MinterEllisonRuddWatts senior associate gleans valuable lessons about flexible work from lockdown

Elizabeth Rowe says that lawyers shouldn't be afraid to put themselves and their needs first

MinterEllisonRuddWatts senior associate gleans valuable lessons about flexible work from lockdown
Elizabeth Rowe

Elizabeth Rowe instinctively knew that law was a suitable field for her given her personality, strengths and skillset. The “people side” of being a lawyer remains her favourite part of her job as a senior associate on the corporate and commercial team at MinterEllisonRuddWatts.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted her field, but having been there for the GFC, Rowe is optimistic that the country will recover. A silver lining from the pandemic, she said, has been the significant push into adopting remote work arrangements. The COVID-19-driven lockdown, along with her recent return from maternity leave, has taught her important things about making the flexible work setup work for her.

In this interview, Rowe talks about her second child being her proudest achievement over the past year, the creativity she observed during lockdown and monitoring the world’s recovery from the pandemic.

What made you choose a career in law?

I would like to say I dreamed of being a lawyer as a small child and was fulfilling a lifelong ambition, but it was more instinctively knowing that it would suit me—my personality, strengths and skills. Happily, I was right!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I have two core practice areas (which occasionally overlap) – mergers and acquisitions and retirement village and aged care law—so every day is different. I love the variety in my practice areas and client work, and that my job also involves business development, people management and strategy.

But most of all, I love the people side of it. I’ve been with MinterEllisonRuddWatts since the start of my career and have always appreciated the firm’s focus on people. I work with super-smart colleagues, clients and other advisers, and it’s the ability to work together with and help those people which really gives me job satisfaction.

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

What a time to ask! Obviously the last few months we have been focused on getting our people and clients through the lockdown period as smoothly and safely as possible. Looking forward, we are focusing on opportunities for our clients, and in particular we have reformed our specialist roll ups team in anticipation of some consolidation across the market.

Back in 2014-2016, we did a number of roll ups, and they require a lot of thought and structure put in place at the outset to ensure they can transact efficiently and successfully. Also, significant project management tools; for one roll up, I ended up managing 39 transactions at once!

What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so? What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year, and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?

Flexibility is the key to success, but only if you do it your way. I’ve recently returned from maternity leave after my second child (so for the record, I will say he is my proudest accomplishment in the last year!) and that, doubled with the lockdown, has taught me a lot of valuable lessons about working flexibly and efficiently.

There’s no one way which is going to work for everyone – some people are great multi-taskers, some people need space and time (and quiet!) to focus. You need to find what works for you, and then make it work for everyone around you. Don’t be afraid to put yourself and your needs first, as you’ll find everything else tends to work much better if that’s your starting point.

What should the profession and law firms focus more on? 

Right now it would have to be capturing and building on the lessons learned from the lockdown. One of the silver linings has been that law firms have been given a big push into working more flexibly and remotely, which I think has surprised a lot of the naysayers with its success. I would like to see flexible working become more commonplace – for everyone’s benefit.

While the lockdown circumstances have certainly been unique, I have seen it result in a lot of creative thinking and new connections, both within our firm, and for and with our clients.

What has been the biggest challenge you and your practice has faced amid the pandemic?

As I’m sure most lawyers experienced, the first few weeks of adapting to the restrictions of the lockdown while trying to help clients do the same was fairly tough, especially the conversations with clients around the realities of their business outlook and consequences for staff and projects. On the M&A side, there has been the unavoidable slow down and drop-off of a number of transactions.

However, I worked through the GFC and recovery from the same, and I am optimistic NZ will come out of this faster and stronger – time will tell.

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

Watching the world recover and hopefully embrace the lessons and new ways of working and living we have discovered during the pandemic. While at times very sobering, it has also been fascinating to watch the world’s reaction to COVID-19 and each country’s different approach to dealing with the spread and impact of the virus. Watching the world’s recovery – both economic and otherwise, will be even more interesting. New Zealand was well placed to learn from others’ mistakes when it came to stopping the spread of the virus, and I’m hoping we are equally open and quick to adopt the best ways of starting afresh.

I was also looking forward to a long planned overseas family holiday to celebrate my son’s first birthday and my dad’s 70th, but I guess that’s off the cards now!

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