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How to lead successfully in an evolving practice area

Many practice areas have undergone significant change in recent years. Here, an award-winning partner shares her top tips for leading through uncertain times.

user iconEmma Musgrave 27 December 2023 Big Law
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Speaking on a recent episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, Baker McKenzie partner Aylin Cunsolo, who recently took the Partner of the Year title at the Australian Law Awards, shared how she’s able to lead her team in a practice area that’s seen shifts in recent years.

Energy transition is something that’s affecting multiple practice groups across the firm, Ms Cunsolo said, meaning it’s incumbent on her team to collaborate and work with partners across other areas they may not have in the past.

“Collaboration is key, and we seek to have an industry focus,” Ms Cunsolo said.


“So, where law firms have traditionally divided lawyers in accordance to technical expertise and practice areas, we’re very much looking at the opportunity through an industry lens. So, I’m working together with my finance lawyers, construction lawyers, technology lawyers, all together to see what the opportunities are and how we can work together to best serve our clients.”

Ms Cunsolo said she encourages members of her team to actively engage with their respective industries and contribute to the broader strategic goals of the firm.

She emphasised the importance of staying updated on industry developments, noting: “To the extent that our clients are not already thinking about risks in the context of a net zero emissions journey and energy transition, I think we can play a role in guiding sensible decision making in terms of long-term investment decisions.”

When asked about the challenges of the post-pandemic work environment, Ms Cunsolo acknowledged a transitional phase and the necessity of balancing remote work with in-person interactions.

“We’ve learned a lot from COVID as to how we can work together in a remote environment, but at the same time, we’re all craving that sort of personal connection and seeing the value of that personal connection. It’s really about getting the balance right, and I think that will evolve over time,” she said.

“As a team, we have committed to three days a week in the office, and in those three days, we make sure that we do have the opportunity to connect with each other, for example, by having in-person team meetings and ensuring that those natural conversations do occur.

“The other two days, we’re working from home and focusing on our work,” Ms Cunsolo said, noting the team uses informal communication tools like WhatsApp, which helps them share information and maintain personal connections within this dispersed work environment.

“It’s a simple way as a team to share information and to share thoughts and to connect on a personal level.”

Reflecting on the qualities that make a good partner, Ms Cunsolo noted her perspective has evolved over time.

“I’m in a relatively new partner, so what makes a good partner is something that I have been thinking about, and my thinking has evolved over time as I gain more experience,” she said.

“I think in this context, in terms of transitioning out of COVID, being able to engage with your team is essential, and ensuring that your team is undergoing sufficient professional development and is connected is going to be critical to the success of a partner, as well as collaborating with your peers and being connected with your clients and the industry that you’re supporting.”

In terms of approaches that won’t work for partners of the future, Ms Cunsolo cautioned against siloed thinking and an individualist approach, noting that such mindsets are quickly becoming outdated in the legal profession.

“Partners acting in silos, thinking in an individualist way, not bringing commerciality to their advice, that traditional legal role of the past is not going to work. And I do think, as a profession, we’re evolving away from that kind of thinking,” she explained.

NB: This transcript has been edited slightly for publishing purposes. You can listen to the full episode here:

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