Jennifer Jaeschke - Meyer Vandenberg

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WLA ACT recently caught up with member Jennifer Jaeschke from Meyer Vandenberg to learn more about her commercial leasing practice and her career in general. 

How many years post admission are you? - Eight years

You are a commercial leasing lawyer. Have you always practiced in this area? - I started off in more of a general property role and doing some wills and estates. As I got different jobs along the way I started to specialise more in leasing.

What do you enjoy about commercial leasing? - I enjoy that it is both property law and contract law based. Its transactional, so generally the parties are working together to get a deal done. I enjoy working with clients to get the deal done and to solve any problems along the way.

So you enjoy that it’s not acrimonious? -  Correct. I have respect for litigators, because I could not be a litigator.

Do you have any advice for junior lawyers?  - I think my advice would be to take opportunities as they come along. I certainly didn’t think that I would end up being a leasing lawyer when I was at uni. When I was at uni I thought I was going to be a criminal lawyer. I enjoy what I do now, and I am glad that I have taken the path that I have. Really, that has been because I took the job opportunities that came up and learnt along the way. I think it is good to remember that you will continue to learn throughout your career. When you are a junior lawyer you generally feel like you will never know everything. Remember, that you will never know everything and you need to continue to learn. Try different areas of law and different things when you are starting in your career. You will have time to specialise later.

You are a mentor with the Women in Law Organisation at ANU. What do you enjoy about being a mentor for WILO? - I think I have enjoyed being able to calm some of the anxiousness about the unknown. I definitely remember feeling that anxiousness, particularly in my later years at uni. I remember worrying about what lies ahead, what does it look like, what do I need to be doing now? I enjoy telling them my story. I didn’t get a clerkship and I didn’t get a grad position, but I am still a lawyer. I have told my mentees that there are other avenues and encouraged them to take a bit of pressure off themselves. Sometimes it is not possible to balance having a job, be getting HDs, be engaged in a social committee at uni to show that you are awesome and also keep friends and family. Sometime you have to say no to some things.

WLA ACT’s Pay & Conditions Survey revealed that 25% of lawyers in the ACT have been bullied or harassed at work. Have you ever witnessed bullying or harassment at work?  - Not while I have been working in Canberra. In Sydney I have worked in a firm where I have seen bullying happen. I was not the victim, which I am very grateful for. However, I did see a culture where bullying was not dealt with and was sometimes excused. I have definitely worked in firms where there has been a boys club. While there hasn’t been overt sexual behaviour, there has definitely been an “us” and “them” mentality and times when I felt uncomfortable with the conversations. Those were the firms that I identified early on that I would not stay for the long term due to the culture. I have had a solicitor on the other side of a transaction tell me not to get my tits in a tangle.

What has been one of the biggest challenges in your career? Learning how to deal with mistakes. That is always a challenge. Part of that, but different, is having a mentor or a boss who you can go to with that mistake to talk about it and work out how to deal with it. I think it has the potential to really affect whether you want to continue being a lawyer. Everyone makes mistakes. It sucks, but you have to learn how to overcome that.

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