WLA ACT recently sat down with Angie Freeman, Partner of Clayton Utz Canberra as part of the #WomenLawyersoftheACT series to pick her brain about her career.
You have recently been made a partner at Clayton Utz, what has been the biggest change in being a partner as opposed to being a special counsel?
The biggest change for me has been probably been the daily focus shifting from 'doing the work', to taking on that leadership/managerial and supervisory role in our team and being actively involved in what’s going on more broadly in the firm, which I have really enjoyed.
You have two small children, a two year old and a four year old, how do you manage being a partner at a top tier law firm with that responsibility?
I manage it by having a good support network in place. I have a very supportive husband who, between us, takes the primary carer role. We also have childcare arrangements in place which the kids really enjoy going to and works well for us. It is also having a really good support network internally, within the firm and within my team. My colleagues help support me in being able to work flexibly when I need to and greatly assist in ensuring that I can appropriately balance my personal responsibilities as well as the needs of our clients and the team.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career?
The most challenging time in my career so far was the first three months after I returned from maternity leave after having my first child. It was really challenging for a wide range of reasons. I had to transition to a different way of working and it takes time to find the way that works best for you in balancing your career and family. The other challenge that I have found is that on occasions the generalisation is still made that as I am the female, the primary carer role must sit with me. You need to look at each person's situation as a family unit. Everyone has different circumstances and everyone has different arrangements that work for that family unit. I think that’s how we all need to look at it.
What has been the biggest highlight of your career?
Joining Clayton Utz as a partner in their Canberra office. It is a great privilege to be in that position.
Do you have any advice for women aiming for partner?
Whether you are aiming for partner or aiming for something else in your career, I think you should always communicate what it is that you want to do and what your goals are. Inevitably you hear experiences of other women that are not so positive, where they have found progressing their careers really challenging for whatever reason. Yes, those stories are relevant and that’s what we really want to fix for the future, but you shouldn't let that have too much influence over what your particular path is because it doesn’t have to be your story. I think it is really important to stay positive about what it is that you want to achieve, whether that’s to become a partner or take another step in your career. Drive your own path and find those great sponsors and mentors, within and outside of your own workplace, that can help you achieve your goals.
We had a mentor breakfast recently with Associate Justice McWilliam of the ACT Supreme Court and she was saying there is no perfect mentor, but a number of them, has that been your experience?
I have been very fortunate in that I have an incredible mentor, Debra Tippett, a fellow partner at Clayton Utz, who has been my mentor at all stages of my career (and just quietly, I think she ticks all the boxes)! But I do agree that it is important to look for mentors in all areas of your life. There are valuable things that you can learn from different people, be it a client, a friend, a family member. I think it's important to keep your mind open to getting those great snippets of advice.