Navigating emotional investments with your in-house practice

By Jerome Doraisamy|28 May 2019

Maintaining one’s motivation to drive practical legal frameworks and outcomes that truly benefit those in need is the best way to tackle the intense and draining nature of in-house tasks that one is emotionally invested in, says one legal counsel.

Speaking recently on The Corporate Counsel Show, WaterNSW regulatory and corporate strategy adviser Dr Madeleine Hartley said that the personal desire to see change, and the disenchantment that can come from a “factually horrific set of circumstances”, cannot be understated.

Having worked both on sexual abuse cases as a paralegal at the Crown Solicitor’s Office, and now tackling drought and other water-related matters as a legal counsel, Dr Hartley has “seen it from both sides”.

“But, on the other hand, for me personally, because I’m driven to achieve practicable legal frameworks that really benefit the people on the ground, that’s how I get through,” she explained.

“I acknowledge that I’m quite lucky that I’m not at the coal face and I’m not on a farm with no water. And so, I hope that my background and my understanding of farming from my mom's family helps me with that level of understanding and empathy.”

She grew up in Tamworth, she reflected, “with a very big water ethic in the household”, which taught her about the importance of shorter showers.

“During my childhood there were two major droughts, and I really remember particularly the second drought, children younger than me had never seen rain. And so, when the drought broke, and there was rain, it was just amazing to see those children watching rain for the first time in a developed country, in a very agricultural center of NSW.”

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“So, I’ve always been interested in the attitudes to water and what we now know as the hydro illogical cycle, where when there’s a lot of water, people will use a lot of water and so the attitude isn’t necessarily always with a good water ethic.”

With legal practice, and specifically in-house work, one does “have to be careful about things moving too quickly or too slowly because ultimately to get a legal outcome that's good and enduring”, Dr Hartley noted, especially when it comes to managing personal and professional expectations.

“NSW has been enacting water reform over the last year and a bit and they haven’t had much time, but they’ve still gone through a solid consultation program to achieve that outcome. And I think at the moment when we see on the news, all of the emotion wrapped up in the plan, it’s that the balance is hard to strike. So, we just have to watch the space,” she said.

What is also crucial, she added, is building and maintaining a collegiate team environment.

“We are one team at WaterNSW and we’re all in it together. And regardless of whether we’re in the office in Paramatta or in the office in Tamworth or more rural areas, we all work together on a daily basis, and so we do see through our clients on the ground who deal with our customers on the ground the issues and banding together to pull through, I think also to note that we are really trying to make a difference,” she concluded.

To listen to the full episode, click below:

Navigating emotional investments with your in-house practice
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