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Workplaces must allow lawyers flexibility

Workplaces must allow lawyers flexibility

A general counsel with one of Australia’s most iconic companies has said workplaces need to be flexible to allow lawyers to enjoy their time outside work.

Marion Rodwell, the general counsel and company secretary at Myer, spoke to Lawyers Weekly ahead of her appearance at the Australian Women Lawyers (AWL) National Conference in Canberra on 11 August. Rodwell will be one of a number of speakers on a panel discussing the topic of Surviving and thriving as a woman in the law: Attrition, retention and progression.

Rodwell has spent the whole of her legal career in-house. She started at the State Bank of Victoria in the late 1980s, before moving to the financial services company IOOF as a general counsel and company secretary in the mid 1990s.

Rodwell then spent seven years with the gaming house Tattersalls, where her roles included company secretary and general counsel.  She joined Myer as the fashion label’s general counsel and company secretary in 2008, and throughout the course of her career work-life balance has been important to her.

“I like to travel and have regularly had time-off to do that, sometimes taking one year out at a time,” she said. “It is important to get some time to yourself.”

In saying that, Rodwell knows all about the pressures of working on large transactions when the hours are long, tensions high and the boardroom is full of lawyers and advisers. She was at Tattersalls when it went to the market with a $2.17 billion IPO in 2005. She helped to co-ordinate the in-house team and the company’s external legal adviser for the float, Clayton Utz.

Rodwell stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire when she joined Myer in 2008 and helped to bring its $2 billion IPO to the market in October 2009.

She cited both capital raisings as career highlights for her.

“I was excited to be part of those transactions,” she said. “The hours were long but when you have deals of that magnitude, that’s what you have to do.”

Rodwell has expanded the in-house team at Myer since she joined four years ago from just herself to include an additional “four fantastic female lawyers”.

Express yourself

One of the topics that Rodwell and her co-panellists will be discussing at the conference is “how to market yourself to a board”.

At a function organised by the Women Lawyers Association of NSW last month, Jane Needham SC said that women need to be less reluctant to highlight their credentials when applying for senior positions.

“Let’s face it, no one is going to hand us anything on a plate,” said Needham. “If the decades of history have taught us anything, it is that women have to work a lot harder than men to get where they are.”

Rodwell agreed that women could be better at marketing themselves, and said that this is something that support networks and organisations like the Australian Women Lawyers could assist women with.

“As a result of being a part of a mentoring program [as a mentee], run through Melbourne University, I am a better lawyer,” said Rodwell. “It has helped me to be a better communicator.”

Joining Rodwell on the discussion panel at the AWL Conference will be Fiona McLeod SC and Dr Nanette Rogers SC, the assistant director at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Northern Territory.

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