A major Australian firm has appointed its first part time partners across offices in Sydney and Melbourne in the latest round of promotions.
In Herbert Smith Freehill’s most recent batch of partnership appointments, four of the six newly-minted Australian partners are women, and all four have been appointed on a part time basis.
Although the firm has other partners working in its Australian offices on a part time basis, those partners were working full time when at their appointment and opted for part time work at a later date. This is the first time that the firm has promoted partners who were already working part time.
Newly appointed corporate partner Stefanie Wilkinson said that the hardest thing about working part time is making sure people know how you work and that you’re not going to let anyone down.
She said that while the majority of clients understand that she is not always available, and with many of them working part time themselves, it is important to reassure clients and colleagues that there is someone to get in touch with on her days out of the office.
According to Wilkinson, the first challenge of working part time is addressing the perception that you are not going to be available. “Once you’ve worked with other partners and they understand that the work is always going to get done and it’s still going to get done to the same standard, then you pass that hurdle,” she said.
Wilkinson emphasised the value of support and mentoring from colleagues in developing strategies to juggle work and childcare duties. “Having that ability to speak to someone else really helps with guiding you and giving you different ideas,” she said. “You’ve got to find what fits you and often it’s having lots of different ideas that helps you come up with a really good solution that might work.”
The other newly-appointed partners working on a part time basis are Bryony Adams, Joanne Draper and Jacqueline Wootton.
To Wilkinson, the appointment of four new part time partners is an opportunity to demonstrate to other lawyers what’s possible to achieve while working on a part time basis. “For us it’s a chance to show the other senior female lawyers that you can do this really successfully,” she said.
Finance partners Paul Apathy and Andrew McLean were also appointed in the latest round of promotions.