An Interview with Samy Mansour: Corporate M&A Lawyer and Crescent Champions Club Mentor
How and why did you become involved with the Crescent Champions Club?
Well, the ‘how’ involves a bit of history – a friend of mine happens to be the CEO and Managing Director of the Crescent Foundation. We went to law school together. I knew of his background, he knew of my background, we were fairly good mates, and he said, “Hey listen, would you consider being part of the Crescent Champions Club? These are the people involved.”
The ‘why’ was even simpler. I wanted to get into law because I wanted to have an impact, and a big part of that is contributing to the lives of others – particularly people who might not have had the opportunities I have had throughout my life and my career. I think you’d be pretty hard pressed to find a group of people who have it tougher in this country because they are so marginalised. In that sense, it was a no-brainer.
What is your favourite part of being a mentor?
It’s adding value to that person’s professional life. I’m a beneficiary of people mentoring me, and I’ve had that from all sorts of different folk – from other partners that I used to work for, to other lawyers that I used to work with, through to my own personal life where a number of people have selflessly just taken an interest in me. So that’s where my interest is – helping them achieve what they want to achieve.
Did you always want to work in your industry? When did you decide on your chosen career and why?
People had said to me all my life – and this is very unfortunate – “You argue really well, maybe you should become a lawyer.” That isn’t a great reason to become a lawyer. But it was towards the end of high school that I thought, “Ok, I think I have the ability to do study law, and I have the interest to do it.”
As for corporate law, I never wanted to do corporate law – at least, in the beginning. I wanted to be a litigator and go to court. Until I started doing it, and then I realised I appreciated corporate law because you get to build relationships and you help build companies and build opportunities for people to grow their businesses with what you do. So I ended up in corporate law because of that.
Can you tell us something that surprised you about working with young people from refugee backgrounds?
I think the high level of awareness that refugees have where they are in a new country and with very few resources. Especially the younger folk – they seem very aware of where they can get information and piece it all together, and I didn’t really expect that. I would have thought that refugees would struggle even more so – and there’s still a gap, don’t get me wrong – because there are challenges with getting information, connecting with people, and understanding how this new society – this new culture – works for them. But they’re really adaptable.
Do you think it’s easier for people from diverse backgrounds to attain leadership positions in Australia than it was 10 or 20 years ago?
Yes, absolutely. I think there’s a greater acceptance of the benefits of having people of different backgrounds in leadership positions, and in the workplace more generally. It’s a real driver behind innovation too. Another part of that is that leadership has to reflect the people you are serving, and the people we are serving, even in the law, look different than they did 10 or 20 years ago in terms of a diversity of backgrounds.
What recent trends or developments have you seen in your field or in Australian society in general that excite you?
A real commitment to generous giving in whatever form that might be. It might be time – as in mentoring – it might be in money or in-kind support or pro bono work. For example, a big part of what we do in my firm is pro bono. It’s an expected part of what we do as lawyers, it’s an entrenched part of our KPIs, and it presents a diverse range of opportunities, from victim compensation cases, to pro bono contractual advice, to employment advice.
Are there any trends that concern you?
COVID reminds us of two things – it reminds us that we are better together, and that pastoral care and caring for other people is difficult to do remotely. Nothing beats eyeballing someone and saying, “How are you really going? How can I help you and what are your needs?” It’s a little bit more artificial and stilted if you’re on a call or on Zoom. You’re less likely to get a fulsome, answer from people – and it’s harder to serve them in a practical way if you do that just remotely.
What’s a dying art or skill that you think every young person should have?
Being able to communicate their views clearly, and to negotiate and articulate what they want face-to-face. More and more young people are more likely to put something in an email or on a website or social media but are less likely to pick up the phone or meet someone face-to-face. I think that’s a dying art, where you can articulate what you’re trying to communicate, you can negotiate a particular position and persuade someone to consider a particular view or perspective.
What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
That it’s great to be right, but it’s more important to be helpful. I’d say it to my younger self, and I say it to myself now. We like to argue a point and we like to make sure that we’re right and accurate and all the rest of it. What’s more helpful is when you approach something with an attitude of trying to be helpful. Trying to be right every time can produce some really perverse outcomes that can turn people off, but trying to be helpful facilitates relationships, it builds trust, and it actually might achieve the goals that people are trying to achieve, rather than pushing a particular position just because you think you’re right.