Teresa Allen talks lunchtime netball games with her kids and maintaining her mental wellbeing
She could have become a classical musician, but the idea of joining a profession appealed strongly to Teresa Allen. Coupled with her talent for debate and her passion for problem solving, the legal profession became the perfect fit for her.
As vice president, GC and ethics and compliance officer at Capgemini Australia and New Zealand, Allen gets to make the law user-friendly for her colleagues. However, the in-house star has also learned over the past year to ensure that she also takes care of herself mentally.
In this interview, Allen talks learning to finding the joy in the small moments with her family, “change fatigue” in the profession and the role lawyers play in helping to cultivate a sustainable future.
What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?
I remember a schoolteacher telling me I was so good at arguing that I should become a lawyer. I liked the idea of joining a profession rather than having “just” a job, and figured I could continue with my other possible career choice (classical musician) as a hobby. Now, I’ve worked out I love being a problem solver. I get to figure out what the law is and to translate it so that it’s “user-friendly,” so that my business colleagues can navigate through it. I get to work out how to cut to the chase, analyse contracts, spot gaps, anticipate problems and try to fix them in advance.
My favourite part is that I get to work with brilliant teammates who make me laugh each day, and work for a company powered by a purpose that is aligned with my values – unleashing human energy through technology for an inclusive and sustainable future.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?
To take a step back, take a few deep breathes and maintain a keen sense of perspective. The craziness of the pandemic, the lockdowns, the sudden shift in our ways of working, the never-ending crisis meetings, the general uncertainty – for so many of us, the last few years have been full-on, so it’s vital to take time to maintain your mental wellbeing.
For me, that meant lots of walking meetings and finding the joy in the small moments – loved the 10-minute lunchtime netball games with my daughters.
What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?
Getting back to the UK to visit my parents, my sister and her family.
If you were given an opportunity to spend a day with anyone (living or dead), who would it be and why?
My wonderful mum. Sadly, she now has dementia and goodness, what wouldn’t I give to go back a few years and spend a day with her bossing me around, spoiling her grandchildren, rustling up one of her delicious Chinese meals and generally putting the world to rights.
We’re (hopefully) finally stepping out of the shadow of COVID – what do you think has been the pandemic’s most important effect on the legal profession?
The mass realisation that we can work effectively remotely/flexibly and juggle our personal and work commitments as needed. I’m lucky enough to work for a company where I had this flexibility previously, but I know it hasn’t been the case elsewhere and working from home was seen as “less.” And obviously, I can’t go past this question without commenting that without the pandemic, I’m pretty sure we would still be years away from embracing e-signing.
What challenges can we expect in the industry as we transition to the “new normal”?
Combatting the sense that people want a change after a couple of years where they have been a bit more hemmed in – I think this may be a key reason for the “great resignation” headlines we have been seeing. We have to figure out how we can enable that change within our organisations so we don’t lose our great people.
I also think that we will face a “change fatigue” issue, because this transitional time is in itself tiring and uncertain so we will need to keep a sharp focus on our teams and our own mental and physical wellbeing.
What’s on the horizon for the profession in the coming year?
I think there will be a greater focus all round on environmental, social and governance issues. As a profession, we cannot afford to ignore the bigger picture issues, including how we achieve greater diversity and representation in our profession and play our part in creating a sustainable future. There are some great lawyer-led initiatives out there such as The Chancery Lane Project, which brings together legal professionals from around the world who want to see a world where “every contract enables solutions to climate change.”
Teresa Allen is one of the judges for the 2022 Australasian Law Awards.