This is Allens

Cindy McNair

Cindy is a Managing Associate specialising in corporate investigations, disputes and regulatory enforcement.

I landed in New York in 2014, eager to further my career and experience in corporate crime and government investigations. My husband had secured a role there, but I was looking for a new position and excited to see what I could make of the opportunity.

As clichéd as it sounds, to get anywhere in New York, you have to hustle. Many of the things Australian lawyers find uncomfortable, like cold calling or openly advertising what you have to offer, come naturally to New Yorkers. I knew a few Australian lawyers who had given it a shot, but just couldn’t get a foot in the door. I guess I got lucky.

It was a really interesting time in the white collar space – regulators were seeking to redress the prevailing perception that 'big banks' in particular had been getting away with questionable practices for years at the expense of the country and the American people, and were intent on bringing companies to account for serious regulatory breaches – money laundering, fraud, sanctions, bribery, tax evasion and other financial crimes. We're seeing some of the same themes here in Australia, post-Royal Commission.

It was a privilege to work closely with government lawyers and defence attorneys who were together dedicated to helping companies identify and resolve misconduct, and uphold shared values. A unique and particular feature of the enforcement landscape in the US is that top white collar attorneys will also spend time in public practice. This commitment to public service for many lawyers, which is carried with them throughout their careers, was inspiring to see. The exchange also ultimately helps to drive collaboration, understanding and learnings for both sides in dealing with complex regulatory cases.  

I worked with one particular partner who had a real gift for finding common ground with all parties and showed genuine interest in everyone he dealt with. His approach to developing relationships has always stuck with me – he showed me that deepening connections with the people we work with is not only rewarding professionally, it just makes work more enjoyable.

In this recent period of remote working, it has been really great to see some of that openness, vulnerability and curiosity about one another find its way into the Australian work culture. You never know what you'll learn about someone when you open up and just ask a few questions.

What I'm reading

  1. Yes To Life In Spite of Everything by Viktor E Frankl. A series of lectures delivered by psychiatrist Frankl, only a few short months after his liberation from Auschwitz and after losing his parents and pregnant wife in the concentration camps. I'm in awe of the resilience of human beings and our will to triumph and survive despite unspeakable tragedy.
  2. How to Raise Successful People by Esther Wojcicki. As a parent, I am really interested to learn how different cultures approach parenting, and whether one way is necessarily better than another. It was definitely fun to read this book alongside Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Talk about a culture clash!
  3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. Always good to keep this book nearby. A timely reminder of how easy it is for anyone to get swept up in day-to-day moments and to bring our focus back to the bigger picture.
  4. Point Made by Ross Guberman. We can always improve our writing and expression as lawyers and advocates, and Ross Guberman's book does a tremendous job at walking the reader through some of the most effective legal briefs ever written. Compelling and carefully crafted prose is simply a joy to read.
  5. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Daniel Kahneman's exploration of the brain's 'two minds' and the cognitive biases that lead to errors of judgment and poor decision-making is eye-opening and fascinating. Of course, reading the book is no guarantee against bad decisions, but might make you more aware of your own decision-making preferences!

10 quick questions

  1. Tea or coffee? I usually have both on my desk!
  2. What was the best holiday you've been on? Anything planned by my husband. Our last two big trips were to Puglia in Italy and visiting Reims and Cap Ferret in France after the birth of our daughter (lots of oysters and Champagne)!
  3. What is the best silver lining from the lockdown? Spending time as a family of three, ahead of our second child arriving in September.
  4. If you were a superhero, what would your powers be? The ability to fly and to correct injustice.
  5. If you didn't live in Australia, where would you choose to live? New York – the buzz and the energy of the city gets me every time.
  6. What hobby will you never give up? I'm addicted to Bikram yoga… although I have less time to practice these days than when I was a young uni student!
  7. If you could switch lives with someone for a day, who would it be? Probably Head of the CIA, to know what's really happening out there.
  8. What's your favourite meal? Anything home-cooked by my dad.
  9. What are people surprised to find out about you? My love of country music.
  10. What do you wish you were good at? A musical instrument! My mum was amazing and got me all sorts of lessons when I was a child but unfortunately none of it stuck.