Proctor : March 2019
14 PROCTOR | March 2019 NOELA L’ESTRANGE is closely associated with QLS, women in the law and the Queensland legal profession, having been admitted in 1976 and leading the way in many areas over her career – including commencing the International Women’s Day Great Debate more than 20 years ago. Despite her many career opportunities and her long legacy, she has never strayed from the legal profession. Noela is an inspirational female leader in the profession, having also been the first female Chief Executive Officer at Queensland Law Society. When asked who inspired her, Noela shared her professional inspiration – former Governor of Queensland Leneen Forde – and told the story of her mother – who was widowed at 44 with four children in tow. “It is from my parents that I received my social equity conscience, which I have tried to apply through the various stages of my life. At 95 this year, she still pushes us! “In my professional life, I was inspired during my articles by Leneen Forde, who was a partner in the firm. She was also widowed early and returned to university to gain a law degree and admission.” Noela said that International Women’s Day had always meant a lot to her, and she appreciated the opportunity it provided to publicly acknowledge and recognise women’s contributions across all areas of society. “We take for granted many things that had to be fought for – the right to vote, to education, to own property, to be treated equally before the law,” she said. She said the traditional colours of purple, green and white came from the British suffragists: purple for dignity, green for growth and white for clarity of thought. “This is still very relevant to women in their endeavours today.” As a practitioner admitted during a time when not many women were admitted at each sitting – between 1971-1980 only 10.9% of those admitted were women (147 out of 1344)2 – Noela has seen many changes in the profession over the last 40 years. “I was the only woman admitted in my sitting, and there were only a handful of women at The University of Queensland’s Law School in the early ’70s. Despite the numbers of graduates, statistics show that women are still not making it through to partner rank as might be expected, so there’s still work to do.” Noela was instrumental in setting up the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland 40 years ago. Back then, she never dreamed she would see women in such high positions across the state. “I didn’t dream that in my lifetime I would see female lawyers as Premier, Attorney-General, Supreme Court Chief Justice and Senior Judge Administrator, Deputy Chief Magistrate and High Court Chief Justice all at the same time.” REBECCA FOGERTY is one of only a handful of females who have received Specialist Accreditation from QLS in criminal law, and a founding partner of Jasper Fogerty lawyers. She is Deputy Chair of the QLS Criminal Law Committee, sat on the 2019 QLS Accredited Specialist (Criminal Law) Committee and has been published across multiple platforms. Admitted in 2009, Rebecca has a passion for criminal law and cannot imagine herself in 10 years’ time not working in the space. She said that it was a “privilege to be able to help people and in some small way serve the cause of justice”. Rebecca said there were still challenges in the profession that females must confront into the future. “Women may comprise the majority of law graduates, but they often struggle to return to work after having children and are underrepresented at the senior and leadership level,” she said. “I would hope that in 10 years’ time, the vast majority of law firms will have embraced genuine flexible work arrangements as the norm for parents. “I would also love to see more women joining the Bar or becoming partners or owners of law firms. The legal workforce is changing; there are more choices now than ever, and more and diverse role models for early female practitioners.” As one of the small number of females accredited in criminal law, Rebecca said that she undertook the course as a new challenge in her professional career. She said the program was challenging and she appreciated the opportunity to develop her skills and knowledge. “It required an enormous amount of time and hard work, but it was nonetheless an extremely worthwhile and rewarding experience.” Rebecca has some sage words for young women entering the legal profession: “In a nutshell, be honest, authentic, and listen to others. Listening – to your clients, senior colleagues and mentors – is a vital skill. “Many female lawyers experience ‘imposter syndrome’ and question the validity of their accomplishments. “Don’t be afraid to speak up and contribute, whether within your law firm and/or the wider profession. Always keep your word.” These stories provide a snapshot of the women lawyers leading the profession across Queensland. There are countless women working tirelessly day-in, day-out to create a better future for the younger generations in the legal profession. Take the time this year on International Women’s Day to reflect upon those inspirational women who have come before you, those who are working alongside you, and those who will rise with you in years to come. INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8 and is not country, group or organisation-specific. The 2019 theme is ‘Balance for better’. More information can be found at internationalwomensday.com. 2 Gregory, H. (1991). The Queensland Law Society Inc: 1928-1988. Australia, P.150.