News

Women in men’s world

By Lauren O'Keefe

Jacqui Brauman wants to change the law profession.

Ms Brauman qualified as a solicitor while working at Tehan George & Co in Seymour but then moved to Wagga and then to Sydney with her husband who is in the military.

In 2012, fate brought her back to the Seymour region and she bought Rod Theobald’s practice, determined to find a different way to practice law after a particularly disturbing experience in Sydney.

‘‘I had a horrendous experience with my last employer in Sydney,’’ Ms Brauman said.

‘‘Discrimination, sexual harassment. I even got physically hit once by my boss. That compelled me to work for myself because I wanted to be in control of my environment and I want it to be safe. And I wanted women who I brought into the workforce to also be safe.’’

The experience of being slapped across the face by the general manager in the middle of heated discussion is a central motivating factor behind why Ms Brauman has set up her law firm, TBA Law, the way she has.

Starting with herself and one support staff member, she has grown the firm to 10 employees and all of the solicitors who work at TBA Law are women.

Ms Brauman said that was intentional.

‘‘I only have female solicitors working for me. I’ve got a couple of male support staff and that’s been conscious,’’ she said.

‘‘I really tried to flip the model a little bit because traditionally it’s been male partners, maybe some female associates and then female support staff. But no, my firm’s going to be females solicitors.

‘‘My first and foremost goal was to have a safe environment for myself. So when I’m bringing other junior staff members and mentoring them, I want them to have a safe experience in legal industry and I want to protect them to some degree from what it can be like.

‘‘Obviously they’re still exposed to other solicitors in other firms on other sides of matters and I can’t protect them completely.’’

She said she had hired one or two male solicitors but they elected to move on voluntarily when they realised they didn’t fit with the culture of the firm.

Ms Brauman wants to change the way it has become acceptable for opposing lawyers to attack each other in an attempt to win their cases.

‘‘Some people think that just because it’s adversarial, it’s alright to attack people personally. It’s not okay and you don’t tear someone down professionally just to achieve a result for a client.’’

After her experiences, Ms Brauman wants to make TBA Law a safe place for young lawyers who are entering the profession and to show them the law doesn’t have to be an aggressive, win-at-all-costs environment.

She doesn’t regret starting her law firm even though it’s a six-day-a-week job at the moment and encourages any woman who’s thinking about starting their own business to do it and to seek out other like-minded women as she has done.

‘‘I would say find a good network of other business women. I think that’s made the biggest difference for me because it’s a safe place to share things and get ideas,’’ she said.

She belongs to a variety of female-only professional groups including Her Business (formerly called the Australian Business Women’s Network) and WOW Women in Shepparton which allows her to float ideas and spend time with other like-minded women.

As for the female business leaders of the future, Ms Brauman believes that someone’s first career choice doesn’t have to be their last.

‘‘The first degree you do doesn’t have to be the last or the only profession that you follow. I really hate that the school system says you have to do so well in VCE and then know what you want to do for the rest of your life from there,’’ she said.

‘‘I think they should know that you can go back to uni, you can go back any time. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you to make a decision about what you want to do.’’