A senior legal practitioner has urged women in law to seriously consider what they want in returning to work after a career break and what options are available to them. “Given that women lawyers spend a lot of time getting qualified and working in law, it makes sense for them to return to law at an appropriate time for them and their family,” said Kathryn Kearley, a sole practitioner and lecturer at The College of Law. “Think about what you want to do; think about what your employer offers; talk to your partner/other parent to plan as to whether they can take advantage of what their workplace offers and what they want to do.”
Kearley will be chair at an upcoming event on women returning to law being hosted by the College of Law on June 19. ‘Returning to Practice: Making it all Work’ has been inspired by the Law Society of NSW’s report on women in the law, Advancement of Women in the Profession, which was published last year. The event will include presentations from a number of industry members including Stuart Westgarth, partner at HWL Ebsworth and past president of the Law Society of NSW, Jan Christie, learning development and compliance manager at Henry Davis York, Deloitte partner Juliet Bourke and many more.
Kearley has had three children during her legal career, which included heading up the precedents and litigation practice at Corrs Chambers Westgarth for three years. She said that each time she returned to practice she employed different approaches, and advises women and their employers to consider all options, not a one-approach fits all. “I have job shared, in a practice of 20 people I was heading up a number of them worked part-time… and we were able to do that while meeting the needs of a national firm. We were able to do that because we had set up protocols – it required quite a degree of planning, but any successful business is going to require that,” she said.
Kearly also advises women leaving the law for a period, either for family or other reasons, to make arrangements so that they can continue to hold their practicing certificate and fulfil the obligations associated with that. “I would never give up my driver’s licence, so why is it appropriate to give up my licence to practice law?” she said.
Similarly, she urges women legal practitioners to be realistic about what they will be able to commit to after having a child. “There are other options to consider other than returning immediately to your previous role,” she said. “Some firms have other areas that lawyers can work in, support areas and client relationship departments for example, which may be more appropriate.”
Returning to Practice: Making it all Work will be held at The College of Law City, St James Centre on June 19.
Victorian commission to investigate reality for women in law 8 March 2012
Law Society challenges firms to do better in the advancement of women 1 December 2011