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‘Ask for everything you want’

Setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and asking for what you want are all key elements of being a successful female leader, according to one boutique law firm founder.

user iconLauren Croft 17 June 2021 SME Law
‘Ask for everything you want’
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Courtney Bowie is the founder of Her Lawyer and 2020 Wellness Advocate of the Year at the Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards – and said that gender inequality in the legal industry isn’t just something she’s passionate about, it’s something her personal experiences have proven.

Speaking on The Lawyers Weekly Show, Ms Bowie stressed the importance of setting boundaries and shared her top tips to be successful as a female lawyer.

“I had a very traditional early career path and as I’m sure many listeners will relate to, as I said before, it was a boys club,” she said.


“Talking about women’s issues and gender equality on a really broad level is something that is a real passionate focus for me. It’s very closely tied to my personal values, but has also been born out of my personal experiences.”  

Ms Bowie added that she found it “hard to find a tribe” in the traditional legal world, which led to her founding her own boutique law firm. She also created a Facebook group, Ladies who Lawyer, which now has over 5,000 members.

“Facebook groups are a really important way, particularly for women, to connect with other people in an interest group or an area of concern. And I think that’s why we’ve seen such a growth in the group and so much activity,” she said.

According to Ms Bowie, one of the main issues surrounding female lawyers, leaders and business owners is boundaries – or the lack thereof.

“Boundaries are really important,” she said.

“Women don’t ask for a fairer division. They don’t put up the boundaries, and that limits them.”

Ms Bowie has a personal trainer twice a week for some alone time and has clear boundaries set at home and work, but said that overall, the division of labour between men and women at home still needs work – with women often working a full-time job as well as carrying out full time parenting duties.

“Everyone has different circumstances at home and at work. For some people, their career is the most important thing in their life. And I think too often, women are shamed for admitting that,” she said.

“Having those conversations at home [is so important]. The division of home duties and domestic labour. And to have a real think about what part do I play in the home? And how have I come to the belief that how much I do is good enough or not good enough?”

Last year, Her Lawyer was one of the founding members of the “Make it Free” campaign: a movement compelling the government to make early childhood education and care free across the board. While this initiative would help greatly with the division of domestic labour and work, Ms Bowie said that since the campaign launched, conversations around issues for women in the workplaces have “changed a little bit”, particularly post-pandemic.

“There’s no better time to be having a conversation and to be negotiating something that works for you. If you’ve got anything more than two or three years of experience, you have got a lot of leverage in the current market. Ask for everything you want,” she said.

“Unfortunately, we still have to work within the constraints of the system that we’re in. And even though we’ve moved forward probably about a decade in terms of digital practice, we are still pretty far behind in gender equality.”

But looking to the future, Ms Bowie said that digital skills were the way forward for women, and graduates in particular.

“My top tip, and this is going to go for everyone who is a woman in law, is that you need to build your tech and digital capabilities for yourself. It’s not enough just to know the law anymore. It’s not enough just to have communication skills. You need to have digital communication and working skills. That will not ever be a waste of your time to invest in that,” she said.

“I think it’s really important to address our colleagues who are in graduate or near graduate roles, because I’m seeing a lot of grads really struggling at the moment because there is such a shortage of graduate and entry level positions.

“Bring a unique skill that is in demand, but also find something that makes you different and unique. You really need to catch someone’s eye in order to have a chance.”

Lastly, Ms Bowie emphasised the need for self-care as well as investing in yourself – something that she’s all too familiar with as the founder of a boutique law firm.

“Invest in your personal development, invest in your professional development,” she concluded.

“It is a long path in the law. It’s a journey, and you need to be taking care of yourself.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Courtney Bowie click below: