This is Allens

Emily Johnstone 

Emily is a partner in our Environment & Planning team in Melbourne. She advises clients on approvals, land access and compliance risks for their projects.

Environment and planning law has something for everyone, whether your interests lie in politics, the natural environment, architecture or engineering. It's a vibrant and dynamic area where the work closely follows real world events, like government elections or environmental incidents.

Our clients generally develop or manage land that is complex in some way, perhaps because of contamination from its industrial past, or because it will be the site of a new energy project with impacts that need to be managed. I was hooked after my first role as a paralegal, poring over interview transcripts, reports and historical maps for an environmental investigation. 

You might think environment and planning law is all about land, which it is, but it's also very much about people having a say about projects and issues that affect them. Major infrastructure, renewable energy, mining and environmental protection efforts all attract attention. It's the tensions between public needs and private interests, between development and protection of the environment and communities, that make the work fascinating.

One of my favourite things about this practice is working with clients who share a passion for their projects and make you part of their team to bring them to fruition. You build great relationships from working closely together and getting to know each other as people – often finding that many of us drag our loved ones on unofficial site visits during family holidays. These connections take time and trust to build, but make the work much more enjoyable.

It's the same with the people at Allens – having a close team and a warm, collaborative culture makes this firm a positive and engaging place to work. For me, sharing that enthusiasm with colleagues and mentoring our lawyers are some of the best parts of the job.

A year in my career

It's been a big 12 months, with significant events in the news, at work and in my family life. Here are three things that defined the year for me.

FIRB-2021-icon_no-01.pngAustralia's emerging offshore wind industry

I'm part of a team from across the firm working on some of Australia's first offshore wind farms. It has been quite a ride working on the earliest phases of these projects, with clients bringing international experience to Australian opportunities. This work started amidst the buzz of the 2022 federal election, evolving laws and policy, and the ongoing challenges posed by rising energy prices, supply chain issues and community concerns about environmental impacts. We are in an exciting phase of the energy transition, and these are the kinds of projects where you truly feel you are contributing your skills to something important.

FIRB-2021-icon_no-02.pngTackling the challenge of water

It has also been a year defined by water – turning up as a crucial issue in several projects, at the same time as eastern parts of Australia were dealing with major floods. Whether it's the complexities of managing urban flooding in our cities, the sustainable use of water in property development and industry, or its contentious role in mining rehabilitation, water will continue to be a key issue for our clients' operations and subject to increasing scrutiny from regulators and communities.

FIRB-2021-icon_no-03.pngNew parenthood

On a personal note, I recently became a mum, which has been a huge change after pouring all my energy into work for years. It's been a whirlwind time, but thanks to the brilliant support of family and friends I'm excited about this new phase in life and work. I don't have the answers on how it all will hang together, but feel very fortunate to have great role models and mentors around me.