Piper Alderman partner: Leadership development must be a focus for firms

Shane Entriken is concentrating on building up the firm's new Perth office

Piper Alderman partner: Leadership development must be a focus for firms
Shane Entriken

Shane Entriken was already working at the managerial level when the HR management expert decided he needed “a deeper knowledge of the law” in his work with businesses and workforces. He discovered a love of the law while juggling his legal studies with a full-time job, and has not looked back since.

Entriken has gone from frequent Fair Work Commission appearances to acting for clients before the Federal Court. Recently, he was tapped to help lead Piper Alderman’s newly opened Perth office alongside fellow partner Paul Sartori, and Entriken is looking to make a splash in that role, recognising the importance of developing people’s leadership, business and strategic skills.

In this interview, Entriken talks the standout case that involved death threats and firebombing, lecturing in the subject he created for Murdoch University and the increasingly specialised practice of law.

What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?

I completed a business degree with a major in human resource management and progressed quickly to management roles for businesses with unionised workforces, change, disputes, bargaining and appearing regularly in the Fair Work Commission. I felt I needed a deeper knowledge of the law, so I studied law at a 75% load while working full-time. I enjoyed the law and felt it was a natural fit for the way I think.

There are two parts of the job I particularly enjoy. The first is running cases. That might be defending an employer or senior officer in a prosecution, an adverse action in the Federal Court or taking a challenge against a regulator. This type of work can be high pressure and high stakes, but it is also a test of your knowledge and the advice you give to a client.

Secondly, I like to work with employers to coach and guide them, as well as be strategic about how they set up and manage their organisations. Anyone can tell you what the law says – the art is to have the experience and foresight to know the right calls to make in a certain set of circumstances.

What is the most memorable case you've taken on/been involved in?

There have been many high-pressure negotiations, industrial stoppages, bad accidents, commission and court hearings. One of the most memorable was a nasty coal industry dispute involving death threats, security guards and houses being firebombed. My wife didn’t like that.

Another was a power station dispute that threatened to cut off the power to 20% of an Australian state resulting in an arbitrated award. That was interesting! The final would be the BA16 litigation which was Australia’s longest running unfair dismissal – and I was involved when the workers were ordered back to work. I learned a lot from that about change.

What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?

My focus is on building the recently established Piper Alderman Perth office with our local team. We are also looking for capable local partners and lawyers, who, like us, want a career with a great firm.

What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so?

I really enjoy being on the Board of Crime Stoppers WA. Working with the police in drug education, prevention of violence and being part of an organisation helping to solve crimes is very rewarding. I also enjoy sessional lecturing at Murdoch University from time to time in the subject I developed for them called Legal Strategy in Organisations.

What should the profession and law firms focus more on?

While law firms do technical skills training well, many lag behind the industry in how they develop their leaders. Firms who develop the leadership, business and strategic skills of their people will outperform and differentiate themselves.

What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?

The practice of law is very competitive and increasingly specialised. It is important to find what you like and then become very good at that. If you do good work, and genuinely add value for clients, the word will soon get around and your practice will grow.

What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?

I can’t wait to be able to go on a holiday overseas again.

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