A determination to take nothing for granted and to move outside her ‘comfort zone’ has paid off for Anna Liscia, who co-founded Liscia and Tavelli Legal Consultants 11 years ago.
The litigation consultancy was among the first in the State to incorporate under new Legal Practice Rules.
The decision to start her own practice was hardly out of character for Ms Liscia, who always knew she would struggle to fit in with the culture of a big law firm.
“I have always been terribly outspoken, and I don’t play games or politics,” she said.
Ms Liscia started her legal career with Stone James Stephen Jaques (now Mallesons Stephen Jaques).
A few years into her career however, at the age of 26, she was diagnosed with life-threatening cancer.
“The firm was brilliant and utterly supportive of me during that period,” Ms Liscia said.
“It took a long time after that for me to realise that nothing is as certain as you think it is, and that you have to do things your way and move outside your comfort zone in order to grow.
“As long as you are not a threat to other people, being a woman in law is fantastic. Once you become a competitor rather than a junior lawyer and start questioning things, then things start becoming difficult.
“You have to change your own situation to suit you; if you are going to wait for the profession to change, it won’t happen.
“You have to find your own realistic definition of success, not anyone else’s, and look at different ways of achieving it.”
Ms Liscia did this by creating her own working environment.
Liscia and Tavelli has two directors and one full-time employee, all working from home.
“It astounds me that firms expect their lawyers to be productive and deliver a service to clients when they live in a cocoon detached from reality,” Ms Liscia said.
“For me, working from home is a great way to control my working environment.
“It has lots of advantages, but you have to be mentally capable of doing it as well.
“I never get the urge to do the washing or watch TV – I know when I am at work and when I am not at work, even though they are in the same building.”
Ms Liscia said the under-representation of women in the profession was an ongoing and major concern. While women have comprised more than 50 per cent of law graduates for the past 20 years or so, numbers in the profession clearly do not reflect this.
“Women are leaving at a greater rate than men, at a huge cost to the profession, and it stuns me that people can’t work out why,” she said.
“Lawyers are not taught management skills or strategic planning and hence it is often difficult for then to manage or initiate change.
“Like the law, which evolves and changes, so lawyers also need to evolve and change.
“The legal profession needs to acknowledge why a lot of people are leaving, both men and women.
“People are not willing to sacrifice what they were 20 to 30 years ago, and don’t want to do the hours for what they see as inadequate reward.”
Another of the profession’s downfalls was its practice of measuring work in terms of time, and to reward employees on billing, Ms Liscia said.
“If you are effective, you can spend less time doing a task and not necessarily get rewarded for it.”
And while she conceded that Liscia and Tavelli billed its clients in time blocks, Ms Liscia said that getting a job done was also emphasised and rewarded.
“People just have to have the faith, confidence and strength to question the system in order to effect change.”