Naomi Seddon (nee Sheridan) was a lawyer in our Employment team in Melbourne from 2007-2009. She has lots of great memories of her time at Hall & Wilcox. Naomi is a now a partner at global firm Littler and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and twin daughters. Naomi also sits on several corporate and community boards and is currently writing a book on women’s health issues in the workplace.
My career story...
I started in-house working with an organisation that went from 100 to 1000 employees in less than two years. It was a great opportunity and I learnt a lot about business, but I ultimately decided to move into a firm environment so that I could work around and learn from other more senior lawyers.
I started at a small plaintiff-side firm in Melbourne before moving to Hall & Wilcox. I enjoyed my time with Hall & Wilcox but I wanted more flexibility to pursue other interests as well, so I decided to accept a role at Ai Group as Legal Counsel.
I knew I wanted to experience more than just the practice of domestic law in Australia though and so in 2010 I sat the California bar exam. I was fortunate to pass the first time and so I packed up my life and moved to Los Angeles where I have lived now for almost 10 years.
Since relocating to LA, I have been with the law firm Littler Mendelson where I am now a partner. I specialise in market entry and I have assisted more than 350 companies to go global.
My legal practice is just one of my roles though. I am also a Non-Executive Director of ASX company Megaport. I am Co-Chair of an international arts organisation in LA called United Stages. I am on the Advisory Board of Global Village and I am on the board of Surrogacy Australia. I am a passionate advocate of surrogacy rights and women’s health issues generally. I regularly present on these issues around the world and I am writing my first book about women’s health issues in the workplace.
On the side I am also working on a new business with my Mum, which is something I’m really excited about. Hopefully we will be in need of some tax advice from the Hall & Wilcox team soon!
A typical day at work for me is...
Like everyone, my life has changed significantly since COVID. Ordinarily, because of the work that I do in international business, I would take between 50 and 80 flights a year, both within the US and around other parts of the world. COVID has obviously changed that and so, like many others, I now spend most of my days on Zoom or Webex calls. I am still doing a lot of conferences and other presentations but all online.
A lot of what I do is advisory now. I still do draft the occasional document but the bulk of my work is advising on strategy, options and legal risk.
The thing that makes me get out of bed and go to work each morning is...
I am really passionate about what I do and I mean in everything that I do. I only take on roles and tasks that I am passionate about because that way I am able to give my clients or the companies that I am involved with the best of me. I also strongly believe that we should all find our one thing that we can give back to. For me, it is my advocacy work around surrogacy issues. Because I have gone through the experience myself, and because I am legally qualified in three countries, I believe I am in a unique position to be able to talk to the international legal issues that so many families face when having a child via surrogacy – issues that I find most people have no understanding about. This is why I am so passionate about trying to effect change in this area of law.
The best part about my role is...
There are great things about each of my roles and they are all quite different.
In my legal role, I really enjoy being a small part of the business journey of my clients and watching as they grow and succeed. I also get to see a lot of new ideas, products and services before they hit the market. Sometimes I even get to test them too, which is fun.
My board and advocacy work is what I really love though. It allows me to sit on the other side. To get down into the nitty-gritty and really effect change within and to help shape the organisations that I work with. I am a very hands-on board member and I am not afraid to shake things up and get people thinking in a different way or about new ideas. We all have implicit bias about things and so we all need some interruption of our thoughts and ideas at times. That is ultimately how we grow and develop in life and in business.
I'm also passionate about...
Women’s health issues in the workplace and why I believe we will never really achieve gender equality until we start recognising and addressing some of these issues. This is the focus of the book I am writing.
We have spent so long asking women to stand up like men and lean in, which is great, but when we do that we are missing a fundamental piece of the puzzle. The fact is that women are not like men. We all go through experiences that men don’t. For example, one in three women now experience some kind of fertility issue. All women go through menopause. One in five women have endometriosis. These are just a few examples of health issues that are unique to women and it is therefore inevitable that at some point these issues will have an impact on a woman and her career. Recognising this, and developing ways to assist women through things like offering more flexibility in the way that we work, can directly impact on a woman’s ability to achieve and succeed at work.
I lost four babies, went through three rounds of IVF, had 10 surgeries, suffer endometriosis, had a hysterectomy and ultimately had twin girls via surrogate. Although I have succeeded in my career, it has been difficult along the way. My hope is that by sharing my story I can start a wider discussion within organisations about where I see changes and improvements can be made to assist all women who are dealing with these types of issues at work. I have also seen some companies globally who are doing fantastic things in this area and countries too are starting to recognise the need to address these issues. For example, Japan offers menstrual leave and the UK recently introduced laws to protect women going through menopause at work. But there is a lot more that we need to be doing globally. My hope is that I will be able to assist more companies to start thinking about and implementing smarter ways to assist women in the workplace around these types of issues.
The best bit of advice given to me was...
From Karl Rozenbergs. I consider Karl one of my earliest mentors and he is still a close friend of mine today.
Karl taught me early in my career that we are all in the business of sales and how important it is to establish real relationships with clients. At the time, being a junior lawyer, it was so uncomfortable to me but Karl pushed me to work on my skills and honestly I credit Karl for turning me into the good marketer that I am today. I take the time to get to know my clients and will often become friendly with them. It is this type of attention that creates lasting client relationships because there are many, many smart lawyers out there. What you need to strive for is a relationship that is mutually rewarding for both you and the client because ultimately they will continue to come back to you for advice if they like you. It really is as simple as that. So, while hard work and doing great work is important, never underestimate how equally important it is to invest time in the client relationship as well.
My most memorable Hall & Wilcox moment was...
I really enjoyed the events that Hall & Wilcox run. I think one of the things that the firm does really, really well is in the area of lawyer development. I am not sure whether the firm still does these types of events, but during my time with the firm, there would be events three or four times a year where lawyers would have to invite two contacts to attend as a way of getting people to start working on business development skills. Those types of events are crucial to a young lawyer’s development of marketing skills and I will always be thankful to the firm for investing resources in its people like this. It is something that I have tried to replicate at other workplaces since. The events were also always a lot of fun!
You can connect with Naomi through LinkedIn here.
This article was published in August 2020.