All-female promotions at HBA Legal

29 June 2020 By Tony Zhang
Sona Sjahadi and Claire Tota

HBA Legal has promoted two senior associates to partner, three senior associates to special counsel and one solicitor to associate.

Iona Sjahadi and Claire Tota will take up their spots at the HBA Legal partnership table from next month.

The pair, who are being elevated from senior associate, will take over the practice areas of HBA Legal from co-founders and directors Nathan Hepple and Brett Ablong respectively, who will move into full-time business management roles with the company.

As owners of HBA Legal, both Mr Heppie and Mr Ablong have had dual roles in managing their practice areas as well as overall business responsibilities since starting the company eight years ago.


Mr Ablong told Lawyers Weekly that bringing Ms Sjahadi and Ms Tota into the partnership will embody what HBA is about.

“Both Claire and Iona have proved over and over that they genuinely believe in what we stand for here at HBA and of course it should go without saying that they are exceptional at their craft.,” he said.

“Claire has been with us since HBA’s inception in 2011 and it was evident to me very early on that Claire was top talent. Claire and I have had open and frank conversations over the years and, together, we devised a clear career pathway for her so it’s a great day to see this come to fruition.”

Speaking of Ms Sjahadi’s promotion, Mr Hepple said that she is an incredible insurance lawyer, but importantly for the partnership role “she can hold her own among senior people within the business and has shown great skill in mentoring junior solicitors in a way that they really respond.”

Mr Ablong said smaller firms often have a poor reputation when it comes to career progression, but it’s something HBA takes very seriously. 

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“The thing about promotion is that the onus is equally on both parties – the supervisor and the person seeking progression. It’s critical people take ownership and are proactive in the management of their own careers. Both Claire and Iona are great examples of this,” Mr Ablong said.

“This is not to say we don’t identify talent and nurture that talent and sometimes have to take the lead, of course that happens too. But I think all too often lawyers just sit back and wait for someone else to take control of their career and then they get upset when it doesn’t happen. 

On the flip side, supervisors have a real responsibility to take an employee’s goals seriously and support them on that journey which might be a two-year process or it might be a 10-year process.”

In addition, three other senior associates, Natasha Fiodoroff (Sydney), Deirdre Pennock (Perth) and Nicole Kelidis (Melbourne) take on the roles of special counsel.

Mr Hepple said that the firm understands that it’s important for people to be able to demonstrate career progression, and steadily rise through an organisation.

“For some, not necessarily these three individuals, but some people do not ever want to be a partner, they are not interested in it, they don’t aspire to it, they don’t want it in their life. And there’s nothing wrong with that,” Mr Heppie said.

“But, within our business we want to be able to have a marker for both experience and excellence where people are senior practitioners, have demonstrated the HBA [values] over a period of time, but are not a partner.

“Nat, Deirdre and Nicole are exceptional practitioners, they’ve been doing it for a long time, and it’s important they have a title that clearly demonstrates this point to our clients.”

Meantime, Courtney Burrows (Perth) has been elevated to associate. Ms Burrows was with HBA for four years, before leaving to work at a different firm in mid-2019. Less than three months later, Ms Burrows rejoined HBA Legal.

All-female promotions at HBA Legal
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