International Women’s Day: seven amazing stories
Since the age of 12, Kelli Stallard wanted to be a lawyer. She was interested in history and government, and wanted to be in a career that allowed her to give back as well. With law, she could see how those skills could be used in the wider community. Kelli is a partner in our Insurance Queensland practice and a member of the Hall & Wilcox board. She shares her story.
I had no family background in law. I was the first in my family to gain a degree. My father was a self-made man in the sense that he attended school only until he was 15 – but he ultimately became a general manager of a large company. He always supported my siblings and me to reach our full potential. He instilled in me teamwork, loyalty and the resolve to make a difference. My mother too was inspiring. She only went to school till she was 14 and overcame a series of tragedies. She encouraged me to be practical and caring and created an environment for our family to succeed.
The woman who inspired me when I was young was Elizabeth I, because she was strong and independent.
I entered the profession at a time where there were few female partners. Many that had achieved that role were seen to have reached their goal by being extremely tough. I wanted to change that dynamic.
My passion is to assist the females and males I mentor and lead to reach their full potential in their career and to balance their important personal lives. A number of my contemporaries were not able to do this and consequently left the profession. The profession lost a lot as a result.
Given the lack of female role models at the time, most of my early mentors were male and they were wonderful but it is important to have female mentors as well. I was certainly very grateful when – before I became partner – I worked closely with a female partner, and she shared her practice with me and that greatly assisted me in my path to partnership.
I now co-lead with Terry Killian and Angela Brookes a team of 25 that is predominantly female. Thirteen of the 25 have been promoted in the team, including one from trainee solicitor to partner and another from paralegal to special counsel. It's wonderful to be able to bring other females up to leadership roles. Nearly half of our current team members have been working together for over five years.
A major initiative two years ago (in 2018) was transitioning the entire team from another firm where I had been a partner for 26 years. The driving force for me was that we identified the firm was moving away from our practice area with little scope for progression of our people. Our goal was to find a firm with an environment where the team could thrive, an engaged culture; where flexibility and diversity were championed. We found that at Hall & Wilcox, and we successfully transitioned into the firm.
Genuinely flexible work
I am committed to supporting flexibility from my own experience as long as it maximizes performance and provides clients with the best possible service. My husband lives in the United States, and as a result, I have to spend significant time there. While visiting him in the US, I manage my practice. I have been working flexibly in that way for around 15 years. Most of our team now work flexibly in some form.
A number of my team members have gone on to be in-house counsel, entrepreneurs, have moved to other firms and become partners. And it's been inspiring to see that happen.
Using legal skills to give back to the community
As I spoke about earlier, ever since I was 12 I wanted a career that enabled me to give back. Over the years I have been involved in many professional, charity and church boards and committees.
I’m chair of the board of a charity called Peer Power Australia and have been involved for many years. It's an organisation that provides training and resources for students (mostly high school students) in leadership, life skills, values and ethics, and about issues such as alcohol, self-esteem and bullying.
Also, I’m a member of the Accountability Committee of Dignity Freedom Network Australia. The network is a charity to assist the Dalit people in India. Much of their work involves building schools and rescuing girls from trafficking. The Accountability Committee is to encourage the CEO and executive director to remain accountable for the organisation’s governance.