After a few career twists and turns, Eagle Boys Pizza legal counsel Shirley Vine has found her calling within the legal profession. She speaks to Zoe Lyon
Shirley Vine, legal counsel at Eagle Boys Pizza, developed her taste for the law a little later in life than most. It was after a string of tough personal breaks that she first received legal advice - an experience she says she found "empowering". "It gives you a totally different platform from which to negotiate," she says.
Her introduction to the law left a solid impression, so much so that at the age of 32 she embarked on a law degree. After completing her studies in 2002, she launched her newfound legal career with the Queensland Working Women's Service - a joint Queensland State and Commonwealth Government initiative providing free legal assistance to women on workplace-related matters.
Her choice of career launching pad was no accident: "It was because I was inspired to become a lawyer to empower people in their workplace and in the [event of] breakdown of family relationships," she explains.
Though she enjoyed the work, she says she eventually left the organisation because of frustration at not being able to see matters through to resolution. "It was really rewarding, but I moved on because if the matter didn't settle at mediation I had to refer [clients] to a solicitor outside the organisation because funding wasn't available for me to take matters all the way through to court," she explains.
Over the five years that followed, Vine tried her hand at a range of different practice areas, becoming a bit of a jack of all trades. Her experiences ranged from positions in small and large law firms to working as a locum lawyer on a matter-by-matter basis.
However, she believes it was through the discovery of a book, What Colour Is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, that she finally found her fit with the law, in the area of franchising.
"The book gets you to identify your strengths and gives you tips on choosing the best workplace for your skill-set, strengths and desires, empowering you to determine ... 'What is it I want? Where do my strengths lie? What would be my dream job?'," she explains.
"Previously whenever I had clients with franchising matters I would come alive, as I was always very good at business development, and franchising is - in essence - all about business development. I knew that it was an area of law that I liked, so in my head I had a role in a dynamic company, where franchising was their main area of business."
She found her dream role in 2008 at Eagle Boys Pizza - a national pizza company comprising 280 franchises nationally. As the only legal counsel, Vine works with a paralegal to manage the company's diverse range of legal matters, including property, marketing, contracts and franchise agreements, supply agreements, trademarks, trade practices and acquisitions.
She says the diversity of work is one of the highlights of the role, as well as the level of interaction she has with the company's 13 different departments and all their employees.
"I never know one minute to the next what matters will cross my desk - I like how interesting all the issues are," she says. "And I love dealing with people. You do get that in a law firm, but you have a limited number of clients to see each day, whereas this is a revolving door - interaction on a minute-by-minute basis."
She concedes, however, that with this diversity comes a significant workload, but says that overall she's happy to have found what she believes to be her calling within the legal profession. "It's great to have an ongoing amount of work to do, with an ongoing goal to find the bottom of the pile," she laughs. "But I love it - I think I'm the luckiest lawyer in the world."
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