We caught up with Angela Li, Solicitor with Alliance Family Law as part of our #WomenLawyersoftheACT series, to chat about the need for perspective and networking outside your practice area.
You’re a solicitor with Alliance Family Law, how long have you been there?
Ever since I started practice, about four years ago. When I started with Cristina Huesch she had started Alliance the year before in her lounge! Then about two months before I started with her she got the formal office in Deakin next to Relationships Australia. We’ve slowly grown over the years and we now have four lawyers including myself.
Have you always wanted to practice in family law?
I was working as an admin support person at Phelps Reid when I was at university. I was exposed to family law through Margaret Reid, Brooke Johnson and Annie Visser. When I graduated, family law was all I had really known and I sort of fell into it.
If you could give one piece of advice to your first-year professional self, what would it be?
That’s always really hard. I feel like what I would say to my first year self now being four years out would be different to what the future me would say to my first year self also. The main thing would be not to get too bogged down with a bad day at work, and to appreciate professional constructive criticism and not take it negatively or personally. As law students, we are always use to getting Distinctions and High Distinctions so I think there is that inherent pressure and expectation, but when you get into practice your “cohort” is different, and you should give yourself time to build that up in practice. It’s about finding the right balance and appreciating that you are still learning and that it is okay to make mistakes.
Who is a professional that you look up to and why?
Cristina, because she has been my main mentor for the past four years. I have learnt a lot from her not just how to be a good lawyer, how to deal with clients, but also the broader context like how she is as a boss, how she runs her firm, how she treats her staff. There are a lot of traits I’d like to inherit from her if one day I end up running my own firm. Cristina is really good with making sure that each employee has the space and opportunity to do what is important to them, outside of work. For example, travelling is something that is very important to me, and she gives me time off to do that, so I can come back and work well.
Do you think flexible working arrangements, whether you want to have children, or be a carer, or travel, are important in the law?
Definitely, I think that is where we are headed. As an employee, I think what is important to my employer is that I am able to be my best at work. I can only do that if I have the time to do other stuff that’s important to me outside of work. I think self-care is very important – everyone needs time to recharge, and everyone has different ways of doing that.
You are an active member on the WLA ACT Events Subcommittee, what interested you in joining WLA ACT?
When I was admitted to practice, Cristina was involved with WLA ACT at the time and suggested that I attend a meeting and see what WLA ACT do. I turned up to the AGM and joined the Events Subcommittee.
I still remember back then WLA ACT had a smaller membership base. We typically would get around 15-20 people to a mentor breakfast (one of the first events I assisted with). Now, we have 60-70 people turn up to our mentor breakfasts. The recent Judicial Mentoring Lunch sold out in 45 minutes, which I think is our quickest record so far. WLA ACT is a great way to meet other lawyers, especially as a young lawyer, if you’re not from Canberra and if you work exclusively in one area of law.