More than one barrier: Your role in Promoting Gender and Cultural Diversity in the Law
Tuesday 19 March 2019
Monster, Ovolo Nishi
Women Lawyers Association of the ACT and Hall and Wilcox were delighted to hear from a sensational panel of women lawyers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds on Tuesday 19 March 2019 at Ovolo Nishi.
The panellist shared moving stories about how their accent, gender, socio-economic status, religion and more have presented as barriers towards their career progression in the legal industry. But also more importantly, we have gained insightful tips on how we, men and women can all contribute towards removing these barriers for women and CALD women. Amongst those tips shared were:
1) Pick your battles and speak up –engage in discussions amongst your advocates first to test your arguments.
2) Be both a mentee and a mentor – you can be a trusted advisor regardless of age or seniority in the workplace; and
3) Follow your heart – find a job that makes you happy.
In light of the recent atrocities in New Zealand, we were reminded to look out for our neighbours, both literal and figurative, and offer solidarity to our Muslim communities, through the horror and bewilderment.
Thank you again to our wonderful sponsors Hall and Wilcox for supporting the event.
On the Basis of Sex Screening
Thursday 7 February 2019
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had an exceptional and inspiring career from her role as an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights to the present as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Last year’s WLA special event screening of the RBG documentary was a big hit with our members and guests and it was wonderful to be able to follow this up with a screening of the new release movie On the Basis of Sex based on the true story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
On the Basis of Sex tells the inspiring and spirited true story of the origins of young lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she teams up with with her husband Marty to bring a ground-breaking case before the U.S Court of Appeals and overturn a century of gender discrimination. Our WLA members and guests enjoyed the movie over a glass of wine, popcorn and an icecream.
A big thank you to all our attendees and to Maddocks for their generous sponsorship of this event.
End of Year Drinks
Thursday 6 December 2018
WLA ACT hosted its annual End of Year Drinks on Thursday 6 December at the delightfully secluded bar, Molly.
Members and guests from across the ACT legal community gathered at Molly to celebrate the end of the year and the start of the holiday season.
WLA ACT hosted the intimate event to thank its members for their continued support throughout the year, and the celebrate the wind down to the holiday break. Members had a great time mingling and sharing laughs, with everyone enjoying the early Christmas cheer.
Thank you to all of our guests, and our wider membership base. We look forward to continuing to work with you to further the interests of women lawyers in the new year!
An Evening with Justice Loukas-Karlsson
Wednesday 21 November 2018
On Wednesday 21 November 2018, WLA ACT had the privilege of hosting an evening with Justice Loukas-Karlsson at Makeshift in New Acton.
Our members and their guests enjoyed a glass of wine, engaged with colleagues, and sat together to listen to the seven vinaigrettes of Her Honour’s life and career, and the “byline” of advice she had found from those moments in time. These moments were fascinating as they were humorous and spanned the diverse and inspiring career of newest appointment to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory.
It was refreshing to hear from a fellow passionate advocate, activist and mother, juggling to be the best woman she could be. Justice Loukas-Karlsson spoke passionately about the “imposter syndrome” that so often infiltrates the minds of hard working and dedicated women.
Makeshift was a wonderful venue that accommodated the breadth of the legal fraternity who turned out to listen to Justice Loukas-Karlsson. As always, our WLA ACT events are child friendly, and we encourage and look forward to our members bringing their children.
MLC Advice Parental Leave Preparation Seminar
13 September 2018
On 13 September 2018, Michael Miller, from MLC Advice Canberra, shared valuable advice with our members on parental leave preparation.
Michael provided an overview of a number of the ‘tools’ for parental leave planning.
Michael discussed a number of elements on parental leave preparation, including:
Government parental leave pay (including keeping in touch days, eligibility and case studies)
Dad and partner pay
FTB Part A and FTB Part B (including payment rates and eligibility tests)
The benefits of taking leave at half pay and purchasing extra annual leave
Tax and superannuation contributions
Different means of funding your child’s education, and
The importance of good insurance.
We are grateful that the information from Michael’s seminar will help to assist with advance preparation for one of life’s biggest financial challenges.
We would like to thank the Law Society for providing the venue for this event.
Michael Miller is a longstanding sponsor of the ACT Women Lawyers Association. We are grateful for his generous sponsorship and ongoing support.
Judicial Mentoring Lunch
18 September 2018
King & Wood Mallesons
On Tuesday 18 September the Women Lawyers Association of the ACT held its third annual Judicial Mentoring Lunch, which was again a sold-out event.
We were joined by Chief Justice Murrell, Justice Loukas-Karlsson and Associate Justice McWilliam of the ACT Supreme Court, Chief Magistrate Walker and Special Magistrate Hunter of the ACT Magistrates Court, Judge Hughes of the Federal Circuit Court and Presidential Member Daniel of ACAT, who all shared their valuable experiences with our members about their respective journey to the Bench.
The esteemed judicial officers emphasised how honoured they felt to be role models to others and of the importance for female lawyers to support one another regardless of career stages.
Feedback from those who attended the event mentioned how incredibly personable the judicial officers were and how the experience has humanised these women in judicial robes - where typically members only conversed with judicial officers at the bar table. It was a great opportunity to simply chat and gain insights into the realities of balancing career and family, of being an ambitious woman in a leadership role and more.
We are grateful for the stories, experiences and advice shared by all of our honourable guests and excited to see our members be inspired and encouraged to take their next steps towards the Bench.
We would like to thank King & Wood Mallesons for generously sponsoring and hosting this spectacular event.
Partners Mentoring Lunch
3 September 2018
On Monday 3 September WLA ACT held its second ‘Partners Mentoring Lunch’ at Clayton Utz. The aim of this event was to provide our members with an opportunity to network with women partners in Canberra, and to have informal discussions about their experiences and their ‘path to partnership’.
Research shows that there is a significant gender gap in the legal profession in the most senior levels. Women still form less than 25% of the partners despite a greater proportion of women now graduating with law degrees.
Feedback from those who attended the event included that they appreciated the opportunity to meet with partners from a range of practicing areas and backgrounds to talk about their progression and varied experiences of the path to partnership. Attendees were interested in tips and insights into the challenges faced by partners throughout their careers, and how they manage flexible working and other work/life balance scenarios.
Attendees also enjoyed the opportunity to meet with other women lawyers interested in this path to progression and share their experiences to-date in a relaxed atmosphere over lunch.
We would like to thank the following partners for their generosity:
Danielle Mildren, Clayton Utz
Caroline Bush, Clayton Utz
Deborah Rolfe AM, MEJ
Pria O’Sullivan, Maddocks
Caroline Atkins, Maddocks
Amanda Story, Minters
Alison Osmand, DDCS Lawyers
Cristina Huesch, Alliance Family Law
Shelley Mulherin, McInnes Wilson
Christine Murray, Meyer Vandenberg
Melanie McKean, Ashurst
Annabel Griffin, KWM
We would also like to extend a very special thank you to Clayton Utz who kindly sponsored this event - including providing a delicious lunch!
31 July 2018
With the support of Maddocks, the Women Lawyers Association of the ACT presented a special event screening of RBG in July 2018.
RBG is a revelatory documentary (view trailer) exploring the exceptional life of U.S Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Serving on the Supreme Court for 25 years, Justice Ginsburg has developed a breathtaking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon.
With popcorn, wine and ice cream as accompaniments, attendees thoroughly enjoyed learning about Justice Ginsburg’s personal journey on the big screen.
WLA ACT is grateful for Maddocks for their sponsorship of this event.
Mentor Breakfast with Emeritus Professor Robin Creyke AO
17 July 2018
The Women Lawyers Association was proud to host a Mentor Breakfast on 17 July 2018 with special guest, Emeritus Professor Robin Creyke AO.
Attendees were privileged to hear Professor Creyke’s insights into being a woman lawyer in a male dominated industry. Despite the many challenges that she has faced throughout her career, she has achieved wonderful success including within the private and government sector. Professor Creyke reflected on the lessons she has learnt throughout her career and attendees were grateful to hear her insights.
Professor Creyke remarked on the importance of knowing what areas of practice in the law will suit you as an individual, and also knowing oneself when making decisions regarding your career.
Attendees were reminded of the importance of building a profile for yourself: differentiate yourself; become an expert on one key issue or topic; be the “go-to” person on that issue; specialise within your chosen field.
Professor Creyke commented on the importance of building collegial relationships with your colleagues, in particular to find mentors. It is critical to identify people that listen, engage, and share their own knowledge and insights. They are the sort of people you should surround yourself with in the workplace and community.
A founder of Legal Aid ACT, Professor Creyke has given her time generously over the years to volunteer organisations, and encouraged those endeavors to attendees. Volunteer work will not only improve your desirability to employers, more importantly it expands your experience and is an opportunity to a contribution to the community.
Thank you to all of our members and guests for attending, and to Professor Creyke for generously sharing her time and wisdom.
Chief Counsel Q & A
20 June 2018
WLA ACT was pleased to host our Chief Counsel panel event at Clayton Utz on Wednesday 20 June 2018.
We were privileged to host three Chief Counsel:
Annette Musolino – Chief Counsel, Department of Human Services.
Elizabeth Carroll – Chief Counsel, IP Australia.
Jackie Davis – General Counsel, Department of Health.
All three speakers generously shared insights on their path to Chief Counsel, flexible work and advice they’d give their younger selves.
The panel were testament to the fact that there is no one pathway to leadership in the legal profession, with all three women having varied and interesting careers on their way to becoming Chief Counsel.
Our speakers advised not to be afraid to give things a go, and to take risks and take the opportunities when they arise. In sharing their experiences, they encouraged the audience to not feel like you have to have someone else’s career, nor to feel like you need to lead how other people lead. ‘Do what you love, and follow your heart and interests.’
Some of the most insightful advice came when our panel talked about the importance of being authentic and not feeling like you have to fit the mould: ‘The authenticity resonates with others, and empowers others to bring their whole selves to the work place’.
Our panel also acknowledged the value of mentors, particularly peer mentors, and explained the benefit of having people to call and discuss tough decisions.
We extend our thanks to all those who attended, and particularly to our panel who all generously gave up their time to impart their wisdom.
WLA ACT is grateful for Clayton Utz for their sponsorship of this event, and for their ongoing support of WLA ACT and women lawyers in the ACT legal community.
Come to the Bar
6 June 2018
On 6 June 2018, WLA ACT, in conjunction with the ACT Bar Association, held its second annual Come to the Bar information evening.
The event gave attendees an opportunity to hear from current and former barristers and ask frank questions about the realities of life at the bar.
Attendees heard from Chief Justice Helen Murrell and Justice Loukas-Karlsson of the ACT Supreme Court, Ken Archer from the ACT Bar Association and barrister Seyi Onitiri, before a number of currently practising women barristers shared their experiences and took questions.
Chief Justice Murrell’s key piece of advice for anyone wanting to join the bar was not to wait until the time is right, as there is no right time! Chief Justice Murrell pointed out that there will always be obstacles irrespective of what stage of life you’re at, so you may as well take the leap now. Her Honour also stressed the importance of having confidence in yourself, and building good support networks (like the Women Lawyers Association!).
Justice Loukas-Karlsson shared her experiences of being a Legal Aid lawyer and how she realised she was ready to join the bar when she knew she could do a better job than the barrister she was briefing. On the issue of achieving work-life balance at the bar, Justice Loukas-Karlsson spoke on the importance of gender equality not only in the workplace, but also at home, particularly in the division of duties. In other words, your partner needs to be supportive.
Ken Archer, President of the ACT Bar Association, and barrister Seyi Onitiri, spoke on the practicalities of life at the bar – what it’s like to do the readers course, how much you can expect to earn as a barrister in the ACT, how to rent a room in chambers. As the dad of two young children, Seyi offered advice on managing work-life balance.
WLA ACT would like to thank barristers Katrina Musgrove, Beth Morrisroe, Kristy Katavic, Juliet Behrens and Merrilyn Davis for sharing their experiences.
The event was sponsored by Key Chambers. WLA ACT would like to thank Prue Bindon for organising this event and Key Chambers for their generous sponsorship and use of their venue.
International Women’s Day Press for Progress Panel
14 March 2018
On 14 March 2018 WLA ACT held a panel event with Prue Bindon, Barrister of Key Chambers, Jennifer Wyborn, Partner at Clayton Utz, and Simone Ey, a human resources professional and Managing Director of Citron Consultng. The panel explored what the #MeToo Movement means for legal practice and legal workplaces.
The panelists discussed the meaning of sexual harassment and emphasised that an act can be sexual harassment even if the perpetrator would not consider it to be so - it is more important to examine how the receiving person perceived the conduct. The panelists emphasised the need for further training and education on sexual harassment and noted that the lack of reporting of incidences of sexual harassment is a huge issue.
Some general advice to employers from the panel is to:
understand that sexual harassment is a bad thing and a big issue,
have a policy in place to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace,
have regular training on sexual harassment and the associated policies, and
make sure the organisation and its leaders act in line with its policies, including to build trust with employees and make available more access to complaint avenues.
The #MeToo movement has generated much discussion about this issue and the panelists encouraged us all to continue having a conversation about it and to take action.
WLA ACT extends its thanks to Prue, Jennifer, and Simone for taking the time to share their experience and views. We would also like to thank Clayton Utz for their generosity in hosting this event.
13 February 2018
On Tuesday 13 February WLA ACT hosted its first event of 2018, a Mentor Breakfast with guest speaker the Honourable Associate Justice Verity McWilliam at Hotel Hotel in New Acton.
Associate Justice McWilliam was sworn in as the Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the ACT in June 2017. Prior to her appointment, Associate Justice McWilliam was a solicitor at PwC and the Crown Solicitor’s Office of NSW before being called to the NSW bar and practising in the areas of commercial/equity, criminal, employment, environment/planning, public and torts law.
Around 60 attendees heard the Associate Justice speak about everything from her personal quest for the perfect mentor (there isn't one perfect mentor, but rather many less than perfect ones) to work life balance. Her Honour emphasised the importance of a five year plan, saying no to unnecessary work dinners, and reflected on the challenges of being a woman at the Bar. The Associate Justice also mentioned that one of her first steps upon moving to the ACT was to join the Women Lawyers Association of the ACT.
Women Lawyers Association of the ACT would like to extend its thanks to Hotel Hotel for their assistance in organising and running the event, and to Associate Justice McWilliam taking the time out of her busy schedule to speak to our members and for her warm, frank and engaging speech.
Be sure to check out the photos on our Facebook page from the event.
Christmas Member Drinks
30 November 2017
WLA ACT held its inaugural Christmas Member Drinks on 30 November 2017. Christmas cheer began early for members of the WLA ACT.
Over 60 members, law students and solicitors alike gathered at The Highball Express for some drinks to celebrate the end of the year and holiday season.
WLA ACT hosted the intimate event to thank its members for their continued support. Members had a great time mingling and sharing laughs. We have it on good authority that rosé is the tipple of choice for WLA ACT members!
MLC Advice Seminar - How to Buy your First Home
8 November 2017
Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers
On 8 November, Michael Miller, a financial planner with MLC Advice Canberra, shared valuable advice with our members on how to buy your first home – and then pay that loan off!
Michael began at the very first step to owning your own home: how to save for a deposit. He warned against ‘lifestyle creep’ – increasing your spending whenever your salary increases. But he also stressed the importance of deciding for yourself what purchases are absolutely essential, which might include that daily takeaway coffee!
Joining Michael were Andrew and Megan from Clear Cut Finance. As well as providing insight into the role of a mortgage broker, Andrew and Megan shared with members the A-Z of mortgages. From stamp duty and the first home owner grant to the difference between offset and redraw accounts, Andrew and Megan provided a wealth of information giving members much to consider.
We would like to thank Meyer Vandenberg for hosting this event.
Michael Miller is a longstanding sponsor of the Women Lawyers Association. We are grateful for his generous sponsorship and ongoing support.
Mentor Breakfast with the Hon. Linda Burney MP
20 October 2017
Old Parliament House
On 20 October 2017, Hon Linda Burney MP, the first aboriginal woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, shared her experience at the Old Parliament House.
Ms Burney began her speech by explaining to us of the significance of ‘Welcome to and Acknowledgement of Country’, a tradition that spans over thousands years and a show of respect for the traditional owners of the land.
Ms Burney spoke passionately about her role as MP. For Ms Burney, the theatrics that we see in Question Time was no more than theatre and her real interests lay in representing the members of her electorate. She sees herself as no different to any other person in public with the usual challenges of day to day life.
Ms Burney spoke passionately about kindness and compassion towards those less fortunate. She spoke against demonising those on social security benefits and encouraged understanding that we are alike in terms of our needs as individuals.
WLA ACT would like to extend a warm thank you to Ms Burney for taking the time to share her experience and her insights.
We thank Maddocks for sponsoring this mentor breakfast with Ms Burney and their ongoing support of WLA ACT.
Mentor Breakfast with Jennifer Wyborn
5 September 2017
On 5 September 2017, Jennifer Wyborn, Partner at Clayton Utz, shared advice with WLA ACT guests over breakfast, addressing the topic ‘The Illusion of Perfection’.
Jennifer is Canberra born and bred and has extensive experience as a Commonwealth Prosecutor, Judge's Associate, in house government lawyer and in private practice.
Jennifer has had a fascinating career and is currently heading up the Workplace Relations, Employment and Safety Team at Clayton Utz, Canberra. Jennifer spoke to her impressive career and personal challenges in a very thoughtful talk.
Jennifer encouraged everyone to find joy and not chase perfection, which, in reality, does not exist. She noted, even if perfection is reached, it is only fleeting. Jennifer highlighted the importance of identifying core values, through which joy can be found. Her reflections on her core values of access to justice, fairness and equality provided useful insight and inspiration for all those attending.
Jennifer challenged guests to kick out the toxic in their lives and to not be afraid of asking questions or requesting help. She let everyone know that it is okay not to have a plan, and while life may bring its challenges – it will be alright because you can always get up again.
WLA ACT extends its thanks to Jennifer for taking the time to share her experiences and advice.
Mothers Uplift Movement Workshop
23 August 2017
ACT Law Society
On 23 August 2017, WLA ACT in conjunction with Mother’s Uplift Movement (MUM) held a workshop for our members to share their experiences and tips as working mums in the legal profession.
Our guest speakers for this event were:
Prue Bindon, Barrister, Blackburn Chambers, and President of WLA ACT
Margaret Tregurtha, General Counsel, Department of Environment and Energy
Lindsay Reid, Teacher at Daramalan College and formerly a Senior Associate at King & Wood Mallesons
Our guest speakers shared the following advice:
Do things that are important to you and your identity.
Make sure you have time blocked out for yourself.
Learn to let go about things like household chores (if they’re not done the way you’d like them).
Have conversations with your partner about sharing tasks.
Think about implementing new systems, for example, designate a day each week that would be your ‘free’ day.
Rely on external sources, for example, family, get a cleaner, get an au pair.
Believe in your job.
Thank you to Liz Huang Hughes-Brown and Alicia Prest from MUM for facilitating this event. Liz and Alicia are also mums working in the law. Please feel free to email Liz or Alicia at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to join MUM’s mailing list.
Thank you also to Jindii EcoSpa for their generous sponsorship, who provided each seminar attendee with a voucher for a complimentary 20-minute massage or facial (valued at $40). We take this opportunity to remind attendees that the vouchers can be redeemed by itself or used towards the cost of any other treatments on Jindii’s service menu by 4 October 2017. Jindii EcoSpa is located at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
Judicial Mentoring Lunch
16 August 2017
King & Wood Mallesons
WLA held its annual Judicial Mentoring Lunch on Wednesday 16 August 2017 at King & Wood Mallesons. The Judicial Mentoring Lunch was a resounding success once again, as indicated by the tickets selling out in only two hours.
This event was a wonderful opportunity to meet and network with current and former female judges and tribunal members. Ten members of the judiciary provided their frank insight and wisdom into a variety of issues, such as common misconceptions about women on the bench, the struggle of deciding whether to specialise or gain broad legal experience, the importance of mentorship and insight into being a more effective advocate.
We would like to thank the following guests of honour for giving up their time to join us:
The Honourable Justice Helen Murrell, Chief Justice of the ACT Supreme Court
The Honourable Justice Hilary Penfold PSM, ACT Supreme Court
The Honourable Associate Justice Verity McWilliam, ACT Supreme Court
Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker, ACT Magistrates Court
Magistrate Bernadette Boss, ACT Magistrates Court
Special Magistrate Margaret Hunter OAM, ACT Magistrates Court
Judge Kate Hughes, Federal Circuit Court of Australia
Judge Amanda Tonkin, Federal Circuit Court of Australia
Presidential Member Mary-Therese Daniel, ACAT
Former General President Linda Crebbin, ACAT
WLA would also like to thank King & Wood Mallesons for their generosity in hosting this event (including the provision of a delicious lunch).
Come to the Bar Information Evening
7 June 2017
In June, WLA ACT in conjunction with the ACT Bar Association held a ‘Come to the Bar’ information evening.
The aim of the event was to provide members with an opportunity to hear from current practising barristers and their path to the bar (including hints and tips on how to pass the very onerous NSW bar exams) and an introduction to other support that is important to practising as a barrister.
Our panel of speakers provided the following take home tips:
Chief Justice Helen Murrell: If you’re thinking about going to the bar, you should ask yourself: a) do you love being an advocate? b) are you prepared to tough it out? If your answer to both questions is ‘yes’, then you should take the risk!
Justice Hilary Penfold: You are better than you think. Always keep this in mind.
Ken Archer, President of the ACT Bar Association: there are lots of practical things you should be aware of (how much you’ll be earning, how much your overheads will be), and you should never be afraid to ask other barristers for advice.
Charlotte Jeggo of BarBooks: BarBooks is a computer software that will manage your accounting and the business side of your practice. Speak to Charlotte about how to use technology as part of your practice so you don’t need to worry about generating invoices, paying BAS etc.
Jacqueline Jago of Bloom Coaching: Jacqueline is in the process of developing a Women Barristers Colloquium – a forum for women barristers to get together and learn from each other.
WLA ACT would like to thank all of our speakers and Blackburn Chambers for the use of their venue.
ACT Law Week Dinner with Clementine Ford
17 May 2017
The Deck at Regatta Point
The Women Lawyers Association of the ACT was proud to host the Annual Law Week Dinner, with special guest, Clementine Ford. The Law Week Dinner was a unique opportunity for WLA ACT members and friends to meet and enjoy a special evening together.
Clementine Ford is a writer, social commentator and public speaker based in Melbourne, Australia. As a weekly columnist for Fairfax's Daily Life, she has been unrelenting in her quest to bring topics like rape culture, slut shaming and the misogyny of patriarchal order into the mainstream. Her talk was on the night was hard hitting, drawing on the personal experiences of herself and her colleagues to highlight and condemn the ongoing inappropriate sexist behavior in the workplace. Attendees both laughed and shook their heads in unison as Ms Ford retailed her stories with her usual humour and sharp wit.
National Law Week is an annual event held in May across Australia. Law Week’s goal is to promote public understanding of the law and its role in society. The theme of Law Week for 2017 is “Law and Justice in Your Community”.
Locally, Law Week seeks to raise donations for a Canberra charity. In 2017, ACT Law Week supported the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre (AILC). The AILC is Australia’s only national provider of accredited Indigenous leadership education programs. Since their establishment in 2001, they have transformed the lives of more than 2000 graduates. The AILC is owned and controlled by Indigenous Australians. Law Week events are developed to include people from diverse backgrounds, organisations and perspectives.
The Law Week dinner was a huge success, with tickets selling out well in advance of the event. Book early next year to avoid disappointment. WLA ACT is grateful for the generous support of Maurice Blackburn.
Voice Coach Workshop with Lucy Cornell
6 May 2017
ACT Supreme Court
On 6 May 2017 members attended a voice coach workshop with Lucy Cornell at the ACT Supreme Court. Lucy has over 10 years of working in court rooms, as well as in the boardrooms she visits, and her Lucy’s experience is that women are still battling to have their voice heard. Male modes of communication still dominate and male voices are still favoured.
Lucy worked with participants to help them understand what compromises impact in court or in meetings, helped participants with specific techniques to address these issues, and attuned them to the ways that spoken advocacy depends on more than the words alone.
We would like to thank Chief Justice Murrell for introducing the event.
General Counsel Q&A
3 May 2017
On 3 May 2017, the WLA ACT hosted the inaugural General Counsel Q&A. The General Counsel Q&A gave attendees an opportunity to hear from, and ask questions of, three women General Counsel regarding their experiences in the legal profession, career choices, and path to leadership.
Thank you to our panelists:
Alice Linacre - General Counsel, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources,
Alison Pratt - General Counsel, Icon Water, and
Sue Bird - Chief Counsel, National Manager Legal, Australian Federal Police.
The panelists spoke on the importance of mentoring, the difference between working in house, in government and in private practice, and shared tips on career progression – including a valuable tip to get breadth of knowledge early in your career and being prepared to move sideways, not just up!
We would like to extend our thanks to Clayton Utz for proudly sponsoring this event.
Speak up: How To Lead When It Matters Most
11 April 2017
ACT Law Society
On 11 April 2017, WLA hosted a seminar by Zoë Routh titled Speak Up: How to Lead when it Matters Most.
Throughout the seminar, Zoë engaged the audience with scenarios and questions, putting everyone instantly at ease. Zoë analogised speaking up to the feeling of abseiling - slightly terrifying daunting and needing to rely on oneself. Zoe identified a number of factors driving our behaviour and, in particular, how the digital era of interconnectedness affects how we can effectively speak up.
Zoë noted a few of the key mistakes to speaking up, including: using authority as influence, speaking with charisma but lacking depth, and defaulting to expertise.
To speak up effectively, Zoë identified the need to be both real and vulnerable. She also suggested asking advice as a way of influencing others. Zoë left us with a valuable piece of advice: work on courage not confidence, as confidence will naturally follow.
Zoë is an executive/leadership coach and the founder and Director of Inner Compass Leadership Development. Zoë works with clients across both the public and private sector, focusing on developing leadership capacity, skill, and ability at all levels in organisations. Zoë has extensive experience designing, facilitating, and overseeing senior leadership programs.
International Women's Day Event - Professor Patricia Easteal AM Address
9 March 2017
On 9 March 2017, WLA ACT held an event for International Women’s Day, with Professor Patricia Easteal AM presenting an address titled Snapshots of the Australian Legal System and Victims of Family Violence: Colliding Kaleidoscopes and the Gendered Iceberg.
In an engaging and thought-provoking presentation, Professor Easteal examined how victims of family violence interact with Australia’s legal system, with particular focus on the standard of the reasonable person at law and the limitations of this standard in the context of women subject to family violence.
Professor Easteal commented on the law’s inability to recognise ‘reasonableness’ where psychological (not physical) harm has occurred and the implications of that for victims of family violence charged with offences under the law. Professor Easteal drew on the example of an abused woman attacking her abuser without direct provocation in that instance or where the threat in that particular moment is disproportionate to the woman’s reaction. In such circumstances she argued that the law may fail to recognise the pattern of abuse and that the woman’s reaction may have been reasonable when considering the context. Instead, applying the standard of the reasonable person, the woman’s reaction may not be considered reasonable as a matter of law.
In highlighting the limitations of the current law in dealing with victims of family violence, Professor Easteal advocated for judicial activism in this space. She proposed that judges should make enquiries to establish the woman’s point of view (a ‘kaleidoscope’ view) before making any finding on what reaction was ‘reasonable’.
Professor Easteal is an academic, author, advocate and activist. She has authored 18 books (with one in preparation) and over 170 academic publications. Her research and teaching have earned her an Australian Honour ‘for service to the community, education and the law through promoting awareness and understanding of violence against women, discrimination and access to justice for minority groups’ and in 2010 she was named ACT Australian of the Year.
WLA Act would like to extend a special thank you to Farrar Gesini Dunn for their generous sponsorship of this event.
Mentor Breakfast - Noor Blumer
15 February 2017
On 15 February 2017, WLA ACT’s inaugural Woman Lawyer of the Year Award winner, Noor Blumer shared her experience with us at the Hotel Realm.
Noor’s achievements speak for themselves. She finished school at the age of 16 and studied law while working full time and raising children. Noor has served as the President of the ACT Law Society and runs the successful personal injury law practice Blumer’s Lawyers alongside her husband.
Noor became a lawyer at a time when it was considered a profession ‘not suitable for women’. She recalls a time when women lawyers were not permitted to wear pants to Court and it was not unusual for Noor to find herself in situations where she was the only woman in a room full of men.
During her period of practice, Noor has seen improvements in the profession for women lawyers but she recognises that there is still a long way to go. Noor’s advice to women lawyers is to support one another and embrace the sisterhood by being part of organisations such as the WLA ACT. Noor believes that the opportunities for her arose as a result of her putting her hand up and getting involved. She encouraged the audience to do the same - you never know what successes might come your way if only you say ‘yes’.
Noor’s advice to managers is to make sure that your staff are treated fairly. The gender pay gap is a reality and it is up to the managers to ensure that women’s contributions are valued.
WLA ACT would like to extend a warm thank you to Noor for taking the time to share her experience and her insights into the profession.
Launch of the Junior Lawyers Pay and Conditions Survey Report
29 November 2016
On 29 November 2016, WLA ACT, in conjunction with the ACT Young Lawyers Committee, held its annual ‘Junior Lawyers Pay and Conditions Survey Launch’.
Each year, WLA ACT, in collaboration with the Act Young Lawyers Committee, runs a survey targeted at early-career lawyers in the ACT to collect data about pay and conditions.
The Survey aims to collate information no only about the income of early-career lawyers, but also asks participants to provide their thoughts on what influences pay increases, whether they felt comfortable asking their employer for flexible working arrangements and their overall satisfaction of the legal profession.
This year we received 126 responses. The Survey was open to all early-career lawyers in the ACT jurisdiction, including lawyers working in the government sector lawyers. As with previous years, the Survey was conducted on an anonymous basis so as to encourage honest and forthright feedback.
Our Findings Report, analysing and presenting the results from the Survey, was released at our launch event on 29 November 2016. We were delighted to haveKatrina Musgrove, Barrister at Blackburn Chambers, as our guest speaker. Katrina provided useful advice for early-career lawyers, including:
When negotiating pay and conditions, you should advocate for yourself. Gather the evidence and prepare your submissions.
Ask yourself, ‘what is your dream job? Where do you want to be?’ Have a plan and a goal.
Seek out mentors – are there those in the profession that you admire?
Learn from your experiences, especially the painful ones.
Be confident (‘get some swagger!’).
Finally, have fun.
We would like to extend a special thank you to Minter Ellison who kindly sponsored this event.
Please click HERE to read the full Findings Report.
11 August 2016
WLA ACT held its inaugural ‘Partner Forum’ at Clayton Utz on 11 August 2016. The aim of this event was to provide our members with an opportunity to network with women partners in Canberra, and to have informal discussions about their experiences and their ‘path to partnership’.
Research shows that there is a significant gender gap in the legal profession in the most senior levels. Women still form less than 25% of the partners despite a greater proportion of women now graduating with law degrees.
It was a common theme amongst the young lawyers at the event that they appreciated having women partners as role models within their firms and that having women in senior positions made a significant difference to their aspirations. It was particularly interesting to hear from our partners about their unique experiences, their insights into the challenges they faced, and how they achieve a work/life balance. Here are some of the ‘hints and tips’ from the partners:
(a) Be brave; don’t be afraid to take risks.
(b) Consider if the firm you are working for is the right fit for you. Partnership is a big commitment, and you want to make sure you are going into business with other like-minded people.
(c) Call out attitudes or behaviours that don’t sit right with your values.
(d) Invest in yourself.
(e) There is no one formula to becoming a partner. The partnership model will keep changing and the key is to learn to adapt to new circumstances. We would like to thank the following partners for their generosity:
Jennifer Wyborn - Clayton Utz
Melanie McKean - HWL Ebsworth
Simonetta Astolfi – Maddocks
Deborah Rolfe - Maliganis Edwards Johnson
Caroline Atkins - DLA Piper
Noor Blumer – Blumers Lawyers
Cristina Huesch - Alliance Family Law
Shelley Mulherin - McInnes Wilson
Annabel Griffin - King & Wood Mallesons
Julie Dobinson - Dobinson Davey Clifford Simpson
Lois Clifford - Dobinson Davey Clifford Simpson
Debra Parker – Watts McCray
Louise Morris – Chamberlains
Alice McCormick – Minter Ellison
We would also like to extend a very special thank you to Clayton Utz who kindly sponsored this event (including providing a delicious lunch!).
Law Week Dinner
18 May 2016
This year the annual Law Week Dinner, hosted by WLA ACT, was held at The Boathouse in Barton. We were delighted to have Catherine McGregor AM, 2016 Nominee for Australian of the Year as our guest speaker at the event. We were also delighted to be joined by members of the Judiciary, the Bar, the ACT Law Society and practitioners.
In 2015 Catherine was named as Queenslander of the Year, before becoming a finalist for Australian of the year in 2016 for her work in the LGBTI sphere. This recognition came following an exceptional career in the Australian Army and as a cricket writer and commentator. Catherine is now a high profile advocate for the LGBTI community. Catherine discussed her struggles with mental health and personal identity before coming out as identifying as having gender dysphoria, and identifying as a woman.
Of particular importance to Catherine’s personal story was the role which the international cricket community played in accepting her after her decision to come out as transgender. This too was the case in the Army, with Catherine becoming the highest ranking transgender person in the Defence Force.
Catherine’s presentation served as a reminder of the importance of championing support and inclusion in our workplaces and community. Had Catherine not experienced the level of acceptance and support from those around her, particularly on a professional level, her story may have been catastrophically different.
Catherine’s presentation invoked self-reflection about the role which communities and workplaces have to play in ensuring social inclusion and diversity, and the negative mental health consequences which may occur should this support not be offered. As a profession we are, on a regular basis, faced with situations in which we are dealing with vulnerable clients. How often do we stop and think about how we may need to serve and support our colleagues and friends with any mental health issues they may have?
Catherine’s bravery was underpinned by her wonderful sense of humour, talent with words and zest for life. WLA ACT thanks her for her presentation and contribution to the LGBTI community.
WLA ACT wishes to thank Maurice Blackburn Lawyers for their support and sponsorship again this year. Maurice Blackburn Lawyers have been a much valued sponsor of WLA ACT in the past and the Committee looks forward to working with them in the future.
Our Committee member Kim Back is a member of the Maurice Blackburn Women’s Group and has been supported professionally to manage two young children and her career through flexible working conditions and techniques to assist working women.
Kim is an outstanding example of the success of the program and the benefit of employees working with their employers to ensure that they are able to succeed as carers and professionals.
Mentor Breakfast - Katrina Cooper
10 May 2016
On 10 May 2016, Katrina Cooper, Senior Legal Advisor at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, shared her wisdom to a full house at the Hyatt Hotel.
Katrina generously shared the experiences and insights she has gathered over her time at DFAT. With a passion for law and foreign affairs, Katrina entered DFAT as a graduate and has had a varied career as a diplomat, including postings to Chile, Port Moresby and as Australia’s Ambassador to Mexico.
Upon returning to Australia from Mexico, Katrina observed the lack of women in decisionmaking roles at DFAT. Drawing on her experiences, Katrina became the driving force behind the Women in Leadership initiative, with the intention of creating an environment conducive to women being equally successful in the work place. Katrina shared her four guiding principles that have assisted her in her career:
(a) Do what you love.
(b) Be collegial, even in a competitive atmosphere. Quoting Madeleine Albright – ‘there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women’.
(c) Be confident in what you are doing. You should be, if you are doing what you love and you are being collegial.
(d) Be brave. Katrina observed that this state of mind is dependent on lining up the other elements.
Katrina admitted early on in her talk that whilst comfortable with public speaking, she was not used to speaking about herself. Be that as it may, Katrina’s message was inspiring and practical. We are the better for it, and WLA ACT is grateful to Katrina for sharing her life story thus far.
Book Launch - 'Whispers from the Bush'
11 March 2016
Legal Aid ACT
On Friday 11 March 2016, the WLA ACT, in conjunction with Legal Aid ACT and the Women's Legal Centre, celebrated the launch of Dr. Skye Saunders’ new publication – aptly titled “Whispers from the Bush”. WLA ACT was proud to support Skye and all her hard work and dedication in raising awareness surrounding the workplace sexual harassment of Australia rural women.
Skye spoke of her experience of growing up in a country town, and how her strong connection to the bush prompted her to address the issues that rural women face in the workplace today. She touchingly remembered her late mother, whose memory she drew strength from while listening to countless rural women who were brave enough to share their story, on a subject that until now, has received little to no attention in the wider Australian community.
Skye’s book outlines how sexual harassment isn’t unique to rural environments, but how it is particularly problematic for rural women because they live in more isolated communities, where entrenched patriarchal practices, values and behaviours still exist. Skye acknowledged that while there are a number of men in rural settings who salute the contributions women make in typically ‘male oriented’ workplaces, there are a greater number of men who still use sexual harassment as a way of making women feel like they are intruders in their own workplace.
Joining Skye, were speakers Melinda Tankard-Reist; author, media commentator and women's advocate, and Belinda Barnard of the ACT Human Rights Commission. Both of these women applauded Skye for the work she had done in opening up a very difficult dialogue, and shared their own, very personal experiences with differing levels of sexual harassment in the workplace.
WLA ACT commends Skye in her efforts as an advocate for rural women. We would also like to warmly thank the women who helped Skye in her research for this much needed publication, Melinda and Belinda for taking the time to offer their own insights on a very important issue within our society, and Legal Aid for the generous use of their boardroom.
Skye’s book is available for purchase online.
Family Day and High Tea
20 February 2016
Supreme Court and Parlour Wine Room
Have your kids ever struggled to understand exactly what you do when you go to work everyday? Has American TV skewed the understanding of what an Australian court room actually looks like? To help answer these questions, WLA ACT, in cooperation with the ACT Supreme Court, hosted a new family day event on Saturday 20 February, where parents could take their kids to see for themselves what mummy and daddy actually do!
The doors of the ACT Supreme Court were opened on a Saturday morning for kids to come through and take a good look. This was an exciting event with the kids being able to see what a court room actually looks like and with many a photograph opportunity. Everyone was able to see the court from a judge’s perspective by taking a seat behind the bench, see what the cells look like, and even try on the wigs and gowns barristers wear.
We were lucky enough to have Chief Justice Murrell address the group and talk about the stresses that parents often deal with when going to work in the courtrooms. Some of the important messages the Chief Justice delivered was to “give your parent a hug” after their long day, and to never argue with a professional arguer!
The day was a huge success with over 100 parents and children coming along to have a look. Many parents then took their families along to the WLA’s High Tea at Parlour Room for some down time and food after a busy morning. This was a great opportunity for families to socialise and unwind over some delicious cakes and tea.
WLA ACT would like to extend thanks to everyone who made this day possible, including the ACT Law Society, the Court Staff who gave up their Saturday morning to provide security at the courts, Baker Deane and Nutt Lawyers for generously sponsoring this event, as well as Chief Justice Murrell and Justice Penfold who helped bring this idea to life.
24 November 2015
As You Like It Café
This year, WLA ACT, in partnership with the ACT Young Lawyers Society, conducted the fourth annual Young Lawyers’ Pay and Conditions Survey. The purpose of the survey was to collect data in relation to the basic pay and conditions of early-career lawyers (lawyers with five or fewer years of post-admission experience).
The survey aims to collate information on not only the income of early-career lawyers, but also asks participants to provide their thoughts on what influences pay increases, whether they felt comfortable asking their employer for flexible working arrangements, their knowledge on parental leave schemes and their overall satisfaction of the legal profession.
Survey results in previous years have provided an invaluable tool for early-career lawyers and employers to assess rates of pay and conditions across a wide sector of the legal community. The survey provides a detailed analysis of working conditions, including hours worked per week, average wages for each year of post admission experience, leave entitlements and other financial or material benefits provided to employees.
This year was our most successful year in terms of responses to the survey with 140 respondents participating. The breakdown of respondents included 110 women and 30 men. The survey was open to all early-career lawyers in the jurisdiction, including government sector solicitors. The survey was strictly anonymous so as to encourage honest and forthright feedback.
The final report was distributed and presented at our launch event on 24 November 2015 at the As You Like It café. The launch gave members an opportunity to discuss the themes outlined in the report and engage in discussion in relation to the conditions early-career lawyers face.
WLA ACT, in conjunction with the ACT Young Lawyers Society will be using the data collected to assist in policy development and to advocate for women following the results of the NARS report.