CCBR Business Review

4 Anna Cruckshank – Aubrey Brown Lawyers A trailblazer for women in law and leadership ACCORDING TO THE Law Society of NSW women outnumbered men in the Australian legal profession for the first time in 2016. However women still hold far fewer senior leadership positions. In fact, recent research found that women make up only around eighteen per cent of equity partners, despite being equally represented at senior associ- ate level. As Managing Director of Central Coast law firm, Aubrey Brown Lawyers, Anna Cruckshank not only represents the minority of female directors in the Australian law pro- fession, she was also the unanimous choice to lead the firm at the age of just 37. A trailblazer right from the start, Anna is a role model for aspiring female lawyers and any business leader with a vision to do things differently for the benefit of clients, staff and their profession/industry. Anna’s career with Aubrey Brown began in 1990, almost by chance. During her final year at Gorokan High, she was sent to the firm for a mock interview with Principal, Rod Wicks, who is a director of the firm today. Having never considered a future in law, Anna regarded the process as simply a means to “tick a box”. So she was surprised to receive a call from Mr Wicks a few months later with an offer to join the firm. She accepted the offer, after gentle persuasion from her parents, and commenced work as a law clerk and a paid scholarship to study law. Discouraged when she was initially put on reception, Anna approached Mr Wicks with a request for more challenging work. To this Call us today on 1300 542 542 or visit Planning a new office or a refit? OfficePace takes care of workplace furniture for commercial and corporate spaces in the Central Coast area. Office design and space planning Installation and ongoing care Office furniture sourcing and solutions Mariners Centre of Excellence Level 3, Suite 312, 1 Bryant Drive, Tuggerah NSW 2259 CO V E R S T O R Y day she fondly recalls his response. He said, “You’ve got to start at the bottom and one day, when you have done everybody’s job in this organisation, you will thank me because it will have made you a better boss.” Looking back, Anna can see how this all-round expe- rience gave her an advantage, and adopts a similar model for undergraduate law stu- dents employed by Aubrey Brown today. Accelerated through her studies, Anna was admitted as a lawyer in 1994. She was just 22 and, typical of junior lawyers in regional firms at the time, was handling a broad range of legal matters for her own client base. However still feeling unsettled in a career she felt had been imposed on her, Anna took a year off to travel. She would eventually return to Aubrey Brown, but not before she had broadened her horizons with a law firm in the Hunter that special- ised in commercial law. “That experience really opened my eyes to the fact that there were other ways you could practice law in a regional area. It also allowed me to learn and grow as a lawyer and work in some very sophisticated commercial areas, which I really enjoyed,” said Anna. Longing to return to the Central Coast, Anna met with the partners at Aubrey Brown, who were keen to have her back, and said, “Gentlemen, I’ll come back on two conditions. Firstly, make me partner and secondly, allow me to spe- cialise.”They agreed to both conditions and so, at the age of 27, Anna returned to Aubrey Brown as partner. Working twelve-hour days and most week- ends, as was generally expected of partners, Anna engaged a recommended team of business coaches to help ensure she and oth- ers didn’t burn out. It was the beginning of a business reinvention process that focused on practicing law at the highest level for the benefit of staff and clients together with the achievement of a better work/life bal- ance. Over the next few years, Anna worked towards consolidating Aubrey Brown’s mul- tiple offices into one, whereby each lawyer and their team would specialise in an area of law rather than trying to be all things to all people. Given the level of change and the angst this created for some staff, Anna decided to work with a team of communica- tion consultants to help her and the other partners work through the change with their team. “Through this process, one of our core strengths became our ability to communicate freely and honestly with one another. It’s one of the reasons we managed the transition so well,”said Anna. Two additional success fac- tors were their commitment to training their lawyers and support teams to have an excep- tionally high level of knowledge in the areas in which they specialise, and an investment in cutting-edge technology to ensure staff could deliver the best possible service. “Everything was done with a focus on making our client relationships and our community connec- tions stronger,”said Anna, adding that this was also the highest priority for Aubrey Brown when he founded the business in 1944. By Phaedra Pym CENTRAL COAST BUSINESS REVIEW JULY 2018