In 2005, Katie founded her own corporate immigration law firm, Katie Malyon & Associates, which grew to become Australia's second largest immigration law firm.
Katie's firm integrated with EY's Human Capital practice in late 2012, where she was an Executive Director for two years before her current appointment as a Member of the Migration Review Tribunal-Refugee Review Tribunal (MRT-RRT).
Katie spoke to us about her new role and her many memories of CU.
Katie, tell us about where your career after Clayton Utz has taken you.
After 15 years with CU, I left to become a partner at Australian Business Lawyers. I was there for four years before starting my own corporate immigration law firm, Katie Malyon & Associates, in July 2005.
In late 2012, my firm integrated with EY's Human Capital practice, where I was an Executive Director for two years. Prior to this, I was a finalist in the NSW Telstra Business Women’s Awards. In April 2011, I also set up a new law firm, Malyon Andronicos Lawyers, with a friend and former work colleague who specialised in refugee work. I ended my association with that firm in January 2013. Then, in September 2014, I was appointed as a Member of the MRT-RRT. The MRT-RRT is due to amalgamate with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) on 1 July 2015.
Tell us about Katie Malyon & Associates.
Katie Malyon & Associates specialised in immigration law, in particular, corporate immigration law and administrative law. In just five years, the firm grew to become Australia's second largest immigration law firm and was recognised in the Business Review Weekly's Fast 100. Prior to its integration with EY in late 2012, we employed just over 40 staff, and our clients ranged from large multinational corporations, Commonwealth and State government statutory authorities, through to small businesses as well as individuals.
During our seven years of operation, we were recognised with a number of awards including BRW's Fast Starters 2010 (to my knowledge, a first for a law firm), ACQ Corporate Immigration Law Firm of the Year (Australian joint winner in 2009 and outright winner in 2010, 2011, 2012) and Human Capital Magazine's Silver Medal - Migration and Mobility 2010.
After being in private practice for the past 28 years, you are now a member of the MRT-RRT. Can you tell us about your current role and how it came about?
I applied for the job when it was advertised in early 2014. The timing could not have been better as I was on a fixed term contract with EY that expired in August 2014. I started with the MRT-RRT the next month.
Although I have been appointed to both the MRT-RRT, to date, I have been hearing applications in the RRT only. This has involved applications from nationals of China, Fiji, Indonesia and India who arrived on a range of visas (typically, business visitor or student visas) and who then seek to engage Australia's protection obligations. As you can imagine, this involves an assessment of the credibility of an applicant's claims that, for example, they are a genuine Falun Gong practitioner, have been detained in the past and fear persecution if they are returned. I expect to have business skills and other non-refugee cases from 1 July 2015 when we amalgamate with the AAT.
I feel privileged to be part of such a highly motivated and engaged group of members and staff who work at the tribunals. Independent merit review plays a vital role in best practice decision making by transforming a two-party decision (in this case, the visa applicant and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection) into a three-party one with the benefit of a neutral and independent third party. I get to take a fresh look at all of the evidence.
What do you enjoy most about your new role?
I learn something new every day. It may not make the news, but nonetheless it can have a huge impact on people's lives. I also get to hear some truly inspiring stories - as well as some fabricated ones.
What are your career high points, to date?
As a lawyer, my career high points include being recognised one of the "Best Lawyers" in Australia in Immigration by the AFR's Best Lawyers Australia peer review 2009-2014 and being named one of Australia's leading Corporate Immigration Law lawyers 2008-2014 by global legal directory, Who's Who Legal.
I was also a NSW Woman Lawyer of the Year (2011) finalist and Telstra Business Women's Award NSW (2012) finalist.
In May 2013 I wrote the Law Council of Australia's submission to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs’ in relation to aspects of the 457 visa program. I also appeared before the Committee in Canberra.
In the first half of 2014, I was appointed to the Federal Government's 457 visa review panel.
Without doubt, one my greatest career highlights are the mentoring opportunities that I afforded staff who worked with me over my years in practice and who still keep in touch with me. I take my mentoring role very seriously having had the benefit of mentors such as Dick Toltz and Joe Catanzariti whilst at CU. I'm keen to pass on the baton. I successfully nominated one of my staff, Marina Brizar, for the Law Council of Australia's Young Immigration Lawyer 2015.
I would also add moving the admission of eight young lawyers to the profession, as another highlight.
Tell us about your time at Clayton Utz. What were some of the highlights/memories?
So many! From a people perspective, I enjoyed the opportunity to work with great lawyers and mentors such as Joe Catanzariti, Dick Toltz, Tony Gregg, Peter McMahon, Peter Shaw, Wally McDonald and John Moutsopoulos. I was also the firm's first ever part-time senior associate and was very fortunate that the firm afforded me the flexibility to work full-time initially and then part-time when more children came along - and to take extended leave to help my sister nurse our terminally ill mother. To this day, I am eternally grateful to CU partners for the support they gave me.
I’m also proud to have managed to successfully juggle what l like to call my 'Work and out of Work' (WooW) commitments, including three children (two born while I was at CU) and their extra-curricular activities (including national level ice skating, state level gymnastics and each playing a musical instrument), as well as my involvement in activities such as school tuck shops and Child Care Centre Management Committee roles.
And on the work front, a definite highlight was helping to secure liquor licences for some of the State's most significant venues including Star City Casino, multiple Sydney Olympics' sites, CBD theatres and Hunter Valley vineyards. I was also thrilled to apply for and win a Scholarship for Women to the Australian Graduate School of Management to undertake a one-month intensive Certificate in Management course.
And any special memories?
Plenty! Among them are starting at CU the same day as Simon Truskett; flying to Canberra with partner Brian Wilson to meet the Secretary of the then Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (the predecessor to today's Department of Immigration and Border Protection) to successfully present CU's case for appointment to the Department’s panel of solicitors; cutting up the toilet role telexes that came in overnight from film distribution companies in Los Angeles when working with Dick Toltz and then photocopying them before the print faded in three days; tea ladies; and, receiving an all-staff memo (remember those?) from Stuart Clark informing us that the firm was “considering getting computers for professional staff”, and inviting interested persons to send him a memo justifying why they thought they should get one!
I also have fond memories of spending hours in the Library trying to track down what cases had applied or distinguished a decision - something you can now do in a matter of seconds using austlii.edu.au. It was also the days when you had to complete paper timesheets by hand and submit them to Accounts at the end of each day. I remember Sid Wang, as the partner then responsible for staff reviews, telling me he was shocked to see I consistently recorded more chargeable hours as a part-timer than some of the full-timers!
Another highlight was lunch with the partners and other senior associates 3 - 4 times a week - a great opportunity to catch up with people. I made many great friendships at CU, too numerous to mention, that have stood the test of time.
What skills gained at Clayton Utz have been most valuable in your career?
People and client skills - as well as technical legal skills. By people skills, I mean being emotionally aware and inspiring others to work with me. I believe this involves giving people clear but shared goals, the resources and tools they need to achieve those goals, regular feedback on how they are performing, and then reward and recognition for a job well done. It also involves recognising the impact of your emotions on others, keeping disruptive emotions in check, taking responsibility for personal performance, negotiating and resolving disagreements calmly, anticipating and recognising the emotions of those with whom you work, and taking an active interest in the concerns of others.
When running my own firm, client skills were also critically important. Clients are the reason professional service firms exist, so communicating with them is key: answer phones; don’t go home without returning all calls; respond to emails the same day if received in the morning, by midday the next day if received in the afternoon; keep clients informed; and, no surprises when it comes billing time.
Most important is the skill of being a true professional and acting ethically, always.
In my current role as a Member of the MRT-RRT, I'm truly grateful for the legal drafting skills that I learned at CU through working on complex client matters.
What is the best advice you have ever been given (either work or personal)?
"If it is to be, it is up to me" - Tommy Hafey, AFL coach.
How do you like to spend your time away from the office?
A number of "F" words come to mind: family, friends, fun and fitness. I was a P.E. teacher and dancer before I became a lawyer, so I like to keep fit by running with my two King Charles Cavaliers every Saturday and Sunday morning for an hour or so, swimming with family on Sundays, and nightly Pilates classes.
I'm also committed to ongoing personal and professional development, so I'm studying for a Masters in Law & Management at UNSW. I completed the Australian Institute of Company Director's course and as part of the course I've become a director of ShareLife.
What is your favourite holiday destination and why?
Anywhere in the world with my family is a great holiday destination. A favourite place is our holiday unit on the Sunshine Coast. My husband's family are fourth generation Sunshine Coasters so we try to go to Queensland at least once or twice a year. If not there, then Lord Howe Island is sublime.