This is Allens

Sarah Matheson

Sarah is a partner specialising in intellectual property with a focus on IP disputes and licensing. She's had various roles with responsibility for staff wellbeing for more than 15 years.

This profile was published during Mental Health Month where some of our people shared their stories and perspectives on mental health.


I was a fresh second year lawyer who had just made the move to Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks (yes, it really was that long ago!) to follow my passion for IP law. I was still on probation when my 23-year-old brother – who was living in New Zealand – died in a tragic drowning accident. Losing him this way sent shockwaves through my very close family.

There was never any question that I would go to New Zealand with my parents to meet with his grieving friends and colleagues, and to bring him home, but I was (irrationally) worried about being away from work so soon after I had started. My fears were completely unfounded. The firm rallied around me with the most sincere support. I still vividly remember the many quiet but powerful gestures of care and concern from that time.

The aftermath of my brother's death highlighted the spectrum of emotions and the various ways we deal with trauma. As a social worker and family therapist, my mum wanted reassurance that I was coping. Having always been able to talk to her about anything, this time I found that I couldn't 'talk it out'. In the end, one of the things that helped me most was to 'walk it out'. A dear childhood friend suggested we walk around Albert Park Lake, with or without conversation, as I wanted. Thus started a weekly ritual that continued for many years and with much conversation. We still joke that this saved both of us (over time, as the conversation moved on) thousands of dollars and hours of therapy.

Experiences throughout my life and career have shown me again and again how complex and personal our reactions to major events can be. Having been the beneficiary of so much support in so many different ways, I appreciate how important it is to consider health and wellbeing in a holistic way. I find that coming from a place of empathy and a willingness to listen can be a good start to supporting someone – as difficult as it can be for a lawyer to refrain from immediately trying to offer solutions.

That early experience I had at the firm reflected a culture of care and collegiality that I have come to appreciate is part of its DNA. In more recent years we have quite deliberately called it out as a key value of who we are and what we stand for - 'In it together'. Never has this been more evident than during the events of 2020. It is something from which we have all benefitted, and something of which we all can be proud.

If this story raises concerns for you or someone you know, reach out to your General Practitioner, or call:

Lifeline – 13 11 14 within Australia

Beyond Blue – 1300 22 46 36 within Australia

10 quick questions

  1. Optimist or pessimist? Optimist. In these unsettled times, if you need any reassurance that there is beauty in the world, I urge you to watch The Australian Ballet's Bodytorque Digital: New Ghost.
  2. Who would play you in a movie? In my perfect world, it would be my eternal style icon, Audrey Hepburn (and in bespoke Givenchy). However, friends and family tell me it would be Laura Dern. Still Hollywood royalty, so I'm happy with that.
  3. What's the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? Thirty-five sit-ups, some stretches, then drink two glasses of water. (Why 35? I 've done this for so long I've forgotten). No matter what happens afterwards, I can start the day feeling virtuous.
  4. What are you afraid of? I am irrationally afraid of spiders. Proof: I have jumped out of a moving vehicle when a huntsman was lurking under the sun visor. Happily, I was the passenger.
  5. How would you define yourself in three words? Loyal. Committed. Curious.
  6. What's a cause that's important to you? Maybe it's genetic (see profile) but I have always been passionate about social justice – as a junior lawyer I volunteered at a community legal centre for people living with or affected by HIV, as a partner I had the privilege of serving on the Board of what is now Justice Connect for many years, and I have sat on the firm's Pro Bono Committee for almost 20 years.
  7. What's inspiring you right now? Discovering exactly how much there is to see and learn within my 5km radius during Melbourne Lockdown 2.0. Parks I've never been to, streets I've never walked, historical sites I've never noticed in my daily commute.
  8. What's the best thing that's happened to you this year? The opportunity to work remotely from my happy place – Glenlyon in the Central goldfields of Victoria (until Lockdown 2.0). Bushwalks at sunrise, and working with the views of gumtrees to the sound of kookaburras….and the opportunity to cuddle a lamb when you drop into the general store.
  9. What's the most important thing you've learnt about being human? You will make mistakes. Learn and move on (dwelling is mentally draining and unproductive).
  10. How do you practice self-care? I love walking. It's good for my mind, body and soul, whether it's along St Kilda beach, around Albert Park Lake (except at Grand Prix time), in the bush or on dedicated walking holidays. Last year I walked the southern half of the Wye Valley Walk (border of England and Wales) with my husband and COVID has postponed, but certainly not stopped, our plans to complete it.