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.