Rebecca Stevens

Rebecca Stevens

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

I’m a problem solver who has the pleasure of working with a team of highly successful and motivated lawyers. Together we assist our clients to resolve their liability insurance claims as quickly and commercially as possible.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

I was a girl from the country trying to make it big in the city. Becoming a lawyer was a dream come true!

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

A beautiful world.

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

Continuing the momentum, we are on the way as we celebrate and promote all genders and race. In the future there will be no easy way to answer “describe a typical partner of a Law Firm”.

Rebecca is a Partner at Carter Newell. 

Karen Grumley

Karen Grumley

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

I work with my colleagues to understand our business, create value for our customers and prevent problems from arising – all while having fun, learning and stretching myself to be #morethanalawyer.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

I’m naturally curious – I seek to understand the world around me, how it works and how can I improve it. From a young age, I saw the law as a way to quench that inquisitiveness, and look to solve problems with others.

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

A different perspective.

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

As leaders we need to make a choice – to have the courage to create our own inclusive teams and organisations – that will bring diverse thinking to our industry. One action at a time is all it takes – to change our habits, to be intentional and to celebrate our success. If we each do something, momentum will build.

Karen is Head of Legal – Coal, Pacific National / Immediate Past President and Chair of Association of Corporate Counsel Australia. 

Jane Seawright

Jane Seawright

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

I use my skills and knowledge to empower clients and the various organisations I serve in my board roles. I fly constantly between Townsville, where I am based, and Brisbane, where most of my legal and board work is, and use the time in the air for myself to refresh and rest! I also try to keep fit wherever I am.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

I love to solve problems and I also wanted to help people and make a wider contribution, and the law presented a way to do that constantly. I still get a tremendous thrill when I can lead clients through what is to them an opaque, insoluble maze. It makes it all worthwhile. I am also constantly surprised at how a legal education opens the window on the way society operates at every level – I often wonder how people manage who aren’t trained in law (but obviously they do!)

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

Different, variety, inclusive

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

It will take another generation and some seismic shifts in the way business is being done, probably as a result of world crises such as COVID 19, and the influence of today’s millennials who do think differently about how they want to live their lives. Law firms have changed in many ways since I was admitted but many are still doing things the way they always have with crazy expectations of legal professionals. It will take leaders in the profession to really mean it when they say ‘our people are our biggest assets’ and match that with the will and the actions to really care for the assets!

Jane is the Director and Principal at Seawright Consulting.

Rosalind Mason

Rosalind Mason

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

I mentor and encourage. I moved from practice to academia not only because in the 1980s that was a more realistic option for a lawyer with an enquiring mind and three young children but also because after some casual tutoring I had found my niche – to teach something that I care about and that can make a difference. Mentoring and encouraging have been what I have done – whether in practice, academia (teaching and research) or management – and what I continue to do as an adjunct professor and in pro bono leadership roles.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

As a teenager, I almost didn’t study Law because my parents suggested that it might be something that I would enjoy. The alternative was to study Arts as a single degree; however, I could not imagine myself as a schoolteacher, which was the likely outcome in the early 1970s. Once I started studying Law, I was captivated by it – the issues it raised and (hopefully) resolved for society and business.

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

Respect; teams; productivity. 

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

Respect for the creative productivity that teams of people bringing different perspectives to bear can make – by leaders in the legal industry and by their clients.

Rosalind is an Adjunct Professor at the Queensland University of Technology. 

Ann-Maree David

Ann-Maree David

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

In my “day job”, I work with several generations of lawyers helping them make their way into and through the practising profession.
Speaking more broadly, I am a “connector” – I connect people and organisations with their potential and help them achieve it – through mentoring, coaching and through facilitating opportunities.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

There were two key drivers: the first was studying a subject entitled “Law & Politics” in my Arts Degree which highlighted for me the incredible injustices suffered by women and minority groups; and the second was admiring the pragmatic wisdom of the Judges of the Supreme Court for whom I was working. I enrolled in law as a result of both these influences.

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

Breadth, difference, inclusion.

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

Traditionally, the practice of law has been siloed from beginning (law school) to end (practice structures). We need to break down the siloes so that lawyers can be exposed to and learn from other disciplines We can no longer operate in a vacuum. The increasing complexity of life and law requires greater breadth of wisdom and experience. Diversity of thinking will yield this.

Ann-Maree David is the Executive Director at The College of Law Australia. 

Sharon Doyle

Sharon Doyle

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

I am a fixer. I help companies to build, optimize and then realize value for their shareholders, typically through a capital raising, merger, acquisition or sale process. My core role is problem solving and finding the hidden nugget of strategic value. My team support the board and management team in all commercial aspects of the transaction, and work closely with technical specialists (lawyers, accountants, tax, technology) to identify and manage risks for the owners in an integrated and collaborative manner and to solve all the problems that pop up along the way.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

I was a good debater at school, I thought it was what ‘smart’ people did, I thought it would pay well (my articles years were very disappointing!)….but fundamentally I love to solve complex puzzles and fix tricky things and I thought the law would give you great tools to do that. As it turns out, it does give you an excellent framework for considering issues objectively and considering alternatives in a very structured and methodical manner. Invaluable. 
Also, everyone always looked super glamorous in the law dramas on TV….

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

Better Decision Making.

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

Clients who are willing to work differently / think differently – the question is who will lead that, the law profession or the clients. Someone needs to change the ‘norm’.

Sharon is the Managing Director at InterFinancial Corporate Finance. 

Kelly McIntyre

Kelly McIntyre

Without mentioning your job title, how would you describe what it is you do now?
I am an advocate for those who cannot always speak for themselves. I am passionate about protecting the rights of the individual and advancing their legitimate interests to their full potential. The legal system, and indeed the broader spheres of commercial enterprise and society in general are, by the very fact that participants are so diverse, full of imbalance and inequity. I feel strongly about the importance of my profession, and what I do, as being a vital part of these ecosystems assisting in bringing balance and fairness to the process. By extension, the learning, experience and skill I have acquired throughout my career, as well as my focus on justice issues, have motivated me to apply my professional capabilities to broader social issues and challenges. While my practice affords me the opportunity to act on a micro-level, having direct engagement with individual clients, my involvement in broader societal initiatives such as Zonta International and its mission of advancing the status of women, allows me to participate and, hopefully, in some small way, assist with the evolution of society towards a status of balance and equality. I also dedicate my time to industry focused educational activities and initiatives, such as my role on the editorial panel of the Lexis Nexis Australian Alternative Dispute Resolution Bulletin. Again, empowerment through knowledge sharing, is essential to achieving balance and equality. I have also, at the same time, been blessed with the joy of children.
This aspect of my life only reinforces my dedication to the societal necessities of equality and inclusiveness.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

Simply, to maximise my ability to affect change. I see it as not only our duty to evolve and to continuously improve, it is a necessity of life. If we do not dedicate ourselves, as individuals and as a collective, to bettering ourselves, we run the risk of stagnation and decline.
An absolute priority in this cycle of continuous improvement must be embracing diversity so that the ‘whole (of society) is greater than the sum of its parts’. We, as a species, have a natural inclination, perhaps as an outdated strategy for self-preservation, to gravitate towards and associate ourselves with others who are the same as us. However, this ‘birds of a feather’ mentality is not only exclusionary, it is short-sighted in that people to act the same, think the same and have the same experiences, must, by extension, have the same values, ideas and priorities. Segmenting and grouping society only serves to increase the gaps and divisions within communities and entrenches view points and attitudes. The legal industry, while itself far from perfect, embraces, indeed is founded upon, principles of fairness and equality and the importance and power of knowledge in achieving enlightenment and combatting the negative destructive effects of ignorance.
As such, it is an environment where diversity is embraced and the pursuit of justice is not simply an altruistic desire, it is mandated as a primary goal. Most importantly, the legal profession, as a whole, is a powerful agent for change.
The knowledge and experience, acquired as a legal practitioner, not only as to how to defend those who cannot defend themselves, but how the entire system actually works, has allowed me to drive important changes, again at a micro-level, for individual clients.
However, more exciting to me is the idea of being part of a larger group, the legal profession as a whole, that can and does effect important change at a societal level. I have always felt the inclusiveness of this shared purpose, regardless of background, ethnicity, or gender, that is not available in other professions.
And, besides, is Themis not a woman? This seems like a pretty good indication that the legal profession is the right place for me!

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

“Our Differences is the one thing we all have in Common” … ok, this is technically more than three words, but what is important to me, what attracted me to the legal profession in the first place, is that we always will fail, whether it be facing a societal challenge or even in a legal issue, if we only focus on our differences and not what we have in common. This is why, within the broader practice of law, I am particularly interested in the focused area of Alternative Dispute Resolution. Resolving disputes and conflict through a process of identifying common ground seems to me to be a natural and logical strategy for self-preservation. When diversity is embraced, in any forum, then we focus less on ourselves and more on the bigger picture.

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

The same drive and values that motivate people to become lawyers in the first place:
• The focus on injustice;
• The intolerance to accept injustice as the natural order;
• The ability to find a better way;
• The intellect to put ideas into practice;
• The courage to try; and
• The resilience to persevere, overcome obstacles, never to surrender; and
• The passion to inspire others to join the fight and, together, succeed.

Kelly is a Barrister at Law. 

Claire Smith

Claire Smith

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

Balance the competing demands of everyone and constantly negotiating to secure solutions focused and acceptable outcomes.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

Intellectual curiosity.

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

Balance, equity and variety.

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

People need to call out bad behaviours and live their values every day. It is incumbent on clients as well as lawyers to insist on diverse representation at all levels of the organisation – particularly at the senior executive and board level.

Claire is a Partner (Environment and Planning Group) at Clayton Utz. 

Ainslie Cunningham

Ainslie Cunningham

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

Sharing my passion of governance and risk management as a Company Secretary by supporting boards and companies and providing a unique perspective on principles, policies, controls, accountability and transparency. I am also kept very busy being a strategist, accountant, sales person, marketer, bookkeeper, IT specialist, LinkedIn and social media guru, chef, cleaner, nurse, uber driver and all round miracle worker (aka a small business owner and wife of an amazing husband and proud mother of two beautiful girls (age 8 and 11), who despite the daily challenge of getting ready for school on time (the struggle is real), are growing into kind, loving, strong independent women).

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

As someone who gets extreme satisfaction out of helping others, driving strong ethical behaviour and always keen on analysing and solving problems it makes perfect sense that I have ended up where I am today. Albeit, I have not taken a traditional path. I started out studying to become a mechanical engineer which came to a grinding halt on the sudden passing of my father leaving me to help support my family and take a change in direction in my career before finding my true calling.

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

Inclusion, equality and opportunity.

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

Inspirational and transformational leaders to educate and show the benefits of what diversity can bring to the table. Help change the mindsets of everyone within the profession whether it be past, present or emerging. Ensuring there is equal access to opportunities. Acknowledging that women face many hurdles in an industry that breeds an environment of overwork and competition which can ultimately lead to burn-out. There needs to be more flexibility for women who are expected to work as if they don’t have children and raise them as if they don’t work. Creating a culture that fosters inclusive capitalism and grows confidence. Overcoming the stigma to challenge the status quo. Strong mentors to be a catalyst for change to help empower, motivate and support women. Inclusion of women in strategy and innovation discussions, women think differently to men and because of that women offer a unique perspective with respectful challenge and emotional intelligence that can really add value and strengthen the overall outcome.

Ainslie is Co-Founder and Corporate Governance Consultant at 3YS Owls. 

Ida Abbott

Ida Abbott

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

I help lawyers and firms harness the power of mentoring and sponsorship to guide, support, and transform professional careers. I also serve as a retirement consultant and coach, helping senior professionals design happy and purposeful retirements.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

Intellectual curiosity and challenge, plus the belief that law could be used to bring about positive change in the world.

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

How much longer!

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

Changes in the institutional structure and economic model of law firms, and placing more value on emotional, not just cognitive, intelligence.

Ida is President of Ida Abbott Consulting.