Highlight: Elite Woman urges lawyers to 'have some fun along the way'

Cooper Grace Ward partners make their mark in land development and mental health advocacy

Highlight: Elite Woman urges lawyers to 'have some fun along the way'

Leanne O'Neill and Belinda Winter, partners at Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers and part of Australasian Lawyer’s Elite Women 2023, have made meaningful contributions in the areas of mental health in the workplace, agriculture, infrastructure, mining, native title, and cultural heritage.

“There’s no consistency and equity for some of our most major laws, which are the ones that matter because land use is everything; it’s where we live, work and play,” O'Neill told Australasian Lawyer.

O'Neill, who leads the firm’s planning and environment practice, has been collaborating with others to improve and to streamline Australia’s mining, agricultural, biosecurity, and Aboriginal cultural heritage laws.

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She has served as legal project lead for the delivery of more than 7,000 residential homes and a $1.8bn town centre, including a large regional hospital. These developments aim to tackle the housing crisis, the shortfall in hospital beds, and ambulance ramping.

She volunteers with First Nations people and charitable organisations to develop employment opportunities in these communities. She also offers reduced legal rates and pro bono work for clients in the agricultural sector.

“You can be an excellent lawyer without being nasty, and you’re supposed to have some fun along the way,” she said.

Winter, on the other hand, belongs to the firm’s workplace relations and safety team. She gives employers strategic advice, support, and representation relating to employment, industrial relations, discrimination, and safety law.

Her work in re-examining the firm’s domestic violence policy led to its becoming one of the first in Queensland to both establish a domestic violence policy and offer paid domestic violence leave.

She is a qualified mental health first aid instructor. She participates in a helpline for law firms and individuals and assists employers in developing mental health programs. Wellbeing is a priority for her.

“If we want to be influential as partners, we must walk the talk,” she told Australasian Lawyer. “I encourage my team to work in a flexible way that suits their lives, and I live that mantra.”

The full list of this year’s Elite Women can be found here.

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