Larissa Toozoff - Senior Associate at Ashurst
Larissa primarily advises on procurement and commercial contracting, focusing on construction and infrastructure projects. She also advises on general commercial law, acts as probity adviser on major commercial projects, and advises on funding grants and statutory interpretation. We spoke with Larissa to get her thoughts on a wide range of issues of relevance to our members.
Ashurst has recently been awarded the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s Employer Choice for Gender Equality. How have you been supported in the workplace as a woman lawyer?
Ashurst has a strong track record as an Employer of Choice for Workplace Gender Equality (this is our 16th year of being recognised) and has demonstrated a meaningful commitment to gender parity. One thing Ashurst is focusing heavily on is increasing the percentage of women in leadership positions and it's showing results. For example, 52% of this year's partner promotions were female and the firm is also focusing on translating those figures into female representation in equity partner levels and into senior management. I've been given very direct, meaningful support and assistance to assess and look forward to promotion and leadership opportunities within the firm. There has also been a great track record of strong female mentorship, which I've found extremely helpful in re-evaluating how I view my own place and contribution in the workplace. I think, as females, we have a tendency to underrate our own skills and getting over that and pushing ourselves forward, in spite of the imposter syndrome shadow, is so important.
What motivates you to go to work every day?
I love my clients and am fortunate to work on really interesting matters but, ultimately, it's because I adore my colleagues. I work as part of a collegiate and well bonded group and, on those days when you might otherwise struggle for motivation, the desire to support and not let those around you down you really pushes you forward. There have been offers throughout my career, but the quality of the teams I get to work with is the key reason why I stay.
What do you love most about being a Senior Associate?
As a relatively senior Senior Associate, I really enjoy the autonomy I have to work with my clients the way I consider best and with my own, individual style and to manage my matters with them. There is always an extremely strong level of support and guidance when it is required, and of course work is reviewed and cleared, but being given the freedom to flex your muscles is very enjoyable. It exhibits a level of trust that has been earned over time and that I don't take for granted.
How do you strike a balance between professional and personal work commitments? Do you believe that women lawyers can 'have it all'?
I actually don't believe that women (or men, for that matter) can "have it all" and I think that's one of the biggest and most problematic myths that has been peddled to women, in particular. Many women I know who work in senior or leadership positions seem to be able to balance everything best when they have meaningful support from their partners and families. This includes where a partner takes a step back from their own career and either takes on a primary care role with the kids or picks up the domestic slack. I think it's dangerous to tell women that they can have gangbuster careers, be everything to their kids at all times, train their dogs, help out their ageing parents and still have time for nights with their friends. In sending that message, we are setting ourselves up for failure, or feeling that we're never doing anything well enough. However, I'm delighted to see that, increasingly, couples seem to be sharing roles in less traditional ways to facilitate their individual aspirations at various times. For my part, I don't have kids and I know that takes a huge amount of pressure off me in relation to how I choose to allocate my time.
What's your favourite binge-worthy TV show / podcast at the moment?
Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a reality TV tragic and am very much enjoying the current series of Masterchef. I'll get to the Game of Thrones finale eventually (no spoilers!). I also love podcasts in the car and can't go past a good true crime series. I've recently listened to "Who the Hell is Hamish" and "Dirty John" and, like the rest of Australia, am waiting to see the outcome of the Chris Dawson prosecution in the wake of "Teacher's Pet". I've also been a listener to "This American Life" and the ABC's "Conversations" for a long while now.
What has been the most memorable feedback you have received from a client?
When clients give you feedback that you have heard their needs and delivered commercially pragmatic solutions, that is the best feedback of all. We are all expected to get the law right, but when you know that the advice you give is helpful in a very real way and reflects the commercial pressures and realities being faced by your clients, then you know you're doing something right.