By Dannielle Ford, Alice Byrnes and Kirsty Evans, Orange
As featured in the 2019 Country Web Annual
In April 2019, Alice Byrnes, Dannielle Ford and Kirsty Evans became owners and directors of the first all-female partnership law firm in Orange, NSW.
Over the past 10 years, each of the women have obtained tertiary qualifications, worked as employed solicitors and raised five children under the age of three between them, whilst having partnership aspirations in the back of their minds. The women supported each other through parental leave and one day over a cup of coffee at a local café they voiced their ambitions to become directors of a law firm. This dream quickly turned into a reality and within months they had purchased a well-established law firm which had been trading in the Central West for over 35 years.
Dannielle began her journey in the profession 10 years ago when she was employed as a secretary at the firm which she now jointly owns. It was there that Dannielle realised her true passion for the law and she completed her law degree by correspondence whilst working full-time.
Dannielle has knowledge of the firm from the ground up and it is her loyalty and dedication to the firm that her partners admire most. From early on in her career, she immersed herself in not only the law, but also the business of running a law firm.
‘It’s important to be passionate about what you do, however you also need to have strong business plans and marketing foundations in place in order to disrupt the marketplace in which you operate’, says Dannielle.
Dannielle is married to a local painter which means their routine often sees Dannielle’s husband on early starts and early finishes allowing the pair to juggle their careers and day care pick up and drop off between them.
For Kirsty, 2019 was the start of several new beginnings. January saw the establishment of a family farming partnership with her husband and by April 2019 Kirsty was working as a director of a law firm whilst her husband worked towards sowing their first crop at Trundle.
Kirsty’s youngest child was only six months old at the time of the purchase of the law firm and with her husband working away she said it was important to extend her network of support in order for the pair to achieve their goals.
Kirsty’s strategy to facilitate her new role as a director whilst having a family has been to offer her clients flexible arrangements outside of the traditional nine to five work model.
‘We recognise that our clients have businesses and families of their own. We want to be able to offer our clients the flexibility of obtaining legal advice at times that are more suitable to their lifestyle.’
In regards to the family farming partnership Kirsty said, ‘Farming has always been a part of my husband’s life and I am excited, and daunted, that we are both achieving our goals at the same time. However, I have never checked the weather forecast so much in my life!’
Alice was born and raised on a local orchard and relocated to Sydney to complete her tertiary qualifications at Sydney Uni and UNSW. She obtained extensive knowledge working in a large corporate law firm before returning to Orange in order to achieve a work-life balance whilst raising her children.
Alice has a particular interest for employment law and is an advocate for creating awareness around flexible working arrangements for families.
Alice said, ‘I’m not sure if people realise they have the right to request flexible working arrangements with their Employers. Sure, there is a criteria to be met under the Fair Work Act and businesses can refuse on reasonable grounds, but in the first instance, ask!’
To help Alice ease back into her a five-day working week, her husband approached his own employer and is now working a four-day week to share the parental load.
Alice says her tip for working mothers is, ‘You may have to work late at night when all the babies are asleep, the distraction of Netflix is turned off, when your husband turns in and the dog is curled up at your feet’.
All three women agree that in order for women to achieve continued success in their professions there needs to be a shift in the perception that only one parent is the provider to allow for parental responsibilities to be distributed evenly.