find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (3-5 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Dynamic organisation ·
View details
Real Estate & Projects Lawyer (6+ years PAE)
Category: Property Law | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Top tier firm with offices nationally · High profile clients
View details
Learn to ‘speak the client’s language’, lawyers urged

Learn to ‘speak the client’s language’, lawyers urged

Sandra Steele

Young lawyers looking to take their careers to a new level need to develop an understanding of their clients first, according to an award-winning construction lawyer.

Sandra Steele, a construction and infrastructure partner at K&L Gates and winner of the construction category at the Partner of the Year Awards, told Lawyers Weekly that specialisation is the key to supercharging a legal career.

"You need to specialise and you also need to understand the industry that you're in," she said.

"If you can't speak the language of your clients, and you don't truly understand it, you'll never really be the best."

For Ms Steele, the key to developing this knowledge was spending six years as an in-house lawyer at Lendlease before moving back to private practice.

"I'd been in private practice for 10 years and I wanted to learn more about the industry," she said.

"At the time, I had a number of peers who were encouraging but others were discouraging, saying it would be the biggest mistake I'd make. But I'm so glad I ignored that advice."

She believes that much legal advice is given "in a vacuum, where you're just brought into give ad hoc advice".

By contrast, an understanding of the industry from the client’s point of view has enabled her to address all facets of the transaction within the context of the specific industry.

She also encouraged lawyers – particularly female lawyers – to join industry associations to build up their networks within their chosen practice area.

Over the course of her career, Ms Steele has been an active member of the National Association of Women in Construction, including a six-year stint as national president.

"Women don't seem to have as many networks as men do, so for women to find their feet in conditions like that – for example, where you're chairing a board – is a brilliant opportunity," she said.

"Joining an industry association allows you to meet other women and men who are involved in the industry and develop your networks that way."

She also pointed to mentorship as a critical enabler for young lawyers, crediting her own mentor, Frank Cahill, with taking her "from a typical trajectory to a really exciting career".

She now mentors a number of young lawyers herself through the K&L Gates program.

Her top advice to mentees is to be frank with the ambitions and "reach for the stars".

"You’re always going to be your own best advocate," she said.

While construction remains a male-dominated industry, she advised young women not to be put off working in the sector.

"There are a lot of misconceptions around what it's like to be a woman in the construction industry around whether you can do the job and whether there are interesting opportunities," she said.

"There is a lot of work to be done, but I've really enjoyed my work and I would encourage more women to get into the industry."

 

 

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Learn to ‘speak the client’s language’, lawyers urged
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Aug 21 2017
Is your firm on the right track for gig economy gains?
Promoted by Crowd & Co. The way we do business, where we work, how we engage with workers, ev...
Scales of Justice, Victorian County Court, retiring judges
Aug 21 2017
Replacements named for retired Vic judges
Two new judicial officers have been appointed in the Victorian County Court, following the retire...
Applauds
Aug 21 2017
LCA applauds proposed Modern Slavery Act
The Law Council of Australia has welcomed new recommendations for the development of a Modern Slaver...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...