Michelle Dixon

Michelle Dixon

Without mentioning your job title, how would you describe what it is you do now?

I look after people to ensure that they in turn are able to look after our clients.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

My initial driver was, according to my parents, that I loved to argue, but what has kept me in the profession is a love of looking after people in tough times. What a very great privilege that is.

What are the first three words you think of when you hear the word ‘diversity’?

Inclusion, creativity, better outcomes (I stretched the number of words).

What do you think it will take to develop truly diverse thinking within the legal industry?

Courage. We need all people in the industry to, in all roles, to have the courage to speak up about things that might lead to them feeling excluded or on the outer, and we need our leaders to be humble enough to listen, and courageous enough to make the necessary changes.

Michelle is a Partner at Maddocks.

Samantha Rennie

Samantha Rennie

Without mentioning your job title, how would you describe what it is you do now?

I work on market-leading and complex business and legal challenges in the mining industry, seeking to add value through creative and collaborative problem solving, together with my colleagues.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

Studying law seemed a rounding side dish to my primary focus at that time; economics. Once I understood what working in law actually was, the choice made itself. It remains one of the more interesting ways I can spend my day.

What are the first three words you think of when you hear the word ‘diversity’?

Respect. Acceptance. Equity.

What do you think it will take to develop truly diverse thinking within the legal industry?

A genuine effort to reflect a collective voice when decisions are made.

Samantha is Senior Legal Counsel at Mitsubishi Development Pty Ltd. 

Bridie Nolan

Bridie Nolan

Without mentioning your job title, how would you describe what it is you do now?

Help people solve their problems when they are in a state of crisis.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

A deep love of lifelong learning.

What are the first three words you think of when you hear the word ‘diversity’?

Agility, acceptance, respect.

What do you think it will take to develop truly diverse thinking within the legal industry?

First, more diversity of thinkers and decision makers. Secondly, Empathetic leadership. Thirdly, allowing individuals to thrive.

Bridie is a Barrister, Arbitrator and Mediator. 

Sheree Harrison

Sheree Harrison

Without mentioning your job title, how would you describe what it is you do now?

My current role has me operating at the forefront of the finance and clean energy sectors in Australia – providing strategic support and advising on the legal, contractual and regulatory frameworks that underpin the development and commercialisation of clean energy technologies. This places me in a privileged position – I am actively involved in implementing opportunities and effecting investments seeking to solve tough emissions challenge across our economy whilst leading and working with some of the most innovative and influential talent in this dynamic sector – a diverse and passionate cohort of women and men having a genuine impact on developing a sustainable future.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

From an early age I have had a strong sense of fairness and doing the right thing. These values have continued to define and drive my professional development to this day. I have had an exceptionally unique and rewarding career – from providing legal and investigative support for a number of Australia’s counter-terrorism prosecutions to being the lead legal advisor for first-of-kind renewable energy projects – in each case leveraging off the opportunities the legal industry has to offer. My journey whilst challenging has been made all the more positive and rewarding as a result of the wisdom, encouragement and support of strong and impressive women – women at all stages of their own professional journeys with a shared commitment to fairness and doing the right thing.

What are the first three words you think of when you hear the word ‘diversity’?

Strength, fairness, commitment.

What do you think it will take to develop truly diverse thinking within the legal industry?

The argument is compelling, the research unequivocal – diversity in approach and in our thinking about perspectives, cultures and ideas is no longer optional for the legal industry – it is necessary to fuel better solutions, contribute to innovation and drive business success. Whilst change has historically been incremental in the legal sector, there are an increasing number of us advocating a different ‘pitch’ recognising the opportunity that truly diverse thinking offers. However, effecting real and sustained change across the sector will require much more – it will require leadership, it will require the collective commitment of all of us to question our assumptions, to advocate for inclusion and to actively promote and support diversity within our workplaces, businesses and communities.

Sheree is the Director-Legal of Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Katherine Kay

Katherine Kay

Without mentioning your job title, how would you describe what it is you do now?

At work, I help clients work their way through potentially existential issues; at my place of business I try to provide mentorship and leadership so as to leave the place better than I found it; in the community, I try to have my contributions (in time and money) reflect the immensely privileged position my family and I are fortunate to be in.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

Intellectual challenge, creativity, and the joy of always learning.

What are the first three words you think of when you hear the word ‘diversity’?

Aspirational, challenging, commitment.

What do you think it will take to develop truly diverse thinking within the legal industry?

Two main things, in my view: more diversity among us and more recognition by everyone of the reality that our own backgrounds can’t help but drive our perspectives and if you really want to grow, you need to challenge yourself and others on that piece.

Katherine is a Partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP.

Tess Lye

Tess Lye

Without mentioning your job title, how would you describe what it is you do now?

I have worked in government, listed companies and law firms over the years. I am primarily an inhouse corporate lawyer and currently I work for a healthcare group in Victoria, with a couple of volunteer Board roles as well.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

When I was fifteen I met Justice Margaret White (who was then at the Queensland Bar), who impressed on me as a capable and wildly intelligent woman and mother with a commitment to social justice as well as her own self-care. Justice White also invested time in and derived great joy from lifelong friendships and simple pleasures, which really resonated with me. Justice White’s example gave me the confidence that humility, compassion and personal integrity could be the foundations of a successful legal career; she also demonstrated to me that a great lawyer is skilled in reasoning, not in arguing. That really sealed the deal for me.

What are the first three words you think of when you hear the word ‘diversity’?

Listening, learning, shifting.

What do you think it will take to develop truly diverse thinking within the legal industry?

Removal of barriers that limit pathways into higher secondary education and tertiary education and recognition of international qualifications. More significant investment in community legal centres and remote and regional legal services. Shorter undergraduate degrees with a focus on skill development and core legal principles – for many people to be studying full-time for four years is not an option.

Tess is General Counsel at Epworth HealthCare. 

Della Burnside

Della Burnside

Without mentioning your job title, how would you describe what it is you do now?

I am helping to execute our firm’s strategy and encourage everyone in our firm to play to their strengths and enjoy what they do. In my opinion, enjoying what you do is the key to a happy and fulfilling career or working life.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

I was intrigued by the law and felt that being a lawyer would suit my personality and would be a profession I’d really enjoy.

What are the first three words you think of when you hear the word ‘diversity’?

Difference. Respect. Acceptance.

What do you think it will take to develop truly diverse thinking within the legal industry?

It will take a more universal understanding that the most successful businesses thrive on diversity and the arguments to encourage diversity are both moral and financial. Diversity fosters empathy, innovation and creativity.

Della is a Partner at The Burnside Partnership. 

Genevieve Collins

Genevieve Collins

Without mentioning your job title, how would you describe what it is you do now?

My role is to deliver the best law firm experience for our people, clients and community. At the moment, this means ensuring we all stay safe and connected. I see my primary role as enabling our people to thrive. I also consider it my job to transition us from being a traditional law firm to a contemporary and innovative organisation and seize the many new opportunities available in the legal sector.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

I fell into law more or less by accident, intending to study social work after the compulsory first two years of another degree. By the time I was halfway through law, I applied for graduate positions alongside everyone else. I was offered a role at my present firm and have be here ever since! I quickly realised Law is a people profession – and that listening, understanding others’ perspectives and keeping an open mind are key to success.

What are the first three words you think of when you hear the word ‘diversity’?

Representation, power and fairness.

What do you think it will take to develop truly diverse thinking within the legal industry?

Experiencing the power that different perspectives bring and realising that homogenous leaders and teams will never solve the new challenges we are facing in the legal profession.

Genevieve is the Chief Executive Partner at Lander & Rogers.  

Jeanne Kelly

Jeanne Kelly

Without mentioning your job title, how would you describe what it is you do now?

I advise clients on the impact the laws within my specialism have operationally for them. At core, I’m a contract lawyer for regulated industries, and for privacy, all industries are regulated. That means we have a broad sweep of clients, and keeps the role interesting.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

I’m not sure I had clear one to start with. It sounded like a challenging job, we didn’t have lawyers in the family, perhaps I was influenced by TV shows in which the lawyers always had very swanky offices and a glamourous time, while seeming to do only human rights cases. As I type this in my spare room slash home office, that raises a smile. The profession has been good to me though, both in terms of what I’ve learned, and the deep and lasting relationships it has given me.

It helps a lot to try to work with people who are a little brighter than you, certainly at the start of your career. My son calls this “levelling up” in PC gaming parlance, you then get to that level and increase your skills and start to feel more comfortable at that level. I was lucky to work with great people (mostly!) and to have particular ones, at particular phases, nudge my career onward. Now they would probably call that “mentoring” and I try to do a lot of that myself, especially for women. Giving someone at the start of their career a half hour of your time is something one should never be too busy for. It is a privilege to be asked to cast an eye over someone’s CV or give them a steer.

What are the first three words you think of when you hear the word ‘diversity’?

Fairness, equity, social.

What do you think it will take to develop truly diverse thinking within the legal industry?

I should probably not say this, but here goes. It will take firms honestly, and in a clear eyed way, observing whether their firm not just actively assists women and minority lawyers. It must go much further. There can be a lack of barriers for average men. There, I said it! We all need to counter that. If a firm genuinely considers it has an issue, it should seek specialist outside help, to assess both biases, and barriers. Clients are playing a huge role in this and will continue to more and more. Many clients who are inhouse counsel have been in law firms, so they are not to be fooled with brochures and surveys. They observe keenly which firms are giving time and effort to meaningful diversity endeavours, and they see through virtue-signalling very quickly. I think it will take sustained efforts by both firms and their clients, over many years. However I optimistic about the future because these are conversations we were not having 20 years ago. As people move over and back between law firms and industry and wider types of careers and studies, this will help bring fresh thinking to the table. If our organisations don’t reflect the wider society that will impact on our output of work (narrow perspectives) and there is a clear profitability link with genuine diversity. Leaving aside that it is the right thing to do, firms will inevitably listen to that and will observe it in their competitors too.

Jeanne is a Senior Partner at LK Shields LLP, Dublin, Ireland. 

Kim Trajer

Kim Trajer

Without mentioning your job title, how would you describe what it is you do now?

Improve performance through creating opportunities, solving problems and driving change.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

A process of elimination – I don’t like blood so medicine and dentistry were out.

What are the first three words you think of when you hear the word ‘diversity’?

Opportunity, innovation, connection.

What do you think it will take to develop truly diverse thinking within the legal industry?

A widespread and genuine understanding of and belief in the value of difference.

Kim is the Chief Operating Officer at McCullough Robertson.