For Liz Mason, leadership can come in many forms, such as championing a new initiative
Over the past year, Liz Mason says she has “really defined” what being a leader in her team means to her personally. For the PwC Legal manager, leadership can happen at all levels and come in a variety of forms, such as through being an advocate for a novel initiative, working towards expertise in a specific subject or helping to mentor a new hire.
Mason is a supporter of many initiatives within her firm – she has played touch rugby and cricket with her colleagues in Victoria Park to encourage mental wellness, and is in the process of mastering her pepeha through PwC Legal’s “Te Māramatanga: Building your Te Ao Māori knowledge base” programme.
In this interview, Mason also talks about focusing on what gives her the most joy in her job, being part of PwC Legal from the start and looking forward to how the legal profession and society will retain and apply the lessons learned from 2020.
What made you choose a career in law?
I enrolled in law after enjoying my study of the arts at high school. I was hooked after the first few lectures and never really looked back. In my third year of university, I remember the summer clerking applications opening up and law school coming alive with chatter about the options for the future. I applied in my fourth year and was lucky enough to get a spot – and the rest is history.
What do you love most about your job?
The people and the collaborative culture. I’ve had the unique opportunity to start with PwC Legal from its early stages, and we’ve been able to create a unique team culture. We also have all the benefits of being part of the global network, including enviable access to a range of leaders in their fields from the New Zealand and global team – and that certainly brings a new level of satisfaction in providing really differentiated and complete answers to client problems.
What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?
There is significant focus on mental wellbeing in the legal profession, and for many of us, a really good way to support mental wellness is physical activity. Earlier in the year, one of our associates instigated “PwC Legal P.E.” We make our way to Victoria Park one lunchtime each week, where we spend an hour playing (or attempting) a game of touch rugby or cricket (BYC rules). In one of our last sessions before lockdown, we managed almost full team attendance – and no dislocations.
Another notable initiative that I’m passionate about is our “Te Māramatanga: Building your Te Ao Māori knowledge base” programme. It’s an interactive and practical internal programme, run by our Manukura Māori business team within PwC New Zealand. The goal is to build and expand our knowledge base on the Māori worldview by providing a snapshot of cultural values, customs, stories, language, our Māori clients and the Māori economy. I’m currently halfway through the programme and have almost mastered my pepeha – I’m thoroughly enjoying it!
What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?
People often talk about how important it is to “be your authentic self” in your professional interactions, which is something that up until recently I never really understood how to do. In the last year, I’ve really defined what it means to me to be a leader within my team, and I’ve focussed on my natural strengths and the parts of my job that bring me the most joy to identify what I add to my team.
My advice: no matter what level you are, be a leader. It could be championing a new initiative in your team, striving to become a subject-matter expert in an area of interest or making an effort to help coach or mentor someone new to the team.
What should the profession and law firms focus more on?
Teamwork. It’s empowering to work in a place where my ability to create teams and connections is a key measure of success in my role. Junior lawyers benefit from the encouragement, teaching and empowerment, and the senior members of the team enjoy (and benefit from) the sharing of experience and knowledge that fosters and grows the next generation of lawyers.
What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?
I’m looking forward to getting back to “normal” life, but also I’m interested to see how our profession and society as a whole will retain and utilise many of the lessons we have learnt through this time.