It’s official! We can drive! And just watch where we head to next…
The lead up to our 18th birthday has been an invitation for us to reflect. We’ve even harkened back to our own shenanigans at that age (yes, some of us can remember).
Curiously, there are parallels. For instance, we continue to work hard to lay a solid foundation for our future. Sure, we laid our cornerstones of flexible working as the default position and nurturing durable client relationships, ego free, long ago. That’s because, 18 years ago, our founding Partners Sarah Rey and now Supreme Court Associate Justice Mary-Jane Ierodiaconou had a vision. It was bold and they made good on it.
Ambitiously, they wanted to experiment with ways of working that were highly collaborative – with high trust in the team and client – and to see whether being female-led made a difference. They felt it did. Client loyalty demonstrated it did. They were bucking against the status quo. On the one hand, very 18. On the other, the system was overdue for an overhaul.
At the time, some quarters wondered what they were thinking. Well, we can tell you…
“I recall at the time we started up, people saying how brave we were,” says Sarah. “I wondered if they thought we were naïve. But slowly over time other boutique practices sprung up. Of the employment law ones, not many have survived. We, on the other hand, have learned, matured, evolved.”
In 2015 Mary-Jane departed for the bench (nothing else could have dragged her away), marking a new phase in the firm’s history. And from two partners, then there were three. In 2019 Magda Marciniak and Melissa Scadden came on board as law-firm leaders. Not before time, to continue the reach of a successful firm and bringing their own visions about what it takes to create a dynamic legal practice.
As you can see, upon the Justitia bedrock, we’ve continued to grow, always with an eye to the future. Guided by that principle, last year, Sarah handed over the reins to Melissa as Managing Partner. “It’s an exciting time to be at the helm,” says Melissa. “The modern workplace is constantly evolving, as employers and leaders recognise the importance of people and connection, and investing in relationships. This has always been what Justitia is about, so we have a lot to say in this space! It’s incredibly rewarding to have so many organisations approach us and say ‘we love what you’re about, we want to work with you’. And at the same time, employers are becoming bolder in their ideas and there are more voices, finally, being heard. We’re joining our clients on the journey and learning, and growing, as we go.”
That said, in some important ways, Justitia hasn’t departed from its original recipe and not just in terms of its strong commitment to being a female-led practice. There are other factors baked into our DNA, including our dedication to fostering junior talent. They’re the future, so why wouldn’t we? We can see that the time and love we put into our team reaps dividends. Our alumni have gone on to everything from leading climate change litigation in Uganda and iconic international branding firms in New York to heading up the industrial relations team of a government department.
We’ve stayed true to our vision in other ways. For instance, we believe, to our core, that we need to make a positive difference where we can. At the same time, we know we can’t do that on our own. Hence, we seek to empower each other in our office, as well as partnering with other like-minded organisations. We work with people and organisations with whom we share values and vision about leadership and healthy workplaces.
But, in other significant ways, as a firm, we’re different from our younger selves. Yes, we have the unjaded enthusiasm. We’re still eager and excited. It’s a privilege and buzz to do what we do. However, we temper that with maturity, a proven track record and the sort of compassion that comes with age and experience. We’re not just tooting our own trumpet. You can see it in the feedback from our clients.
“Sometimes the way you approach an employment issue, the angle you take and the language you use, knowing when to be compassionate and when to be firm, is more important than the strictly legal aspects,” says Magda. “Our clients consistently give us feedback that they trust and value our advice about how to do it, and not just what to do. Plus, they know we won’t talk down to them or pretend to know something that we don’t. We value our clients’ knowledge and experience and their input is essential. It’s an authentic relationship of mutual trust and respect. Having these sorts of relationships in business should be the norm, not the exception, and we are committed to building them with all our clients. This is what clients tell us they want, and it’s what we want. Who on earth wants to come to work every day and fake it?”
Admittedly, some things we’ve learned the hard way. For instance, if we had our time again, we wouldn’t have hidden our light under a bushel for as long as we did, and we might have sought to scale-up more quickly.
Although, you learn from experience, so maybe we wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, we are trailblazers. We are trust builders. We serve our clients well. Let’s party again at our next milestone, 21, 50, 100 …..