Sheena Vinden is the senior partner of Atkinson Vinden, and acts for some of the firm’s largest clients. We spent some time chatting with Sheena about what makes her tick, and how she manages her role on a day-to-day basis.
⚉ Sheena, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. What do you have on your plate today? Anything interesting?
As always it’s going to be a very busy day. I have lots of deadlines to meet this morning with documents which I’m drafting. I then have an important meeting with a potentially very large new client which operates interstate in the retirement villages and property space. I look forward to meeting new people and exploring fresh opportunities for AV, so this is going to be a good day!
⚉ What’s it like being a partner of a law firm?
Actually, it is very similar to being a mother. I often speak of the firm as though it is a child of mine! I work very hard, but I thoroughly enjoy every minute and there is nothing about it I would want to change.
⚉ What’s the best part of your job?
It’s working with a wonderful group of people, having a supportive business partner, as well as high-quality clients who value my work and who trust me to help look after their business interests. I love the fact that no day is ever the same. The work is extremely varied, and things often happen at the last minute. I enjoy thinking on my feet, and jumping in to do whatever needs to be done to assist our clients.
⚉ What do you enjoy about working with AV’s clients?
I’m very lucky to have very good clients. We develop such a good sense of trust that it feels almost like a family relationship – often they will call me on my mobile if there is something urgent outside of usual business hours. But there is also give-and-take in the relationship. Clients will be very accommodating so that if there is a professional or family commitment that I need to attend to first, I can be honest about this, and we can negotiate a timeline that works for everyone.
⚉ Given your substantial experience, are there still challenges in the legal work you undertake for clients?
Yes, there are challenges every day, that is why my work is so enjoyable. There are deadlines to meet and there is skill involved in juggling our team so that our service delivery is seamless. I’m always trying to improve as a lawyer and recently this has included commencing an MBA program. I want to be the best business owner I can be and also to develop my skills further so that I can be of most benefit to my business clients.
⚉ Most people view the law as boring. How do you manage to have so much fun in your work?
Rumours about me wandering the floors of the office with the ukulele in hand are absolutely true! I love to laugh, I think it is important to smile and laugh at least once every day. Life is too short! I try to engage fellow staff and clients with a sense of fun, because often it is what is needed when things are becoming very stressful.
⚉ Congratulations on your recent appointment as Independent Lawyer to the MTAA Code Monitoring Sub-Committee 2017. What will that role involve?
Thank you! Yes, this is a great honour, and it will involve me meeting on a bi-monthly basis with key players in the Med Tech industry to ensure the MTAA Code remains current, compliant with government policies, and that members are understanding and fulfilling their obligations under the Code. I need to be on top of industry changes and consider the implications of these changes from a legal perspective. This will mean that I can ensure that our firm’s service delivery in this industry is at the cutting edge.
⚉ Tell us a bit about your work in the Retirement Villages area. What is it like working with some of the biggest operators in NSW?
My career in the law started mainly doing property work and then I began to develop a growing expertise in retirement villages work which is really a subset of property law. I mainly provide general advice and representation in disputes involving residents. There are lots of interesting personalities in the industry and I have found over time that the sorts of issues that arise in one village will be very common to the issues which arise in many other villages. My strong belief is that if the village operator focuses on coming alongside their residents and creating a harmonious village, then most problems can be resolved without too much fuss.
⚉ In ways does AV differ in its delivery of legal services compared with other firms you have worked with?
AV takes a more holistic view of client relationships. We are not focused on a single matter in isolation, but rather we want a long-term relationship with clients. We come along for the journey, through both good and bad. We take the time to explain the basis of the advice that we are giving so that the client can see the importance of it and understand the rationale behind it.
⚉ People often think of the law as still very much a man’s domain. Has that been your experience? What still needs to change?
Actually, my experience as a woman in the legal industry has been extremely positive. I have been able to progress to an equity partnership of a substantial law firm, and I feel that men and women are treated equally and given equal opportunity in our workplace. I am a strong believer that in order to empower women to be successful at work, workplace flexibility must be given to men and women, because a part-time working dad may make it possible for a career-oriented mum to pursue a full-time role.
⚉ How’s 2017 looking for you and for AV?
I am very excited about this year. The firm is going from strength to strength due to the hard work of everyone at AV. We have a lot of work in the pipeline and some fantastic clients doing some very exciting things. I am particularly excited about my new role with the MTAA.
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