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Pausing life as a lawyer to be a minister in South Australia

Seven years ago, Andrea Michaels MP founded a law firm with one rule in mind: “No dickheads allowed”. Now a state minister, she is stepping away from that firm, but is confident it will “continue to be one of the most highly regarded boutique firms in the country”.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 05 April 2022 Politics
Andrea Michaels MP
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Andrea Michaels – who, together with NDA Law, has been nominated for 14 Lawyers Weekly Awards in recent years – will be the new Minister for Small and Family Business, Consumer and Business Affairs and the Arts in the new South Australian state government, led by Labor Premier Peter Malinauskas.

Ms Michaels has served as the member for Enfield (a suburb in Adelaide) since early 2019 and as a shadow minister since late 2020. Throughout such service, she has continued in her duties with NDA Law, the firm she founded at the end of 2014.

As a state minister, her obligations dictate, she told Lawyers Weekly, that she can no longer actively participate in the firm.


However, she said, NDA is “safely” in the hands of her husband, Joshua Michaels, who is the firm’s managing director. Both Ms Michaels and Mr Michaels appeared on The Boutique Lawyer Show in February 2021 to discuss how SME firms can compete on the national stage in the same way that global practices are expected to.

Legal practice, for her, “will have to be paused”, she said.

“As exciting as this new chapter is, it’s still a difficult thing to give up what you’ve done for 23 years but I know it’s the right thing to do,” she reflected.

Her three ministerial portfolios, Ms Michaels explained, provide her with “some fantastic opportunities” moving forward.

“For example, one of our election commitments was a $4 million Women in Business program including skills development, mentoring and access to advisory boards,” she noted.

Adelaide is the third most liveable city in the world. That gives us a huge opportunity to attract fantastic businesses and keep our young people in great skilled and secure work, in a place where they can happily raise a family.

“That points to a great future for South Australia.”

Ms Michaels has no doubt that the future is also bright for NDA Law, and she hopes that it remains “firmly” what it was when it was founded seven years ago: “A firm with great lawyers who are also great people.”

“NDA Law was never meant to be about me or our lawyers. It was always meant to be about our clients,” she recalled.

“That’s why I never used any of our names in the business name. And why it was and always will be about the NDA rule: No Dickheads Allowed.

“If we stick to that, I know that NDA Law will continue to be one of the most highly regarded boutique firms in the country.”

And, when asked how the lessons learned from her firm's 'No Dickheads Allowed' policy might apply for her interactions in parliament, Ms Michaels said: "Obviously, it’s a bigger challenge with more people, but I still think you can create a good culture."

"Rewarding good behaviour and having consequences for poor behaviour is key," she posited.

"I’m a firm believer that the standard you walk past is the standard you accept."