Gilbert + Tobin
Susan Jones is a Partner in Gilbert + Tobin’s Competition + Regulation group, specialising in competition law – an area that seeks to regulate anti-competitive conduct by companies and maintain market competition. After working in Belgium and Switzerland for 10 years, Susan returned home to be closer to family and Australia’s wild natural beauty, but she finds an enduring connection to Europe at 101 Collins Street, where the architecture and proportions provide familiarity, comfort and motivation.
What’s your position and what type of work do you do?
I’m a partner in the Competition + Regulation team at Gilbert + Tobin. I advise on international mergers and investigations, particularly on the Australian competition law aspects of international projects. I tend to focus on the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors because I was the Global Competition Law Head for global healthcare company Novartis, so it’s a particular area of expertise for me.
What’s your professional background?
I started out in competition law. After university, I worked at the ACCC in Brisbane and during my career I’ve practiced in various areas of competition law. I moved to Belgium and worked for Allen & Overy in Brussels for five years, before I was headhunted by Novartis, a global healthcare company in Switzerland. I was with Novartis for 10 years, working on several international transformational deals, which was very exciting.
Eventually I became homesick and wanted to come back to Australia to be closer to family. I missed Australia’s wild natural beauty and that sense of belonging and connection. I also wanted to come back to the right place for work. Gilbert + Tobin has a great competition law team, I knew a lot of the partners and they’re well-respected internationally and are essentially the go-to people for particular areas of competition law, so it was really exciting to join the team.
What’s it like to work at 101 Collins?
I feel very lucky to work at 101 Collins. It feels very European, so it reminds me of my time overseas. The streetscape, the architecture and even the boutiques, it gives it a real sense of place. It’s comforting and motivating. When I found out Gilbert + Tobin’s office was in the building, I was delighted – the location is fantastic with all the cafes and restaurants, and I can get good coffee, which shockingly I couldn’t find in Europe! It’s also very convenient; the tram stop outside the building takes me straight home.
What’s the experience of working at 101 Collins like?
When I’m walking in through the 101 lobby, or leaving very late at night, there’s a sense of warmth and elegance, which I find very calming. It energises me in the morning, and at the end of a long day, it gives me a real sense of achievement.
Do you shop at any of the boutiques?
I might, and I might hide the bags under my desk!
Gilbert + Tobin has recently refurbished its office at 101 Collins. Can you talk us through the process and your involvement in the project?
We wanted a space that reflects the firm’s culture and references the Sydney office, while celebrating Melbourne’s unique qualities. It needed to be open plan to encourage collaboration and support teamwork, which is very important to Gilbert + Tobin.
As a part of the design process, we knew we wanted the space to reference what we love about Melbourne, such as the café culture, which has influenced the design of the staff breakout area. A committee of us worked with the talented architecture firm, Woods Bagot, and as we undertook the project during the pandemic, we were working remotely, so it involved a lot of conference calls!
It was also very important for Gilbert + Tobin to recognise and celebrate indigenous culture and art. We were very fortunate that Reko Rennie agreed to create a beautiful piece for our reception area. It has become the focal point of the reception that welcomes our visitors and really makes a statement about our firm and our culture.
The final space is remarkable. It’s warm and elegant but also incredibly contemporary. The partners really wanted to show the staff that this workspace is something for them.
How does the new fit-out help to foster collaboration?
We have moved to open plan, which means there is far more natural interaction between staff. The space is thoughtfully designed, with breakout areas to make phone calls and collaborative spaces designed either for work, casual meetings or a celebration.
The meeting rooms take advantage of the beautiful light and views, bringing in the incredible panorama of Melbourne, which is just glorious and a real privilege.
How do you foster a positive culture in your team?
Our competition law team in Melbourne is made up of people who love what they do and who are really energised by it. We spend a lot of our time at work, so it’s very important that we enjoy what we do and have fun. We are a very diverse team – if you are working among a lot of different perspectives, the outcome is always going to be better.
What makes you good at competition law?
Competition lawyers need to be very curious about the way that industries operate. I specialise in international mergers and I really enjoy delving into different industries and understanding what makes companies in those industries successful, considering their various constraints and incentives.
Competition law is an area that seeks to regulate anti-competitive conduct by companies and maintain market competition. It’s interesting from both an economic and social perspective. As lawyers we spend a lot of time consuming information and learning, so it helps to be curious and enthusiastic about the subject matter.
You’ve recently been made partner, what does that mean to you in terms of leading the business into the future?
I’m incredibly excited to be a partner at Gilbert + Tobin. My colleagues in the Competition + Regulation team are amazing. To be able to offer my international experience and my expertise in pharmaceuticals and healthcare to help grow the practice, which is Australia’s leading competition law practice, is an honour.
To what do you credit your success?
It takes a lot of hard work to become a partner. I gained a lot of experience working overseas on international mergers and international investigations and also built up expertise in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, where I worked in-house for many years. Building a network of relationships has also been key. Relationships are so important when building a practice and for the Competition + Regulation team, international referrals are very important. Having those connections with our partner law firms overseas is critical.
How can a building help you attract the right kind of people?
Having 101 Collins as our Melbourne home definitely helps us recruit new team members and having our beautiful new workspace also demonstrates Gilbert + Tobin’s commitment to its people. Combined with 101 Collins’ amenities, such as the end of trip facilities and its location on Flinders Lane and Collins Street, our workspace plays a significant part in retaining our current team as well as attracting new people to the business.