law at UWA Law School during my final year. The decision to commit to full-time studies had a positive effect on my enjoyment and grades, and I finished with a strong academic record for both the computing and cultural studies units I took within the Science degree. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science (2017), majoring in computer science.
After graduating, I explored options where I might combine my interests in law and technology, as a knowledge manager with a law firm, but I found that there was insufficient opportunity to apply my technical skills, and desire for technical innovation, in a firm with limited time and resources for these things. I also prepared papers covering law, information and technology and presented these at the Australasian Law Teachers Association conference in Perth in July 2018. I was primarily interested in the potential for technology to store legal information, or to make software tools for legal professionals.
SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING AND SOFTWARE
Since 2018, my focus has been on computing, and scientific research software. In particular, I became very interested in bioinformatics, which is the application of data analysis to biological information, often related to genetic codes. Through attending bioinformatics conferences, and assisting research students with computing-related issues (at HackyHourUWA), I was able to obtain data analysis work in a Research Associate role at UWA.
In 2019-2020 I also held a tenancy at IQX in Nedlands, and worked as a Research Associate at UWA in bioinformatics. This included work on COVID-19 viral diagnostics pipelines, single cell genomics, and data analysis in 2020. Much of this work requires the use of high-performing computers, often located at the Pawsey Centre but accessible remotely. These computers fit the description of supercomputers, in that many smaller computers are linked together to provide a massive computing resource.
My experience in High Performance Computing (HPC) included helping estimate HPC compute requirements for scientific researchers, liaising with HPC facility staff regarding configuration for projects including the use Hi-C analysis techniques, single cell genomics, and genome research. Part of the work I completed was a contribution to the underlying computing infrastructure and testing for this research report:
St Hilaire et al (2020). A rapid, low cost, and highly sensitive SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic based on whole genome sequencing. (May 2020). Ref: bioRxiv 2020.04.25.061499; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.25.061499
I maintain a working, if not full time involvement with law, including presenting workshops on Contract Law at business skills workshops.