Sophie Whitehead

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

I am an environmental lawyer specialising in domestic and international climate change law and policy.
I advise governments and corporations on matters relating to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement, including on their participation in the international climate change negotiations, engagement with carbon markets and the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). I advise on legal and policy issues associated with Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund and Safeguard Mechanism.

I also volunteer with Climate Policy Watch, an organisation that provides climate-vulnerable governments with additional support and advice to respond effectively to climate change, and build resilient and prosperous communities into the future.

What was your main driver to enter the legal industry?

I wanted a career that I would find challenging and rewarding. For me, that was a career where I could look back and be proud of having a tangible, positive impact. I wanted to work in law and policy reform to help promote access to justice – for people and for the environment.
I was drawn to environmental and climate change law because I saw an opportunity to help governments and companies make the transition to a low carbon, climate resilient future. I want to help our clients understand not only the risks but also the opportunities of this transition, and develop innovative solutions to help clients adapt and be resilient in a changing environment and a net zero emissions economy.

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

Respect, flexibility and perspective.

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

Every individual working in the legal industry needs to make a personal commitment to promoting diversity within their sphere of influence. This may be as simple as saying “yes” when a lawyer asks to work from home. It may involve actively sponsoring women and people from diverse backgrounds to develop their skills and be promoted, both formally and informally. It should always involve listening, actively seeking a diverse range of opinions, and creating an environment where everyone feels empowered to contribute.

Sophie is an Associate at Baker McKenzie