‘You need to be a risk taker, you need strength and resilience’

‘You need to be a risk taker, you need strength and resilience’

04 November 2021 By Mattero

Promoted by Mattero

Having started her career as a nurse, before purchasing her own law firm and now serving as COO for a fast-growing legal tech company, Amanda Given understands better than most the journey of women professionals and how they can succeed.

Lawyers, mattero COO Amanda Given muses, are “not intrinsically great” at running businesses. It is not, she says, how they think.

“Even if one attends a practice management course, lawyers are not trained in the day-to-day of running a business. Understanding business from a commercial point of view develops the skills you need to manage income and expenses, budget so you can be sure that you can pay your wages, your rent, recruit and manage staff, etc.,” she lists. 

In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, Ms Given reflects on what she has learned from her varied and practical vocational journey, and what other women in law can take away from her experiences as we move forward into a post-pandemic market. 

Early career reflections

Ms Given started her career in nursing, a vocation which allowed her to help people, first and foremost. This passion for supporting those in need carried through into her subsequent legal career, for which she specialised in medical negligence. 

“I ended up running a practice where I could take on clients and cases where I felt I could do the best. It was extremely fulfilling to help people when others would not or could not take on these types of cases,” she recalls. 

“It was very satisfying achieving an outcome that really benefitted my clients. In contrast working in a business environment, I don’t get that same level of satisfaction because there is always something more to do. There isn’t that same level of closure as when you work on cases.”

Her journey of running a firm was not without its challenges, recounting that when she did purchase her practice – one that was small but with a big file load – the previous owners “just up sticks and left me to it”.

“I was pretty naïve going into that business as didn’t know what I didn’t know. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, so I would say ‘know what you are doing’ when you are going into your own business. The fact that you don’t know what you are doing leads to greater learnings,” she says. 

“To start your own business, you need to be a risk taker, you need strength and resilience to bounce back when things don’t go as expected.”

During this time, Ms Given goes on, she didn’t have the same level of technology that is available to business owners today, and so she worked primarily from her office and days often turned into nights. 

“Taking files home was a manual process, I didn’t have a laptop and internet to work remotely, this meant I spent a lot of time away from my children when they were growing up,” she notes.

There was an upside, however: the independence that came with doing work she was passionate about and having the flexibility to do so. 

“I could decide what sort of work I did and what clients I would take on. I could rise and fall on my own merit, I had choice and I made the decisions, and each success built my confidence.”

Transferrable skills

Now the COO of mattero – a Queensland-based legal practice management software company – Ms Given says there are numerous skills she developed as a law firm owner that serve her well in her current position.

“Lawyers are trained to be analytical thinkers. You are always assessing what the outcome will be, what are the risks involved, what are the facts, what are the principals or law that need to be applied and what the solutions might be,” she outlines. 

“In short, lawyers are problem solvers and, in my role as COO, I am tasked with solving problems, analysing situations, and developing solutions.” 

Being a mediator with well-developed listening skills, Ms Given notes, she “walks both sides of the line” to get parties to work together for a common outcome. 

“Being empathetic while staying strong and impartial is another skill that is needed in my role. The life skills you develop by being a lawyer become part of you as a person, so they are easily transferrable to other roles.”

These skills, Ms Given continues, have also proved invaluable in allowing her successfully transition into a leadership role for a burgeoning legal tech business. 

“The lifeblood of a tech company are their developers, and they can be known for being very focused on just what they want to do when developing software. They are the creative and are heavily invested in bringing this product to life,” she says. 

“With my legal background, I help them to focus on what lawyers need from legal software, not just what they think they need. I like to achieve an outcome when presented with a situation. One of the key things I have implemented at mattero, is the setting of measurable goals to achieve a definitive outcome.”

Moreover, such skills that garner success are also hugely beneficial, Ms Given adds, in helping professionals progress their careers whilst also juggling personal commitments. 

“Things will start to fall through the cracks if you are not organised with a clear schedule of tasks for home and work,” she opines. 

“Schedules do not need to be linear; it may mean that you conduct calls on your way to a school activity. Whatever works for you, your family and business, but you need to be able to organise your time.”

Getting the right balance

One thing that Ms Given has learned, over the course of her storied career, is that it is not possible to have it all and simultaneously try to do it all by one’s self.

“One person can only do so much,” she advises. “If you want a career, to run a business, have a family, and a home, you need help.” 

“I believe in the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. So, women that try to do everything without support, something ends up being compromised and it is usually them.”

Such women, Ms Given explains, may develop physical or mental health problems arising from their exhaustion, or their business may suffer, or their children may experience adverse consequences. 

“It is unrealistic to strive for this and women need to use the support of their partners and family. Firms and businesses need to offer greater flexibility for both women and men during the family years, but it needs to be reciprocal,” she outlines.

“The years when your family is young is a very short time comparatively to the lifetime span of your career. So, if a firm can offer that flexibility to their staff it is repaid in kind down the track.”

When it comes to striking the right balance, Ms Given continues, there “must be” give and take. 

“Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, you don’t need to compete. Do what is right for you and use the relationships you have around you to support you in all the roles you undertake as a woman,” she submits. 

“You don’t need to do it all alone. Accept help and be helpful, accept kindness and be kind.”

Other thoughts

Women’s success in the workplace, Ms Given stresses, should not be any harder to come by than it is for their male counterparts, and outlines how men in law can better support women, especially as we move into a post-pandemic new normal. 

“Women shouldn’t be required to prove themselves in their role as a lawyer,” she proclaims. 

“It’s about respect and equality. Treat everyone the same. Offer, not only women, but to everyone regardless of gender, race, religion, age or creed the same opportunities and reward on merit.”

Respect is also something, Ms Given adds, that women in law must give themselves, in acknowledging that long-term vocational success will take time to achieve and then sustain. 

“Everything doesn’t need to happen at the beginning of your career. Your career is long, and it takes time to learn and develop your skills,” she stresses. 

“Be kind to yourself, you won’t burn out as quickly and ultimately you will achieve all your lifetime career goals.”

 

 

‘You need to be a risk taker, you need strength and resilience’
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