From the daughter of refugees to Freehills partner by Michael Pelly, Legal Affairs editor, Australian Financial Review, 24 Apr, 2020
Christine Tran says her elevation to the partnership of Herbert Smith Freehills this week came as a welcome surprise.
As COVID-19 bore down on the economy and business started to cut costs, the class actions lawyer said she and others felt their prospects of a promotion – at least for this year – fading.
"We were concerned – well I certainly was – that they might change their mind. And I think it would have been quite reasonable for them to have done so," Ms Tran said.
"You're not privy to those decision-making processes, but yeah, I was surprised – and obviously very happy."
The global firm announced that 26 people had been promoted to partner – four more than 2019 – with eight (four men and four women) in Australia. They include head of pro-bono Brooke Massender, who becomes the firm's first pro-bono partner.
Christine Tran draws inspiration from her boat-people parents: "Whatever you're facing, it pales in comparison with what they went through."
Most local firms announce their new partners in June, but it is expected to be slim pickings this year. Minter Ellison, the biggest employer of lawyers in Australia, has already announced that its next round of promotions has been put on hold until January.
HSF's managing partner in Australia, Andrew Pike, said the firm had taken "a long-term view on partner promotions". "We want to make sure that we have the right people to meet our clients’ needs, both now and into the future."
A different Australian dream
Ms Tran is the daughter of Vietnamese parents who escaped by boat as the Vietnam War drew to a close in the mid-1970s. They settled in south-west Sydney and had some basic ambitions for their three children. "The Australian dream was their kids would have an easier life than what they went through,'' Ms Tran said.
As member of the firm's class actions team since she finished her graduate program 10 years ago, Ms Tran has been working on big-ticket cases such as those filed against AMP following the banking royal commission. She joined Freehills as a summer clerk in 2006 and after a two-year graduate program settled on litigation as her practice area. She gravitated to class actions, with part of the lure being that it was a developing area of law. Aside from the fact she is working from home, Ms Tran says "it's pretty much business as usual". "Litigation funders are still busy and looking for cases to invest in."
One of the first calls she made was to her parents – dad was a factory worker for a mining company and mum was a homemaker – but she says they are not overly fussed about her being a lawyer. (She has two younger brothers: a physiotherapist and graphic designer.) "They don't really understand what I do, They think it's nice I get to go to an office."
Ms Tran is proud of the courage they showed to leave their home – on separate journeys – and says it puts her own struggles into perspective. Her father arranged passage, but only on the condition that he brought along women and children who were related to the boat owner. He landed in the Philippines and then caught a plane to Australia. "He only told me the story recently,'' Ms Tran says. "I can't imagine it. He had to go through the cover of night, through a jungle with them and get on a boat ... "I think it helps to give you a bit of courage because whatever you're facing, it pales in comparison with what they went through." https://www.afr.com/companies/professional-services/from-the-daughter-of-refugees-to-freehills-partner-20200421-p54lxd?fbclid=IwAR0ITN0Z_6oxRwxhzc66Xuir2Z5ltBRZBpCx4GJmUALSjqor2iADUB-WWc0