Piper Alderman partner: Try and roll with the ups and downs

Joanne Hardwick talks the new routines developed under the new normal

Piper Alderman partner: Try and roll with the ups and downs
Joanne Hardwick

For Joanne Hardwick, going into the law was her way of searching for truth and justice, like her policeman father. The restructuring and insolvency lawyer finds her fulfilment in becoming a trusted advisor to her clients in a predicament.

Another of Hardwick’s great passions is boosting the profile of female lawyers. As a partner at Piper Alderman’s Melbourne office, she sees herself as being a role model for young women entering the profession, and one of her goals is to bolster opportunities for women at the firm.

In this interview, Hardwick talks about what she believes junior lawyers need in the current environment, the unpredictability of life over recent years and spending a day with Marisa Payne.

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

I was drawn to the law because of my dad. He was a policeman. I admired his law enforcement work, his integrity and his search for truth and justice. Being a lawyer was my way of searching for the truth and this career appealed to my curious and analytical mind and problem-solving capabilities.

My favourite part about being a lawyer is achieving an outcome for clients who find themselves in a predicament. I enjoy spending time with clients, understanding their story, digging deep into the evidence of a case and developing a strategy to help to solve a problem. Being able to move from purely providing legal advice to a trusted advisor for my clients is the greatest reward.

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

There is plenty going on at the firm at the moment, from programs designed to increase connections within the firm nationally to programs that aim to further develop our legal capacity in emerging industries and sectors across the country.

I have always been passionate about promoting women in the profession and improving gender equality at the firms that I have worked at. I see myself as a role model for young female lawyers and I will continue to work with my peers to improve opportunities for women at Piper Alderman.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?

Life has been unpredictable and stressful in the past few years. Routines have been thrown out the window. We have had to create new routines and juggle the blending of work and home life like never before. I think for me, the biggest lesson is to remember to try and roll with the ups and downs, be open to change and to keep things as simple as possible.

What should the profession and law firms focus more on?

As we move towards a “new normal,” which sees staff having the ability to work in a hybrid fashion moving between the office and home without restrictions, firms should focus on managing this and finding the right balance for staff, clients and the firm’s business.

It is important that we harness the momentum gained as a result of working from home during the pandemic and continue to support staff in finding work life balance. Firms should also continue to highlight and support the importance of connection with people – clients and team.

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?

I think our biggest challenge as we move through to the next stage of the pandemic will be to ensure that our junior lawyers are properly trained and developed. Without considered thought, we risk them missing out on essential mentoring and training, along with all of the fun team and client interactions that I had when I was a junior lawyer. These experiences are critical for a young lawyer’s professional development and enjoyment of their work as a lawyer.

It will be challenging to create a buzzing work environment in a hybrid working week that will likely be the norm for the coming year. I think that all of the legal industry will face this challenge.

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

Getting back into a new normal work routine rather than operating on a week-by-week basis, which is how it has been for such a long time now – that is what I am most looking forward to, probably with a lot of others.

If you were given an opportunity to spend a day with anyone (living or dead), who would it be and why?

If the meeting was held today, it would be Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs. I'd need to be given full security clearance and be privy to everything at the highest level. Understanding strategic decisions in relation to the current international tensions and Australia's role in those decisions would be fascinating.

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