Profile: 10 questions in 10 minutes with Chris Shaw

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Profile: 10 questions in 10 minutes with Chris Shaw

Welcome to our first team profile at Shaw Reynolds Lawyers, a specialist environmental, government, planning and development law firm. Today we interview our Managing Partner Chris Shaw.

What do you do at Shaw Reynolds Lawyers and in what circumstances would I come to you for something?

I am the Managing Partner at Shaw Reynolds Lawyers. I specialise in land development and environmental matters when I am not managing the business. I also seem to spend a good proportion of my time assisting clients with business operations that involve quasi legal matters. The diversity and excitement in helping clients develop their businesses is what I enjoy about my role.

Portrait of Chris Shaw, Managing Partner, Shaw Reynolds Lawyers
Chris Shaw, Managing Partner, Shaw Reynolds Lawyers

What’s your go-to productivity trick?

I find that to get the most out of my day that I go to my list of priority matters. This list regularly changes, however I get a lot of satisfaction in being able to cross off tasks that I have allocated for myself.

Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

I have been very fortunate in that I have had some very good role models in my professional career. I commenced employment with The Shell Company of Australia. At about the same time that I commenced work with Shell, Kevan Gosper commenced in the role as Managing Director and Chairman of Shell Australia. I observed from Kevan that presentation, not just in attire and grooming but also being respectful and calm when chaos was in your face was a very important factor in letting people know that you can be relied on. I have been lucky to have this reinforced by later managers and partners including Anthony Latimer, Noel Hemmings QC, Andrew Beatty and Chris Drury. All of them just give you confidence when you are around them.

What behaviour or personality trait do you most attribute your success to, and why?

The character trait that I think has most contributed to my success is that I can switch off all distractions around me and focus on the most pressing issue that is before me. This has enabled me to deeply consider issues without being subservient to the “noise” that inevitably increases in stressful situations.

How do you prefer to start your day?

I prefer to start my day with a little bit of exercise. Either a walk or a swim. I find that my day and the most pressing issues get organised during this time and I can then ensure that I am off and running when I get to the office.

What’s a mistake you made early on in your career, and what did you learn from it?

I recall a situation where a multinational client had briefed me to progress a number of valuation challenges in the Court. I was briefed late and relied upon a junior member of my staff to calculate the court lodgment date. Unfortunately due to a miscalculation the lodgments were out of time. I learnt to assess the consequences of a task being done in error and if dire, then to put in place procedures to ensure that the error was identified and corrected in time rather than to rely on a single individual. The conversation to tell the client the bad news was uncomfortable however it led to a much stronger level of trust going forward because I did immediately pick up the phone and let them know about the error and how I proposed to fix it. Fortunately in the above case we were granted leave to file out of time.

Portrait of Chris Shaw and Alyce Kliese side by side at Shellharbour City Council.
Chris Shaw with Senior Solicitor Alyce Kliese on a recent visit to Shellharbour Council

What led you to this career? 

I initially started studying a Bachelor of Science degree at Sydney University. Upon seeking a part time job with Shell Australia, they suggested that I should be an accountant and they offered me a fulltime position and support for my studies, and so I changed direction and became an accountant. I enjoyed the legal subjects and decided that after completing my accountancy studies that I would study law. After initially starting as a corporate and commercial lawyer I was introduced to environmental law and enjoyed the people and the work in this area of the law and decided that I would seek a career as an environmental and planning lawyer.

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Have an objective, break its pursuit into small steps and never give up. I believe that objectives are fundamental to success. Sometimes it is very hard to distill an objective however small steps make it easier to achieve. There will be many reasons why somethings can’t be done but don’t let that stop you from trying. Attempting something and failing at least lets you know what you need to improve on to have a successful attempt.

What’s a trip that changed you, and why?

I was fortunate enough to have a long break after completing my law studies. I walked, sailed and biked for long distances around the world and in doing so met many people who were extremely friendly and generous. I try to remember their generosity and reflect the same.

What’s something you saw recently that made you smile?

There is a fellow in town who lives on the streets of the Sydney CBD. He is a budddist. I first met him around 10 years ago when I used to walk up Macquarie Street to my office. After about a year of walking past him I started saying good morning and he would respond with the same. After about another year I stopped and had a conversation with him. His name is 31 (a chapter from his religous readings that he identifies with). I saw him the other day in George streeet. I hopped out of my cab and went across to see him. His face lit up and he asked me about my wife and children and how they were going. He recalled all of the detail from our conversations a number of years ago. I spent about 40 minutes with him finding out about how he was going and filling him in on how I was. When I left him I had a smile of my face. When I got home I was excited to tell my wife Sarah about how 31 was and what he had been doing.

Are you a dog person or a cat person (or neither)?

I guess I am a dog person. We have always had dogs and have two at the moment.

What’s one hobby you’d love to get into?

Its not so much get into but get back into. I play the french horn, or should I say played the french horn. My wife conducts various community music groups and it is an objective of mine to join her and play the french horn in one of her orchestras.

Interview by Jessica Robertson, Director of Marketing and Client Services


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