Few people find their calling in their senior year of high school, but for Georgia Schulberg, a conversation with a family friend over dinner would set her on a path to the legal world, to new continents, and to defending victims of cybercrime.
She is now a senior associate in Clyde & Co.’s London office in the cyber team. Georgia talks to LSJ about her career, the challenges of practicing law, dealing with the unspoken rules in a foreign country, and the importance of staying connected in the profession.
What inspired you to pursue a legal career?
I was in my final year of school and it was the week we had to submit our preferences for university courses. I had no idea what I wanted to study and wavered between graphic design, architecture, law, accounting and more. My parents’ friend was there for dinner that night – he happens to be a very successful criminal defense attorney who I’ve always looked up to and enjoyed hearing stories from.
We spent the entire dinner confusing different degrees and careers, and by the end of the evening, my parents’ friend had managed to allay my fear of extensive textbooks and convinced me to list law as my first preference. I remember him saying, “I really think you’ll like it.” Just try it, and if you don’t like it, you can switch to something else.”
It’s been 10 years now and I’m still here!
What are the key differences between practicing law in Australia and the UK? Are there differences in the qualification process?
The key difference I notice in my daily practice is the scope of applicable jurisdictions. In Australia we often deal with global clients. However, in the UK it is not only often, but always the case. Every customer in the UK has some form of connection or operation in Europe, which brings an additional layer of complexity and consideration to every interaction and advice.
As I am from Australia it is not always necessary to qualify in the UK. In my case, I am fortunate to be able to practice as a foreign lawyer, which means I don’t have to worry about conversion checks or paperwork in the UK.
What skills do you think are required to practice law abroad?
Technical skills carry the same weight no matter where you are. When starting to practice law in a new country, it is particularly important to learn things that you cannot simply read up on.
For me, it’s about identifying the unwritten politics and dynamics surrounding local law. For example, how to approach a particular regulator or how to word something in a way that doesn’t upset the regulator. These nuances can’t be learned by reading a textbook, but once mastered, they can add color to your advice and seem like a local expert (even if your accent suggests otherwise).
This idea of unwritten dynamics also flows into communication. It seems obvious, but being in a new country can expose you to different accents, jargon, body language and humor, which can create challenges when communicating with colleagues and customers. I have found that it is important to observe the way people communicate and interact and adapt my own communication style to avoid conflicts or misunderstandings.
Tell us about a typical day.
I try to get online fairly early in the morning UK time so I can take advantage of the last few hours of the Australian working day and catch up with my colleagues back home. In London the working day tends to start a little later, so I usually have around an hour of quiet time in the office before people arrive. Our London office has hot desking, which means I’m often sitting next to someone New – it’s been a great way to meet people!
We have a cafeteria in our office, which means the team often goes upstairs to have lunch together. Since there are also great food options and street markets nearby, we try to organize a lunch trip to a new place every week.
In the afternoon, all my Australian team-mates are fast asleep, which means I have a few uninterrupted hours to get my work done, and of course any good day at work in London has to end with a beer in the pub (and there are plenty of those within 30 seconds approximately four). walking distance from our office)
Tell us about the cyber team and what you do?
Our team focuses on cyber preparedness, response and recovery.
The most exciting part of the job is definitely the “Response” category, that is, supporting organizations that have fallen victim to a cyber attack and accompanying all the challenges related to containing the incident, investigating what happened, managing stakeholders, etc , which deals with legal and regulatory obligations.
I’ve been fortunate to work with a variety of clients on just about every type of cyber incident you can imagine – from email phishing incidents to the misdirection of multi-million dollar funds to insider fraud threats and catastrophic ransomware attacks. In the pro bono area, I regularly help victims of cyber fraud and online crime hunt for fraudulently misdirected funds and have successfully helped individuals and organizations recover millions of dollars in recent years.
Separately, after a few years of minimal preparedness activity, over the last 12 months we have seen a sharp increase in the number of customers wanting to be better prepared for a cyberattack. It is no longer a matter of “if” a cyber event will happen, but rather “when.” With this in mind, we work with customers to reduce the severity of incidents in the event of an attack. This can include everything from developing written policies and procedures, conducting cyber incident simulations, working with in-house counsel to draft contractual and regulatory reporting requirements, and presenting the cyber ecosystem and regulatory landscape to boards and executives.
How important is it to stay connected at work?
Connection and networks are everything. Trying to balance connections between two countries can be challenging, but there are certainly ways to use connections in one place to build connections in another place.
Many of the people I met in the London legal market were introduced to me by contacts in Australia – these warm introductions have been incredibly helpful in building my profile and network in the UK.
On the other hand, telling my Australian contacts about a successful launch based on their recommendation helps keep me connected to my network back home.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the way I took advantage of the opportunities that came my way.
In my final year at university, I was offered the opportunity to complete a twelve-month secondment to an in-house legal team. I had never heard of anyone doing something like this before, but I weighed my options and took the plunge. From there I had the opportunity to move to the company headquarters in Tokyo. I had never been to Japan, didn’t speak the language, and didn’t know anyone who lived in Japan, but I set out.
Upon returning to Australia, I was presented with the opportunity to join the Clyde & Co. cyber team. Even though I didn’t really know what “cyber law” meant, I took up this offer too. And now I find myself in London.
When faced with each of these opportunities, I was terrified. Each decision represented a very different path than what I knew as “normal” – which of course triggered the fear: “What if I make the wrong decision?” In retrospect, these unconventional options represent the best decisions I have ever made; the one I’m most proud of.