31 January 2019

Melissa Davies

Melissa Davies

Legal Counsel at Lucas Total Contract Solutions
Bachelor of Law
Bachelor of Journalism

University of South Australia Law and Journalism graduate, Melissa Davies, has been honoured with the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law In-House Lawyer of the Year in 2018 – placing her amongst the country’s top legal professionals.

2018 Women in Law Awards recognises some of the best and brightest in the profession across 20 categories for which lawyers and firms can nominate.

In-house lawyers, like Melissa, are at the forefront of a company’s day-to-day operations, influencing both legal and business decisions. This award recognises outstanding performance by a female lawyer working in-house including both corporate and public-sector lawyers.

The 27-year-old works as Legal Counsel for Lucas Total Contract Solutions, a privately owned civil construction and mining company founded over forty years ago with projects in multiple locations throughout Australia.

The company has a core commitment to support South Australia, its home state, and has been a key participant in some of the state’s landmark civil construction projects.

Weekly Women in Law Award ceremony
Image: Melissa accepting her award at the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Award ceremony

“Being an in-house lawyer at a civil construction and mining company means my day looks different every single time. Some days involve reviewing contracts, drafting joint venture agreements, negotiation of terms and conditions, resolution of disputes and preparation of board reports; yet other days I need to don my steel cap boots, throw on my high vis and walk around on site,” she says.

It’s quite a turn of events given Melissa wasn’t interested in studying law. It was only after enrolling in her Journalism degree and sitting in on a law lecture to learn about the significance of student association rules that she became hooked.

“I never thought I’d study law at university because I felt I was very different to the stereotypical law student.”

Having no links to the legal industry during her studies proved to be a challenge, which Melissa grabbed with both hands. She dedicated time to researching firms that specialised in the area of law that captivated her interest and contacted a few of the partners offering to undertake work experience for free.

One of the partners offered her the work experience opportunity which she says secured her a clerkship with MinterEllison and later lead to full time employment. Melissa stayed with MinterEllison for a couple of years before accepting the in-house role at Lucas Total Contract Solutions.

This spirit to overcome challenges has put Melissa in good stead. She was “thrown into the deep end” 12 months ago when her legal manager resigned, but after an extremely busy year Melissa is still the sole lawyer for the civil construction and mining company.

Melissa donning her high vis and hard hat on site at Lucas Total Contract Solutions
Image: Melissa donning her high vis and hard hat on site at Lucas Total Contract Solutions

Throughout that period, she reviewed more than 200 contracts, increased monetary thresholds for purchase orders, created a joint-venture with an Indigenous corporation, settled four major disputes before reaching litigation, implemented new processes business-wide, and created subcontract templates. So, it’s easy to see how she stood out among the nine nominees.

Melissa is most proud of this professional achievement and wants other graduates to achieve the same success. Her advice – work hard.

“The first two years at uni is hard, don’t quit during this time. The first couple of years after graduating is hard, with long hours and being in an environment where you’ll know the least and feel disposable, again, don’t quit!”

“I promise it gets better. From my experience, after two years of full time work is when the magic happens. “Seek out mentors and network with people of all different ages. I am lucky to have had some great mentors along my journey. I still catch up with two of them monthly for an early breakfast before work. “It is incredibly rewarding to seek objective advice and support from people who have walked in your shoes before. It’s never too early to look for a mentor. Join a mentoring program or ask someone for their time. You won’t regret it.”

If you graduated in the last three years, you can still tap into the advice of a mentor through the Business Career Mentor Program and the Executive Partners Program. Alternatively if you would be interested in sharing your experience with current students as a mentor, please contact the Business Careers team at businessalumni@unisa.edu.au

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