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Practising law, her way

Jacqui Brauman wants to change the law profession.

Jacqui Brauman, owner of TBA Law and its principal solicitor.
Photo: TBA Law.

Ms Brauman first qualified as a solicitor while working at Tehan George & Co in Seymour but then moved to Wagga and then to Sydney for several years with her husband who is in the military.

In 2012, fate brought her back to the Seymour region and she bought Rod Theobald’s practice, determined to find a different way to practice law after a particularly disturbing experience in Sydney.

‘‘I had a horrendous experience with my last employer in Sydney,’’ Ms Brauman said.

‘‘Discrimination, sexual harassment. I even got physically hit once by my boss. That compelled me to work for myself because I wanted to be in control of my environment and I want it to be safe. And I wanted women who I brought into the workforce to also be safe.’’

The experience of being slapped across the face by the general manager in the middle of heated discussion is a central motivating factor behind why Ms Brauman has set up her law firm, TBA Law, the way she has.

Starting with herself and one support staff member, she has grown the firm to 10 employees and all of the solicitors who work at TBA Law are women.

Ms Brauman said that was intentional.

‘‘I only have female solicitors working for me. I’ve got a couple of male support staff and that’s been conscious,’’ she said.

‘‘I really tried to flip the model a little bit because traditionally it’s been male partners, maybe some female associates and then female support staff. But no, my firm’s going to be females solicitors.

‘‘My first and foremost goal was to have a safe environment for myself. So when I’m bringing other junior staff members and mentoring them, I want them to have a safe experience in legal industry and I want to protect them to some degree from what it can be like.

‘‘Obviously they’re still exposed to other solicitors in other firms on other sides of matters and I can’t protect them completely.’’

She said she had hired one or two male solicitors but they elected to move on voluntarily when they realised they didn’t fit with the culture of the firm.

Ms Brauman wants to change the way it has become acceptable for opposing lawyers to attack each other in an attempt to win their cases.

‘‘Some people think that just because it’s adversarial, it’s alright to attack people personally. It’s not okay and you don’t tear someone down professionally just to achieve a result for a client.’’

After her experiences, Ms Brauman wants to make TBA Law a safe place for young lawyers who are entering the profession and to show them the law doesn’t have to be an aggressive, win-at-all-costs environment.

She doesn’t regret starting her law firm even though it’s a six-day-a-week job at the moment and encourages any woman who’s thinking about starting their own business to do it and to seek out other like-minded women as she has done.

‘‘I would say find a good network of other business women. I think that’s made the biggest difference for me because it’s a safe place to share things and get ideas,’’ she said.

She belongs to a variety of female-only professional groups including Her Business (formerly called the Australian Business Women’s Network) and WOW Women in Shepparton which allows her to float ideas and spend time with other like-minded women.

As for the female business leaders of the future, Ms Brauman believes that someone’s first career choice doesn’t have to be their last.

‘‘The first degree you do doesn’t have to be the last or the only profession that you follow. I really hate that the school system says you have to do so well in VCE and then know what you want to do for the rest of your life from there,’’ she said.

‘‘I think they should know that you can go back to uni, you can go back any time. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you to make a decision about what you want to do.’’

This article was originally published in the Seymour Telegraph, March 6 2019.

Cooking up a career

Peta Crowl was stuck living in a shed with her baby son when she decided she had to do something.

Ms Crowl with some of her delicious wares.

Before finding herself in the shed, she was the only female beer plumber in Australia and had been running a successful business in Port Macquarie.

But when life got complicated, she decided to leave her business and move to Melbourne.

‘‘I went from being a beer plumber, earning great money, $85 a hour to pretty much having nothing,’’ she said.

On one of those days when she was stuck at home she stumbled across Cupcake Wars on television.

She was fascinated and decided that she would try her hand at baking, even though she had never baked anything in her life.

For five years she baked cupcakes at home and did whatever she could to sell them.

‘I was baking at home, walking the streets, sitting on the side of the freeway, walking into shops. Doing some really crazy stuff just to try and get back into the business world,’’ she said.

‘‘I thought I needed to do something for myself because no one else was going to.’’

Ms Crowl eventually found full-time work at the Cheesecake Factory in Epping, moving quickly from the front counter to the kitchen out the back.

She became their head baker and spent the time learning as much as she could about running that sort of business.

She said the work was extremely tough but it helped her enormously.

‘‘While I was working there, my eyes were wide open, I was watching everything, learning. I was just a sponge, absorbing everything. It taught me to be quicker because you had to multi-task and being the baker you might have 30 cakes in the oven; you’ve got a mix on that’s got 30 in it and you’re preparing the next batch and you’re putting cakes away as well that you’ve baked. So it was all multi-tasking and you had to work very hard.’’

Ms Crowl’s dream was to open her own cupcake and cake shop and a year ago she did just that.

The journey has been a tough one and she freely admits that she’s made plenty of mistakes along the way.

She has found a mentor in Cynthia Lim from Blue Tongue Berries.

‘‘She knew I was looking and I was trying different things. And one day she goes ‘here, what do you want help with?’ She wants me to strive and succeed. It’s been really good,’’ Ms Crowl said.

She is also an advocate of women educating themselves and backing themselves.

‘‘Make sure you research, research, research and just go for it. If you’ve got a dream, go for it. You can really do whatever you want if you set your mind to it, I really believe that,’’ she said.

‘‘Go and do a small business course. I did one even though I had a lot of experience in accounting.

‘‘There’s lots of short courses to help you along the way. Find a good friend in the industry that will help you and you can go to for advice.’’

This article was first published in the Seymour Telegraph on March 6 2019

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