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Leadership is said to be the act of guiding a team in a manner where the success of one is directly linked to the success of the team. Leadership, whether we want it or not, is part of the journey most young lawyers are already on. Lawyering gives us the opportunity to influence the decisions of others including our clients, our colleagues, the bench, and even the community.

Earlier this year, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking that Lizzo was the pinnacle of female empowerment, inclusiveness and body positivity. I genuinely believed Lizzo would have been an excellent leader.

However, come August 2023, we have been given reason to doubt. In fact, the allegations against Lizzo inform us about a number of attributes we ought not to have if we want to be an effective leader:

  1. Don’t harass or coerce your team

If you want to be a good leader this one should be a given. You should listen to and respect differing viewpoints so that you can create a cohesive direction forward.

  1. Don’t abuse your power

In Lizzo’s case, she allegedly favoured certain team members over others, however being a good leader goes hand-in-hand with being a team player. An effective leader is not in it for self-promotion, but rather looks to the big picture and sets long-term goals for the team as a whole.

  1. Don’t body shame

Obviously, a person’s appearance should never be a factor. The fact this has to be said in 2023 is astonishing.

  1. Don’t discriminate

In Lizzo’s case, this was allegedly around religion. Good leadership should try to foster the potential in all, irrespective of background, religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation.

The characteristics of good leadership were on display recently in our Women’s World Cup Soccer staff and team. Their vision is for future generations as well as themselves and we can already see how this has become a powerful motivator for the public at large.

As young lawyers, by harnessing our hunger to learn and embracing challenges head-on, we’re setting ourselves up to lead in ways we never thought possible.

In my opinion, all young lawyers are developing leaders. That said, lawyering can be a difficult gig – so where do we find the time to lead in amongst the demanding clients, colleagues, and what feels like an insurmountable number of stressful situations? There are a few tips to consider:

  1. Develop solid time management strategies – prioritising tasks, having realistic goals, and learning the art of saying ‘no’;
  2. Find a good mentor and absorb their wisdom! Many experienced lawyers are keen to support the younger legal generation and are just waiting for an opportunity to pass on the baton;
  3. Network – attend legal gatherings, join committees, connect on LinkedIn – generally expand your circle so you can learn and gain perspective from others;
  4. Be adaptable. One of my favourite quotes that I have on my desk says, ‘learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break’;
  5. Think outside the box. The curiosity and fresh perspective of young lawyers can lead to some pretty innovative solutions to legal puzzles; and
  6. Don’t underestimate yourself! Put yourself out there and you might be surprised by what opportunities come your way.

After moving from Newcastle in 2015, I embraced legal practice in the Dubbo community and have not looked back. Personally, I have been very lucky when it comes to leadership roles. I would never have imagined the opportunities that have been available to me as a young lawyer in the regions, and I genuinely encourage everyone to embrace the tree-change.

As young lawyers, by harnessing our hunger to learn and embracing challenges head-on, we’re setting ourselves up to lead in ways we never thought possible.  We’re not just shaping our careers, but we are also influencing the reputation of our firms, contributing to the evolution of the legal world, as well as being advocates for better outcomes in society.

#Disclaimer – no allegations against Lizzo have been proven, and the allegations were made by former employees.

Jennifer Spear is Senior Associate at Duffy Elliott Lawyers.