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‘I have never felt disadvantaged by my gender as an employee of Shine’

As a majority female-led firm, Shine Lawyers has set a glowing example for the rest of the profession, said these female leaders – who’ve been at the firm for a combined 50 years.

user iconLauren Croft 04 April 2022 Big Law
‘I have never felt disadvantaged by my gender as an employee of Shine’
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In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, two senior female leaders at the firm shared their experiences of being with Shine for over 20 years and revealed what has kept them at the firm for so long. 

Chief operating officer Jodie Willey has been with Shine for 27 years – having started as a law clerk in the firm’s Toowoomba office.

“I was born and raised in Toowoomba and my parents couldn’t afford to send me to Brisbane for university, so I thought articles combined with external study was a great way to kick start my legal career. During my high school years, influenced by my values, my upbringing, and my legal studies teacher, I identified a career in the law where I could help people was the right path for me.


“In the time that I have been with the firm, we have grown from one office to almost 60. We have delivered justice on so many levels, winning cases big and small, and helped to bring about real change through reform on important social justice issues. We’ve taken on some big opponents, and had our share of losses. We’ve listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, a process that has injected extra rigour in how we deliver for clients and how we run the business,” she said.   

“During this time, I feel like I’ve landed a new job every couple of years. I’ve been in many legal roles – on the tools and in leadership. I was CEO for a period of time. I ran our innovation department for a couple of years, standing up our first online law firm.  In my current role I get to work with all of our shared services teams.” 

She went on: “They are a very committed and professional outfit, here to serve the lawyers who serve our clients. My focus is now on the next 20 years for Shine and where we might have a presence globally. How many more people across the globe we can help, and what opportunities exist for our people to come on the journey with us.”

Chief legal officer Lisa Flynn has been with Shine since 1999 and first started at the firm when she was a third-year law student in an administrative role.

“In my role [now], I oversee all legal teams across the business in Australia and New Zealand. I have had many wonderful opportunities at Shine and I’ve worked across most areas of law within the business, but leading the firm’s abuse practice is one of my most recent achievements,” she said.  

“I am always incredibly proud of the contribution we made to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to ensure victims of abuse were heard and compensated. The changes we saw as a result always stay with me as a reminder that we’re working on the right side of the law. We’re now taking our learnings and applying them to other jurisdictions in hope of helping more people. There is still a long way to go, and many sectors to address, but seeing that change is possible, drives me to do my bit every day.

“Although 23 years is a long time to be in one organisation, I can say that I have never felt bored, stale or disengaged. I have had the benefit of being afforded many different opportunities to do many different roles within Shine. This year is Shine’s 46th year in business. In the last financial year alone, we’ve resolved more than 7,000 client matters. Our business continues to succeed because it is full of clever people focussed on serving the community.”

Shine is 70 per cent female-led – and this sort of dynamic has created an encouraging and trusting working environment, Ms Flynn added.

“What I value about the female dynamic at Shine is the shared understanding that we have about the need to juggle work and family commitments, the compassion we show each other when someone expresses a need to be present at family events. We encourage our staff to attend awards nights and presentation assemblies because we always want our people to feel like they have the support to live full and happy lives. I have great admiration for our female leaders who will often pack lunches, school bags, and then hop on a flight to travel to court. They’ll sit against corporate giants and then return home in time to tuck their kids into bed,” she added.

“I would tell any aspiring female business leaders to fearlessly take on roles at the top. Women bring compassion, emotional intelligence, warmth, and take a holistic view of most situations. They bring softness and strength and both qualities can be so powerful when paired.”

As a result of being majority female-led, Shine has a number of initiatives in place to support the growth and advancement of female leaders – with added support from male leaders, too.

“I have never felt disadvantaged by my gender as an employee of Shine. I feel our culture has always respected the contribution that women make to the profession. When I was offered the CEO role almost 15 years ago, as a female in my late 20s, contemplating starting a family, I knew I had the backing of our then two male leaders. We have solid female representation at all levels. Sixty-three per cent of our legal practice managers and equivalent are female, 57 per cent hold general manager or equivalent roles and 73.2 per cent of leaders across all divisions, including shared services, are women,” Ms Willey said.

“We have generous benefits, wellbeing, flexible work and mentor programs. We have a lot of working mums on the team who rally and support each other. We have permission to attend our kids’ important school events where that’s important to us. We have permission to be ourselves and bring our best to the table.”

In terms of how other firms can follow Shine’s example in terms of female leadership, Ms Flynn said more women still need a seat at the table.

“I think there are still too many males influencing policy and the profession. The struggle I’ve had has been in watching rooms full of men in Parliament and sometimes in courtrooms, making decisions on female experiences. That is a difficult thing to observe. I want to exist in a world where we’re equally represented and where women always have a seat at the table to discuss women’s issues,” she said.

“I think we need to see more women leading law firms, more female judges, more women on boards because we can’t preach equality until that body of work is done. Women in leadership bring different perspectives and that is essential in delivering policies and creating workplaces that cater to all genders.”

However, Ms Willey added that the legal profession has “certainly come a long way” – particularly in her experience.

“I think the profession has come a long way, certainly in the time I have been in practice. It was only just as I was having babies more than 10 years ago that generous parental leave and childcare benefits were introduced to Shine Lawyers. We’ve seen a rise in female appointments to key roles of influence. Increased flexible working arrangements have also helped us strive for the elusive balance. For me it’s now more about respect. Respect for what we’re capable of, respect for what value we bring, giving us equal opportunities to lead, to contribute and shape our future,” she said.

“Our experience shows that women have a place, and deserve a seat at the table. With the right mentorship, support and respect, give us the platform and we will deliver. I can point to countless examples of incredible women in our organisation who are humble, hungry and smart, and consistently excel when given a chance.”