International Women’s Day 2021: amazing stories
Coming from a family of pharmacists, doctors and speech therapists, Angela Brookes jokingly describes herself as the ‘black sheep’ for choosing law as a career instead. But she has maintained an interest in the theoretical side of medicine through her work in personal injury law, and in her interest in the rising impact of mental health issues across society.
My mum and dad, my older sister and brother and my twin sister all work in or around hospitals. My parents ran two pharmacies for many years and when we were growing up my siblings and I would often be out the back eating dinner while they closed up. I found medicine interesting. But I struggle with the ‘gory stuff’ and seeing people suffer or in pain, so I decided to do something different and chose law.
Now I work as an insurance lawyer and deal with personal injury claims. I like the medical side of insurance law – the ‘non-gory’ side!
Insurance law is always relevant to people and society in general and the claim portfolio is broad and varied and it never gets boring.
Fitting law into life
I have two children, a busy practice as a partner and an exceptionally supportive husband. However, he also has a leadership role and works in a fly in and fly out job that means he could be away for weeks at a time. It takes a village to raise a family and I have exactly that. My parents and my husband’s parents are incredible and play an active role in our lives. All of our siblings live within minutes of each other. We’re all working professionals but we always reach out to each other to help.
Mental health on the rise
I am interested in the area of mental health and well being. Mental health issues are on an upward trend in Australia and there’s so many resources out there to help. It’s particularly important for lawyers to know about these resources because we work in high-stress roles. Even leaving aside the impact of COVID-19, it is a really important topic to keep discussing.
It is too early to see the impact of COVID-19 on mental health flow into personal injury claims work. It really is a ‘watch this space’ situation.
For my own mental health, I love being near the sea or out on the water. We have bought some land at Rainbow Beach (2½ to 3 hours’ drive from Brisbane). It’s close enough to go for a three-day holiday but far enough so that you feel like you are having a holiday. I want my kids to have an upbringing that is pure to nature. I find a sense of calmness at the beach near the waves, having a champagne and spending time with loved ones.
The importance of role models
It’s so important for young lawyers to see women in partnership and senior leadership roles. It gives them a goal to work towards. What’s the point of performing a role if you can’t excel at it? Just because you want a family shouldn’t impede on any goal. I’m not pretending that it’s not hard work but it’s important that others see women leading so they are encouraged and inspired to think they can do it too.
How law firms can lead the way
I joined Hall & Wilcox in 2018. At the time I was in the early stages of pregnancy with my second child. I was very transparent with the firm about it and it just wasn’t an issue.
The firm’s values mirror mine. It is a progressive, evolving firm that appreciates the need for flexibility, not just in terms of hours but in the make-up of the firm. It is very adaptive to the times. We were one of the first firms to go into lockdown when COVID-19 hit. This was a big thing to do but I was very proud because it showed that Hall & Wilcox wanted to protect its people. That made me think ‘This is a firm I want to stick around for’.