It’s my favourite time in my blog schedule when I shine a light on my incredible clients by way of my The Proust Questionnaire feature. Today we have fabulous Gemma Nugent from Sound Legal. Gemma is a lawyer who specialises in plain English contracts for the construction industry and also loves to go off grid with her family. She has an incredible story – see for yourself!


The Proust Questionnaire by Gemma Nugent 


What’s your idea of perfect happiness?

Happiness has become such a fraught concept. Sometimes thinking about happiness makes me feel anxious, which seems counterproductive. So, lately, I’ve been trying to find happiness in the everyday – like when my kids ask me to read them a book, or we see a beautiful cloud formation on the way home from school, or they want to cuddle up to me on the couch.


But as for perfect happiness? I think that would be hanging out with my husband and 3 kids, in our caravan off the beaten track somewhere on the vast coastline of WA. Exploring WA’s natural wonders together has brought us great joy. A late afternoon swim and then a campfire dinner on a beautiful, remote beach is the best time for all of us.


What is your greatest extravagance?

A caravan! I still can’t believe the colossal sum we’ve spent on a glorified aluminium box on wheels. On the other hand though – we’ve used it so much, I think we’ve almost come to think of it as an essential part of our lifestyle rather than an extravagance.


Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

I’m prone to filling pauses or nervous moments with “you know”. Even if it is impossible for the other person to know. But… when you know, you know, am I right?


What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Apologies for this descent into cliché, but it’s being a mum, and keeping my 3 kids and 2 stepkids alive and reasonably happy (and my sanity intact). My kids’ day to day activities make me burst with pride every day, and I suppose that’s what makes motherhood feel like “achievement”. That said, having started my own business comes a close second. I feel proud of that too – that I get to serve clients I like, doing work I and they value, in the hours I choose. It’s a great use of all the skills I’ve acquired over the years.


What is your most treasured possession and why?

Not long before I became pregnant with my oldest child, my husband and I went to Broome for a few days. It was January, which is the wet season in the Kimberley. The air was heavy and humid. We relaxed against the low rumble of rolling thunder.


We drove out to the Willie Creek Pearl Farm one day, along a pindan backroad. By the time we arrived, you could barely see our white hire car under a thick layer of rich red mud. There was a boat tour down the slowly moving creek, and I remember the guide pointing out the resident crocodile lurking in the mangroves.


I’ve always loved Broome pearls, for their creamy lustre and their association with a place I adore. That day at the Willie Creek gift shop, I admired a simple pearl and white gold ring. Unbeknownst to me, my (now) husband took a photo of it and kept it on his phone.


A couple of years later, with one child born and another on his way, my husband tracked down that beautiful ring and presented it to me when he proposed. I’d never thought either of us romantic, and truth be told we were having an argument about a parking spot in the moments before the big question. Of course, I said yes… It is a very special memory.


So, I am deeply sentimental about my engagement ring. It reminds me of Broome, the ocean and a special time with my husband.


What is your most marked characteristic?

I’m endlessly optimistic and practical, which sometimes feels like an unusual combination. I’m not optimistic in a relentlessly perky or annoying way. But I can see the positives and a way forward in any situation. It makes challenging problems feel solvable.


Who is your hero of fiction?

This is the toughest question! There are so many. If I narrowed it down to two I’d say Thomas Cromwell (the fictional version anyway) in Wolf Hall and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. I like that both are clever and witty, and they work with what they have to live a life of purpose and to make change in their lives and the lives of those around them.


Who are your heroes in real life?

Reflecting on this, I’ve realised that most of my real-life heroes are women who’ve become respected leaders in male-dominated industries. Some that come to mind are Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stella Franklin, Julie Bishop, Julia Gillard, Helen Garner, Temple Grandin, Hillary Clinton, Ita Buttrose and Jacinda Ardern.


What is your motto?

“I can do hard things”. This saying helps me overcome wobbles in confidence, and to reframe stress about anything and everything, almost every day of my life. Also “How hard can it be”. Mind you this one has led me into a few sticky spots 😂


What is your story? aka your name, bio and biz details including the best place to find you. 

I am Gemma Nugent, and I’m a specialist construction, engineering and consulting contract lawyer. Through my legal practice  SoundLegal I help construction, engineering and consulting businesses create and negotiate clear, plain English contracts so they can achieve great project outcomes and foster strong relationships with their commercial partners. I share a lot of my thoughts about contracts, negotiation and risk on LinkedIn and on my blog.


I love shining the spotlight on some of my clients and colleagues. If you’d like to know more about my work, or would like the full 35 questions from the Questionnaire, please shoot me an email or give me a buzz, and I’ll respond in a jiffy. 

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