DLA Piper special counsel advocates for initiatives to nip stress and anxiety in the bud

“We are often given the tools to deal with stress and anxiety, but it would be good to have the tools that remove and address them,” says Emma Manohar

DLA Piper special counsel advocates for initiatives to nip stress and anxiety in the bud
Emma Manohar

Emma Manohar is a champion of many causes, including offering future female leaders guidance and mentorship as a part of DLA Piper’s Leadership Alliance for Women committee and getting involved in pro bono work. However, one thing she wants to see receive greater focus is the area of health and well-being.

She believes that while lawyers have often been advised on how to handle with stress and anxiety, the profession needs tools that help address the roots of these problems—something that the firm is taking a more active role in by signing up for the Mindful Business Charter.

In this interview, the special counsel, who got her start in environment law, also talks going through lockdown with a toddler, being a double degree-holder when she graduated, the acceptance of flexible work arrangements all over the world and appreciating the things we take for granted.

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What made you choose a career in law?

During my time at school, I was always more interested in the sciences than English and history. However, after leaving school I was tossing up the ideas of medical school or law school. Law was being considered as an option because my dad was a lawyer and a role model of mine. The deciding factor was location—I could stay closer to home if I studied law but not if I went to medical school.

I ended up doing a double degree in law and science through Victoria University. Five years later, my first job offer was in a law firm doing environmental law, so I ended up in the law.

What do you love most about your job?

The thing I love most about my job is the people, my colleagues, my clients and the profession more generally. Getting to work with great people on projects from the initial concept to successful development or outcome is one of my key drivers.

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

There is lots going on at the firm outside the traditional legal model. I have recently joined our Leadership Alliance for Women committee. LAW is one of DLA Piper’s global initiatives and it is aimed at providing current and future leaders with a platform to build connections, develop relationships and strengthen leadership skills. I am looking forward to being involved in the upcoming internal and external LAW events we host and run.

DLA Piper also has a lot going on in the pro bono space, which I am looking to become more involved in. I am currently involved in a global research project around surrogacy and reproductive rights and involved in several refugee resettlement matters.

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

My biggest accomplishment in the last year has been surviving eight weeks of lockdown at home with a two-year-old. This has involved Environment Court mediations by audio-visual link and lecturing at Victoria University.

What should the profession and law firms focus more on?

It is encouraging to see the culture shift law firms and the legal profession have been moving through in recent years. I would like to see that progress continue and more of a focus on holistic health and wellbeing. We are often given the tools to deal with stress and anxiety, but it would be good to have the tools that remove and address stress and anxiety before they arise/before we need to cope with them.

I am pleased that DLA Piper has recently signed up to the Mindful Business Charter, which aligns with that issue. The intention of the Mindful Business Charter is to remove unnecessary sources of stress and to promote better mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. I am looking forward to seeing how this translates into our work environment.

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 work in the areas of resource management and building regulation. The economic response to COVID-19 and the proposed new fast track process for major projects is going to have a significant impact on both those areas. Responding at pace to a challenging legal, economic and social framework will be a real challenge, but one I am looking forward to.

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

I am looking forward to a return to normality post the COVID-19 lockdown. I am looking forward to global acceptance of more flexible working arrangements, more appreciation of the things we took for granted and the ability to work through a problem with the team on a whiteboard as opposed to via Zoom/Teams/Skype.

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