Matthew Robinson is based in Chicago and is a Consultant for Bain & Company after leaving KWM to relocate to the US to complete an MBA in Economics and Strategic Management.
We chatted with Matt about his career at one of the world’s top management consulting firms.
You’re based in Chicago but are originally from Brisbane, Australia. Can you tell us a little about the decision to relocate?
When I made the decision to move to the US I was really looking to get some international experience. Many of my friends - who are also lawyers - were going to London or New York for work, and I didn’t necessarily want to tread the same path. I was also beginning to think about a career and life outside of private practice.
So, in 2014 I started looking at business school as a way of getting that international exposure as well as opening up new career paths that complemented my legal experience.
Why Chicago? I had narrowed my preferred schools down to four, including the University Of Chicago Booth School Of Business. The thing that attracted me to Booth was the quality of the faculty and how finance heavy the curriculum can be (if you so choose). Having been in Banking & Finance at KWM for five years, I really wanted to dig deep and see beyond the legal side of finance.
On a less career driven note, growing up a fan of Michael Jordan, getting the opportunity to go to Chicago Bulls games held some appeal; as did the opportunity to immerse myself in US culture.
The focus of your MBA was Economics and Strategic Management – is this a particular interest you have always held?
Since high school, I have been fascinated by the explanatory power of economics to predict behaviour and derive insights about the world.
I continued this through an economics major in my undergraduate degree, and while at KWM as I tried to bring economics into what I did as a lawyer.
In short, economics has always been something I have been interested by and have wanted to pursue. I listen to a variety of economics podcasts while at the gym or commuting.
In terms of strategy, I was very privileged to be able to work with Berkeley Cox [KWM Chief Executive Partner, Australia] as he was transitioning into his management role. Berkeley encouraged me to participate in discussions about the business of KWM. While I was able to get some exposure to strategy prior to business school, business school provided a broader perspective beyond either law or finance, and was a wonderful opportunity to build on the foundational skills I began to build at KWM.
"While I was able to get some exposure to strategy prior to business school, business school provided a broader perspective beyond either law or finance, and was a wonderful opportunity to build on the foundational skills I began to build while at KWM.
Can you tell me about a day at Bain & Company?
Let’s walk through tomorrow.
I will be getting up at 5.30am to catch a train out to a small town in Illinois. The team I am working with will be holding a workshop with our client, so we are aligned on the goals and work for the next few months of this project. The Bain team will regather after the workshop and begin working toward the near term deliverables.
Generally, there are a lot of internal and client meetings to develop and test ideas, and the materials to communicate those ideas.
One notable difference from my experience as a lawyer is the emphasis on the structuring of ideas in a way that is digestible and will drive the intended results, even if an executive only has a few minutes to digest content and does not want to get into the detail.
This was quite a change from law where you are focused on detail and precision. It is a step beyond plain English writing – it requires making trade-offs between what is and what isn’t important to communicate, to drive the conversation and achieve a desirable outcome. Changing my mindset around this has been challenging, but incredibly valuable.
What skills from your time at KWM do you use on a regular basis or have specifically taken with you to this role?
A couple of things – firstly, the client skills I developed at KWM were transferable and incredibly valuable. Very early on I was given the opportunity to develop client relationships.
Secondly, I was surprised by the value of the legal expertise even in non-legal roles. From reviewing client contracts to prepare them for supplier negotiations, to benchmarking consumer contracts, my legal background has been an asset.
You came through a relatively traditional route to a legal role and law firm – what is it that attracted you to KWM as a graduate?
As I mentioned earlier I had always been interested in economics and finance throughout both high school and university. I knew I wanted an offer from KWM when two senior lawyers, Leigh Cooper and Andrew Hughes, took the time to teach myself and other clerks about securitisation and had sketched a securitisation structure on an office window overlooking the Brisbane River.
As a first introduction, it was such a ridiculously complex structure that I was bewildered and learning how it worked blew my mind. I had this moment where I thought: “Wow, I can do this type of work from Brisbane. This is the leading securitisation team in Australia and I want to be a part of it.”
So it was a combination of the amazing work that was being done by Berkeley’s team when he was “on the tools” and the amazing team that they had. You had a lot of humble and funny team members who were also technically brilliant, working on very complex transactions. That was the clincher for me.
"I knew I wanted an offer from KWM when two senior lawyers, Leigh Cooper and Andrew Hughes, took the time to teach myself and other clerks about securitisation and had sketched a securitisation structure on an office window overlooking the Brisbane River.
Who do you stay in contact with from the firm?
I stay in contact with most of my graduate group. I was the last to leave KWM Australia, but a number of our group actually returned to the firm after stints overseas.
I also stay in touch with Berkeley, as well as the securitisation team, Paul McBride, Ian Edmonds-Wilson, Jie Zhang, and most importantly, Cara Coe, who is amazing and I miss sitting next to.
It’s always a great network to be a part of so I make the effort when I can.