This is Allens

Celebrating International Women's Day: our people share how they are choosing to challenge the status quo to create a more inclusive world.

Emma McLaughlin

Emma is lawyer in our Projects and Development team whose path to Allens was far from conventional, involving different degrees, mining work and challenging some of her own assumptions about legal career success along the way.


When I think about 'pathways to the law', I suppose there's the traditional one (school, law school, law), the unconventional ones, and then whatever you'd call my one.

My degree was about as far removed from law as it gets. I studied a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Rehabilitation) and straight out of uni went to work for an iron ore miner as a Graduate Health Advisor.  I travelled up to site in the Pilbara most weeks, where it was essentially untouched land with just a drill rig in the middle. Gradually, though, I began to do more work that supported the business: I moved into the workers comp space, moved companies, held various advisor and leadership roles, before ending up in broader business resilience and risk management.

The idea of studying law first came to me during my time as a FIFO employee at a mine in the Kimberley. It was a smaller operation, meaning everyone had a seat at the table and I was lucky enough to see the business from different angles. What was so clear was how involved the legal team members were in critical business decisions; how respected and valued their advice was and its applicability to all aspects of the business. I loved their practical problem solving and judgement. After reflecting on where I wanted to be in 10 years and the type of work I wanted to be involved in, I decided to test the waters and enrolled in part time study.

I never actually intended to become a lawyer, either. I initially wanted the critical thinking skills that came from the degree. Very quickly, I came to love the subject matter and left my job to commit to full time study. Early in my studies I went along to the Allens 'dive in' event, but left feeling a little dejected. The day was excellent and Allens seemed exactly like the type of organisation I wanted to work for, however I wasn't sure that I was what they were looking for – everyone in the room was so different to me. But then came the offer of a research assistant role, followed by the clerkship and grad offers.

I quickly realised through my exposure as a research assistant and working in a high-performing team that being a lawyer aligned directly with the type of work I wanted to be doing – being a trusted, practical and commercially strategic advisor to businesses. Lawyering isn’t just limited to dark suits and court appearances.

Looking back, when I first began I was probably guilty of feeling like my age or my unconventional professional background might act as some sort of hindrance. But my story shows that those factors don't matter, and your experiences outside of law will be both valued and useful in your legal career. I wouldn't change my quirky pathway to the law one little bit.