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Women in the House

Have you ever thought about what advice you would offer your younger self? How would that theoretical piece of advice alter the personal and professional paths since followed? The ACC Australia: Women in the House publication profiled ten equally impressive in-house counsel from the Australia and Asia-Pacific region, to understand their career paths and the decisions that led them to their current in-house roles. In this excerpt from that publication, we outline the answers to the question: “What advice would you give to your younger self?”

1.    “[D]iscipline, hard work, and learning to ask for help”

“I don’t know if age always brings wisdom, but it certainly brings perspective. When you’re young, you don’t have much experience and you can’t put events in context. Every bump in the road is a crisis. So, what I would tell my younger self is to believe in myself more. Sometime during my adolescence, I became very disciplined. Dear younger Lin: It is discipline, hard work and learning to ask for help that will get you through any set back or challenge. You have those skills already, just need to take a deep breath and get to work. You will thrive!” 

Lin Shi, Chief Development Officer, HKbitEx

2.    “[F]ollow your heart and force your own career”

“If I could give one piece of advice to my younger self, it would be “follow your heart and forge your own career.” There are many unhappy people out there trying to live up to the expectations of others. It is amazing how doors open when you pursue what you believe in. On a more practical note, as a mother of two primary school-aged children, I encourage anyone who is juggling work and family to get all the help they can. They are not joking when they say, “It takes a village to raise a child.”” 

Elizabeth Carroll, Chief Legal Counsel, IP Australia

3.    “[N]ever underestimate the importance of learning”

“If I could go back in time to my younger self, I would give myself more reassurance and tell myself that confidence would be a natural progression. Sometimes it just takes a little time to find your confidence and learn more about your abilities.  I recently read a quote by Richard Branson that really resonated with me. “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” We can never underestimate the importance of learning and should continue to learn at every possible opportunity. Be open to learning everywhere as it is amazing just how much you can learn from people you meet and the stories they share.”

Jessica Giampiccolo, Group Legal Counsel, Southern States Group

4.    “[T]he way you approach and deliver legal advice is as important as the advice itself”

“The advice I’d share today with my younger self is “the way you approach and deliver legal advice is as important as the advice itself.” As an in-house lawyer your clients are often non-lawyers who have little legal training or background. The way you approach their legal dilemma and the way that a solution is presented, is just as critical as the advice that is ultimately provided. This feedback was hard to hear at the time (after I had just provided what I thought to be a very technical, precise piece of advice to an internal stakeholder in marketing) but it completely changed the way that I go about solving challenges and assisting business stakeholders to understand how to navigate complex legal issues.” 

Elizabeth Briggs, Director of Legal, PayPal Australia

5.    “[T]rust your judgment”

“One piece of advice I would give my younger self is “trust your judgment.” If you have considered all the options and likely scenarios, assessed the risks and formed a view on an issue, voice your opinion and make sure it’s heard. Often, the loudest voice in a room or at the decision-making table isn’t always the right one and the quieter voices aren’t heard – which is why we need to focus on creating more inclusive teams and workplaces!” 

Seshani Bala, Group Executive, General Counsel & Corporate Assurance, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

6.    “[G]et involved more in areas you are interested in”

“Sometimes I wish I had gone straight into law out of high school, and just got gotten into the industry a lot quicker. Other times I feel that my life experience has given me a real understanding of the broader commercial implications of the law. If I could go back in time, I also probably would have pushed myself to get more involved in university events and start growing my network earlier. I didn’t start ‘networking’ (formally or informally!) until I was working full time in the law. Making connections with other industries, or with other professionals is so important. So, my advice would be to get involved more in areas you are interested in (not just events or groups you think you ‘should’ be interested in) and start connecting the dots a lot sooner if you can.” 

Verity White, Legal Counsel, Telstra

7.    “[T]each yourself to be impatient”

“The advice that I’d like to give to my younger self is if you genuinely want something, don’t wait for it; teach yourself to be impatient. Take the initiative and steal the opportunity. Keep yourself updated and well informed.”


Kavitha Gupta, Senior Corporate Counsel, Juniper Networks

8.    “[C]elebrate your differences, be proud of it”

“If I could give my younger self one piece of advice it would be “celebrate your differences, be proud of it, and don’t leave it at the door when you walk into your workplace…always believe in yourself and never give up.” It has been a journey for me, and I have become increasingly involved in advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. For me, it took getting to a certain level of seniority to feel more comfortable advocating for these values in the workplace. Some of these conversations are harder (and more uncomfortable) than others. I have few peers who are women (or men) of colour which makes the topic of ethnic and racial diversity in the workplace a more challenging topic to confront than gender and one that I have shied away from until recently. I have realised, though, that if we don’t have the courage to have these difficult conversations, listen, and take action, things won’t change. While we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go. I am inspired by young lawyers who have the courage to speak up about what they believe in and am committed to doing what I can to support them and to contribute to meaningful and lasting change in this space.” 

Ruby Anandajayasekeram, Senior Legal Counsel Global Litigation (Asia-Pacific), Shell Australia

9.    “I’d remind myself not to take it personally”

“If I could go back in time and share one piece of advice with my younger self, I’d remind myself not to take it personally. If a colleague isn’t thrilled about adjusting their plans to take into account the legal advice– after all, they are probably just as passionate about their work as you are about yours! Oh, and one other thing: take up more opportunities to attend conferences and training on areas of law you are interested in or need to learn more about – you will always have too much on ‘at the moment’ and your colleague will almost invariably need that contract yesterday.”

Georgette Apostopoulos, Principal Legal Counsel, Deliveroo Australia

10.    “It will all work out”

“If I could remind my younger self one piece of advice it would be that “It will all work out.” You can never predict where you will end up but every experience along the way builds up the foundation. All those twists, turns, roundabouts and flights that you take will lead somewhere great!” 

Kellie Morton, Chief Legal Officer, Birchal

ACC would like to extend our thanks to all who contributed to the ACC Australia: Women in the house handbook and we acknowledge their efforts and commitment to building a more diverse and inclusive in-house legal sector. Read the full profiles in the ACC Australia Women in the House handbook.