A leading regional NSW based law firm that specialises in legal support for women is in the running for two national 2020 Australian Women in Law Awards.
Catherine Henry Lawyers is one of 10 finalists vying for the Boutique Diversity Law Firm of The Year Award and its principal, Catherine Henry, is one of 10 finalists in the running for the Executive of the Year Award.
Ms Henry said diversity is important from a workplace, client, and community perspective. She said her firm has particularly championed greater representation of women.
Of the firm’s nine lawyers, seven (78%) are women. The firm’s management team comprises 66% women and, overall, 85% of the firm’s full time and part time staff are women. Almost half work part time.
It supports initiatives and policies to foster gender diversity within the legal profession and the broader community including signing up to the Law Council’s Equitable Briefing Policy and supporting women’s groups, legal groups and business networks to advance the role of women and diversity.
During 2019/20, 36 per cent of the barristers and mediators briefed by Catherine Henry Lawyers were women. Those briefings to women accounted for 70 per cent of the value of all briefs.
Ms Henry established a local chapter of the Women Lawyers Association in Newcastle shortly after she moved from Sydney to her home town in 2002 and is its current convenor. Her firm supports the University of Newcastle’s Empower program, the Newcastle Equal Futures International Womens’ Day breakfast and has also produced free e-resources for women on legal issues.
It is rare for a woman to be the sole principal of a law firm – the firm has 29 employees. This year, Ms Henry has driven the firm’s growth and diversification of the firm.
“We continue to try and bring more legal work in specialised areas such as health, aged care and elder law services to this regional area – these areas of work are usually the realm of only capital city firms,” Ms Henry said.
Ms Henry does not shy away from difficult cases or low quantum matters – that other firms turn away – despite her firm’s relatively small size.
She also spends considerable personal time and the firm’s resources advocating for vulnerable people – in areas of health services in rural and regional areas and aged care law reform and improvements. She is the Australian Lawyers Association’s national spokesperson on aged care and elder law and was invited to present a statement to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality when it held a community forum in Newcastle in 2019.
She has championed women’s health issues for decades – specifically the decriminalisation of abortion in NSW and the use of controversial vaginal mesh products for women with prolapse issues.
“I have a great, supportive team at the firm – one that helps me ensure we deliver the best legal representation to clients as well as taking a stand where needed and using the law to improve our society and community.”
Earlier this year Ms Henry was named Regional Lawyer of the Year in the Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards. She has also been recognised in the prestigious Doyle’s Guide list of top medical negligence and malpractice compensation lawyers for four years running.