Our very own Associate, Rachel Last, has been shortlisted for the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards 2021, making her the only Sunshine Coast lawyer to achieve this milestone in the highly competitive awards.
The Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards recognises the outstanding women influencing the legal profession in Australia displaying key leadership qualities and providing a role model for future female leaders in law to aspire to.
Rachel said her nomination in the Rising Star category was an honour and reassurance she was on the right path.
"June 2021 marked three years in legal practice for me, during which time I made the daunting decision to move away from commercial litigation to personal injury law," Rachel said.
"Being a finalist in the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards is an absolute honour and gives me confidence that I am truly doing work that makes a difference and positively influences my profession," she said.
Here at Travis Schultz & Partners, we are extremely proud and not so surprised Rachel made the finalist list.
In the 18 months Rachel has been part of the TSP team, she has demonstrated a dedication and passion for her field and consistently achieves excellent outcomes for her clients who she fiercely advocates for.
Rachel is also one of the most fearless advocates for mental health and wellbeing awareness in the legal profession that I have come across, and I am incredibly proud of what she has contributed to the expertise of our team and the wider legal industry.
Rachel said becoming a member of the University of the Sunshine Coast Alumni Mentoring Program in the past 12 months has provided an opportunity to mentor law students around the mental health warning signs, seeking help early and striving for a healthy work/life balance.
"I try to speak openly, honestly and without fear to my peers in the legal community about my own mental health struggles, in the hope of reducing the stigma around mental illness," Rachel said.
Rachel was nominated for the University of the Sunshine Coast Outstanding Alumni Awards earlier this year for her work as a mental health advocate and a finalist in the 2021 Lawyers Weekly 30 Under 30 Awards in the Wellness Advocate category, however she is uncomfortable with the praise.
"I am not a mental health advocate for praise or recognition; I do the work because I truly believe it is a topic that must be talked about in order to break down the walls around mental health, particularly within the legal industry," Rachel said.
In addition to her work at TSP, Rachel is a volunteer with the Suncoast Community Legal Service, providing pro-bono advice to those who might not otherwise have access to it. She was also recently appointed as an Ambassador for the Sunshine Coast Young Chamber of Commerce, an initiative dedicated to supporting young, driven professionals striving to make an impact in the business and professional world on the Sunshine Coast.
When asked about her vision for women in law, Rachel points out the disparity between men and women in leadership roles and the challenge of choosing between family and a successful career.
"In 2021, female lawyers outnumbered their male counterparts across all states and territories in Australia for the first time, but a disparity still exits between men and women in leadership roles across the profession," she said.
"Perhaps the greatest challenge that comes with being a woman in a (previously) male-dominated industry is one I have yet to face: Do I take time out from my career to have children and risk being overlooked for promotions in my absence? Do I split my focus between home life and work and risk being seen as less dedicated than my male counterparts? Unfortunately, so many women in law are still being tormented by these questions," Rachel said.
"My vision is to see gender equality achieved in all aspects of the legal profession, where women are supported, flexible working arrangements are encouraged, and where women are not having to choose between their families and their careers," she said.
The Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards finalist list features 295high-achieving professionals within the legal industry, across 31 submission-based categories. The Awards will be held on 25 November 2021 in Sydney.
On behalf of the firm, I'd like to say you're already a winner in our eyes Rachel, however we wish you all the best in these awards. No matter what, the work you do makes a positive difference to the lives of others. Keep up the admirable work!