Sydney/Perth, 28 November 2018: Clayton Utz special counsel Jennifer Harris and senior associate Lauree Coci were named Mentor of the Year and Senior Associate of the Year respectively at the 2018 Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards held in Melbourne on 22 November.
This is the second time that Jennifer, who practises in the firm's national Real Estate team out of Sydney and has advised on many of NSW's most high-profile urban renewal projects, has won the award. Jennifer has mentored over 30 women at Clayton Utz, as well as through the Law Society of NSW mentoring program.
Jennifer said she valued the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of the women she mentors. "Many of my mentees have achieved promotions both within and outside the firm. I really see it as an honour and a privilege to have people I mentor put their trust in me, and to share their vulnerability and to seek courage and growth together," she said.
"A whole new dimension to my career opened up when I realised what great insight and joy I got from being there for other lawyers who were dealing with the same challenges and fears that I was. I learnt that realising we were all in this together gave me hope and purpose."
Her own experience in working flexibly to manage her own family commitments has made her a champion of the many women she mentors who are in a similar position. "Juggling work and family can give rise to unprecedented vulnerability and pressure, and being able to support women who are involved in this juggle has been a very rewarding part of my career," said Jennifer.
For Lauree Coci, winning the Senior Associate of the Year award reflects her outstanding contribution as a lawyer, mentor, advocate, and pro bono co-ordinator in the Clayton Utz Perth office.
Lauree has a particularly strong interest in emerging business and human rights risks, and encouraged the firm to establish a practice in Human Rights Supply Chain Risk Management. Lauree was an early advocate for anti-slavery legislation in Australia, assisting Walk Free Foundation with submissions to the parliamentary inquiry and making recommendations to the Attorney-General's Department to shape the Modern Slavery Act.
Of this aspect of her work, Lauree said: "I am passionate about working with clients pro-actively to embed respect for human rights in their businesses. It's not simply a matter of compliance with the law, it's about respect and protection for individuals who cannot advocate for themselves. Our Pro Bono practice has now acted in several cases where people were held in slave-like conditions and treated appallingly - which is not something we should stand by and accept in our modern society."
As well as her litigation practice, Lauree is the Pro Bono co-ordinator for the Perth office. In this role, she has established lawyer secondment programs with Women's Law Centre of WA, Kimberley Community Legal Service, Regional Alliance West and Law Access, as well as allocated pro bono files to Perth partners and lawyers, and led her own. She is also one of the firm's Innovation Champions, trained in a science-based approach to innovation to solve actual client problems.
"I'm enjoying being at this stage of my career, where I have a mix of responsibilities and the opportunity to use my skills and experience in different areas. Clayton Utz has been a great support and I'm proud to be part of the firm."