THE APPOINTMENT of a woman as managing partner of a leading Australian law firm is breaking news this week because, if for no other reason, it happens so rarely.
Henry Davis York (HDY) has announced the appointment of Sharon Cook as managing partner elect. Cook will become the firm’s first female managing partner, taking the helm when current managing partner Stephen Purcell retires from the partnership on 30 June this year.
Cook has been labelled the right mix of client focused strategy and long-term vision. “We are fortunate to have someone of Cook’s calibre within the partnership to lead the firm in the years ahead. [She] is a strong advocate of the unique HDY culture for which we are known.
“As a member of the HDY Board and a key driver of our very successful risk and insurance practice, [Cook] has demonstrated the qualities of an outstanding leader. I know that she will bring to this extremely important role the spirit of collegiality and excellence to which we at HDY aspire as well as a remarkable vitality,” said Dobson.
The women herself, who spoke to Lawyers Weekly about her appointment, says two key challenges face her in her new role. The war on talent and developing pre-eminence in other areas in the firm are priorities, she said.
The former Mallesons Stephen Jaques lawyer was the first part-time partner at HDY, and she has championed women’s rights and flexible work hours with considerable success since she’s been there, she said.
But being a women has not been the focus of her appointment thus far, she said. “It’s interesting that in all of the discussions that I’ve had with my partners, most of whom are male, in the lead up to my appointment, not once has there been any discussion about me being female. I’ve not felt any prejudice, advantage or disadvantage in being female. I’ve just been treated as a person,” she said.