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Double-award winner chalks win to working with Stolen Generation clients

When Hayley Aldrich emerged as both Senior Associate of the Year – SME Law and overall Excellence Award winner at the Women in Law Awards in 2021, she felt “shocked and humbled”.

user iconMalavika Santhebennur 29 August 2022 Big Law
Double-award winner chalks win to working with Stolen Generation clients
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The Carroll & O’Dea special counsel (who was a senior associate at the time of winning the awards) said that she was especially flabbergasted to pick up the Excellence Award trophy, adding she was not aware that she was a contender for it.

“To win that was just insane,” she exclaimed to Lawyers Weekly.

“It was really mind-boggling. I was on a high for the rest of the week.”


Lawyers Weekly is excited to once again host the 2022 Women in Law Awards black-tie gala ceremony on Thursday, 24 November 2022, at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne to celebrate the tireless efforts, dedication, successes, and achievements of women in the legal profession.

We are urging women in the legal profession to submit an entry or nominate a worthy colleague across 31 individual and group categories by 9 September 2022.

The Senior Associate of the Year – SME Award recognises outstanding performance by a female lawyer at the senior-associate level within an SME private practice law firm.

As a personal injury lawyer experienced in litigation and compensation law, Ms Aldrich has developed a practice with significant focus on representing and securing access to justice for members of the Stolen Generation and others who have suffered as a result of sexual, physical, and emotional/mental abuse as children.

As a part of the client settlement process, they receive compensation and a personal apology from the defendant institution and department.

Ms Aldrich has always had a keen interest in social justice and volunteered with UN Women Australia and other charitable organisations before becoming a lawyer.

When she began her tenure at Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers, she was interviewed by a partner who had a history of working with Indigenous people and Aboriginal legal services. He was approached by a Stolen Generation organisation to assist them with securing compensation in NSW.

“I came into the job knowing that I would be focusing on this area and trying to get it off the ground for him, which I then did within a year. I found it fascinating,” Ms Aldrich said.

Taking pride in a ‘trauma-informed’ practice

Ms Aldrich credited her victories to working with hundreds of Stolen Generation clients and securing settlements for them for the act of what happened to them after removal, which she said had never previously happened.

While she was working with Stolen Generation clients, various inquiries into the Stolen Generation were undertaken, while the report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, titled Bringing Them Home, was released in May 1997.

When the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was underway, many of Ms Aldrich’s Stolen Generation clients who faced the long-term intergenerational impacts of colonisation provided evidence.

“I’m really proud of my work with the Stolen Generation clients over the past nine years because we began that acknowledgement and the work before the parliamentary inquiry even looked at it,” Ms Aldrich told Lawyers Weekly.

“From there, through word of mouth, I now have a huge practice revolving around abuse clients in general, although I still practise across all areas of personal injury too.”

Given the sensitive nature of her field of law, Ms Aldrich said she is proud of developing and running a “trauma-informed” practice to ensure that her clients are not re-traumatised by the legal process.

“Obviously, some aspects of the legal process could be incredibly traumatic for them but I think my job is to limit that trauma,” Ms Aldrich said.

“I’ll do everything I can to work collaboratively while best representing my clients with the defendant. But I’ll try and get it resolved without my clients having to endure court proceedings and cross examinations.”

What makes an award-winning senior associate?

Ms Aldrich’s firm — which nominated her — included feedback from clients in her submission over the 12-month assessment period on her conduct and how she successfully resolved their matters.

In addition, the firm included feedback from other lawyers on how they felt about working with Ms Aldrich while resolving those matters.

Alongside this, the firm praised Ms Aldrich for growing her firm’s profile through her business development and leadership roles, as well as marketing opportunities such as writing articles relevant to her practice or providing commentary on legal decisions.

Since winning the award, Ms Aldrich has received offers to become a casual teacher at universities and appear as a guest judge for mock trials.

“I hadn’t really had that kind of engagement from universities that I hadn’t been to before,” she noted.

As for what makes an award-winning senior associate, Ms Aldrich affirmed that dedication to clients is the key to receiving accolades at the Women in Law Awards.

As such, she advised this year’s award entrants to demonstrate that they are prepared to go above and beyond to achieve positive outcomes for their clients.

She concluded: “If you just tick all the boxes, I don’t know if that would lead to you getting ahead in terms of reward or recognition.

“My job is really emotionally draining but it’s honestly so fulfilling professionally and personally. Being able to assist clients who really feel like they’ve reached their limit, whether that’s an abuse victim or someone who’s been injured at work and can’t work anymore, is extremely rewarding.”

The 2022 Women in Law Awards national awards program is the pinnacle event for recognising female talent in the Australian legal industry.

It will be held on Thursday, 24 November 2022, at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne to reward women who have tirelessly worked to influence and propel the legal profession forward.

It shines a spotlight on the outstanding achievements of executives, barristers, academics, pro bono, students and other legal professionals in large and boutique firms.

Click here to submit an entry or nominate a worthy colleague by 9 September 2022 to be in the running for these prestigious awards.

For more information, including categories and judging process, click here.