Q&A with Justine Turnbull – Partner at Seyfarth Shaw Australia

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Lawyer Mums Australia had the pleasure of interviewing Justine Turnbull, who is a Mother and also a Partner at Seyfarth Shaw specialising in employment law (http://www.seyfarth.com/JustineTurnbull). Justine kindly shared with us how she juggles being a successful lawyer and a mum, and also offered some insightful advice to other lawyer mums.

Q1. What gets you up in the morning?

Usually my dog Henry barking at a passing jogger and the need to get my children to school on time… Like many people it’s also the monthly mortgage payment, school fees, my particularly bad shopping habit and the thought of our next holiday.

Q2. What do you enjoy most about specialising in employment law?

I like the fact that employment law is related to people and each case is different in the same way each person is different. As an employment lawyer I consider myself part of the broader HR profession. I also like that employment law is highly politicised and so can change with every change in government.

Q3.  Top tips for being a Lawyer Mum? How do you manage being a Partner of a top law firm, a Mum, a wife, maintain friendships, run a household and have time to yourself?

The bottom line is I don’t do it all. I have a very useful and supportive husband who is probably more involved with our children and their activities than I am. I also have a great extended family especially my parents (who also work) who help out when they can, I don’t spend as much time with my friends as I would like, I have had to let go some of my standards at home (and consequently my family and friends know that surprise visits are not acceptable!), I outsource the house cleaning and I very rarely get time to myself.

Q4.  What advice would you give a Lawyer Mum who is about to commence maternity leave?

Enjoy your leave, just look after yourself and your baby for the first few months and then try to maintain some contact with your firm/employer each week for the balance of your leave but don’t make any firm decisions about when and how you want to return until the baby is at least 4 months old if you can.

Q5.  What advice would you give a Lawyer Mum who is looking to re-enter the law after a few years break having children?

Have confidence, things don’t change that much over time and you are valuable to the business!!! Also, something I repeatedly tell people who work with me – ‘we’re not Doctors!’

Q6.  What advice would you give a Lawyer Mum who wants to pursue partnership and have a family?

Make sure this is  really what you want because it is very, very hard and there is no doubt that in pursuing partnership you will miss out on some aspects of your family and personal life, make an informed choice in consultation with your partner then if you decide partnership is what you want as well as a family then put your head down and go for it!

Q7.  How do you unwind?

That is one of my biggest challenges…. I walk and swim if I have time (I hate the gym), ideally I would also play golf and tennis but no time. I read, do Sudokus and watch TV if I can sit still and in recent times I have been getting in to mindfulness and meditation but to be honest the main way is to drink wine, eat and chat with family & friends.

Q8.  What’s the best holiday you’ve ever been on?

In recent times it is skiing in the Dolomites in Italy with family and friends – so relaxed, great snow, great food and loads of fun for the whole family, skiing is a fantastic activity to do with older children (so long as the parents’ bodies can keep up…) and skiing in Europe (once you get there) is much cheaper than Australia or NZ.

Q9.  Who’s your idol?

I don’t have one really, maybe Martha Stewart purely from a homemaker perspective (although I’m not so good with numbers either…). I like Amanda Keller too, is that too daggy to say?? I have read loads about having a sponsor / mentor / coach, I see real benefit in this and have looked for that sort of relationship a great deal but never found something really satisfactory. My main role model is probably my Mother who is a 69 yo working professional who runs a great home, is a great Mother & Grandmother and loves a party. She’s v smart and practical and doesn’t suffer fools or self-pity. I also have a client/friend who is a role model because she is a beautiful Mother and wife and has a great HR job that she does really well, she is very true to herself in her work which is something I admire and aspire to be.

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