Sherryn Harford also talks how wardrobe considerations factored into her career choice
When she was young, Sherryn Harford wanted to be a marine biologist, but the idea of being in a wetsuit all the time made her decide to shift to a career with “slightly better wardrobe options”.
That career turned out to be law, and last year, Harford celebrated making partner at Mayne Wetherell – a year after successfully returning to the firm from parental leave and finding the perfect work/life balance.
In this 2023 interview conducted shortly after Harford’s promotion, she shares the importance of a supportive work environment to parents, Mayne Wetherell’s CSR focus, and the charisma of Succession’s Logan Roy.
What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?
Growing up, I actually had aspirations of becoming a marine biologist, however after my parents treated me to a “dolphin trainer for a day” experience at Sea World on the Gold Coast, I was put off by the prospect of spending so much time in a wetsuit and thought maybe I should choose a profession with slightly better wardrobe options. Law seemed to fit the bill!
One of my favourite parts of the job is advising a diverse range of clients, as it provides a continuous opportunity to learn more about the ins and outs of various industries and businesses.
What is going on at the organisation? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?
In the last few years, we have been focusing on corporate social responsibility, and looking at ways we can integrate social and environmental concerns into our business operations. We have established a CSR committee to investigate and implement such initiatives.
One of the first initiatives we implemented was becoming B Corporation certified – being the first law firm in NZ to do so. We are continuing to look at ways in which we can improve our operations.
What tech-related initiatives adopted by the organisation, if any, are you most excited about?
Mayne Wetherell recognises the importance of leveraging technology to enhance our legal services, and we have been having a lot of discussions around AI, and how our people can utilise these tools effectively. I am particularly excited about Microsoft’s Copilot, which will be integrated into Microsoft’s existing Office 365 software. I am really excited to discover the ways in which this technology can be used to help streamline some of the more admin-heavy aspects of our job.
What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so?
My promotion to partnership has obviously been a huge highlight in this year, but another accomplishment I am proud of is having returned to work in 2022 following parental leave and managing to find the right work/life balance.
The transition back to work was a lot more difficult than I expected, not only trying to manage the competing demands, but the emotional aspects of the transition as well. I think this is something that is often talked about as a challenge that parents face when returning to work, but it’s one of those things that you can’t fully appreciate until it happens to you. I don’t think there is any magic formula to making this work as everyone’s situation is different, but a supportive work environment is certainly a key aspect to success, and I have been incredibly fortunate that everyone at Mayne Wetherell has been so supportive during this time.
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?
Looking ahead, there are several challenges that I anticipate in my corporate practice and in the business of law in general. Firstly, the rapid pace of technological advancements presents both opportunities and challenges. Embracing and effectively utilising emerging technologies while ensuring data privacy and security will be crucial.
Another challenge lies in the increasing demand for cost-effective legal services. Clients expect efficient and transparent fee structures, pushing law firms to adopt innovative billing models and leverage technology to streamline processes. Finally, the ongoing need to enhance diversity and inclusivity within the legal profession remains a pressing challenge in New Zealand and globally, ensuring equal representation and opportunities for all.
What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?
Professionally, I’m looking forward to working with the wider corporate team to build our practice and deliver great outcomes for our clients. I am also looking forward to my daughter becoming a big sister.
If you had to defend a fictional antagonist/villain in court, who would you pick, and why?
Having recently finished watching Succession, while there is no shortage of antagonists in that series to choose from, I think I would have to pick the man who started it all, Logan Roy. While his actions were often ruthless and cutthroat, they are ultimately driven by a deep sense of loyalty to his family and a determination to protect his empire. He’s a pretty charismatic figure, so I’m sure he could take the stand and manage to sway any potential jury to his side of things.