Associate Director, Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors
Suzie Leask is an Associate Director with Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors, whose motto is “simple is the delicate art of making complicated subject matter easy to understand”.
She is well-versed in a broad range of sectors, having acted for clients in IT, hotels, tourism, gaming, horse racing, mining, property development, construction, stevedoring, manufacturing, food and beverage, property funds, financial services, receivers and managers and not-for profit organisations.
Suzie’s work has taken her all over the world, but she now lives back in the Hunter as a proud Novocastrian.
- What career path led you to where you are now?
I did a double degree in psychology and law at the University of Newcastle, and then joined a top two commercial law firm in Sydney. I actually think that was a really fantastic experience in terms of training and deployment opportunities, including travelling to our Singapore office overseas, and then ofcourse working in-house through which I worked with a global company looking after all of their legal work for Asia Pacific.
And then of course you do what all good Newcastle people do, I returned home. My husband and I decided we wanted to buy a house and have a family, so that’s what we did. We were very fortunate to be able to do that, with the growth of the Hunter economy and the businesses here.
In 2016 I joined Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors where I’m now an Associate Director heading up the corporate and commercial practice in our Newcastle office.
- What motivates and drives you?
I think helping people is first and foremost one of my biggest motivators and drivers, whether that’s my clients professionally or through my not-for-profit board work with various organisations locally here in the Hunter. As a professional, I think you have to be a little bit self-driven and always be looking for that next challenge. For a lawyer in particular, you really have to have that love of learning and a love of the law, and that real drive to be looking for the next challenge and just to constantly be pushing yourself.
I do think that comes back to my upbringing – my parents are both teachers, so I probably get that a little bit from them. I was never afraid of a bit of hard work. And then I think more recently, once you have kids, that’s always a good motivator to have a look at the world around you to see what you can contribute to your community, and also just to ensure you are personally and professionally a good role model for two little girls.
- What has been your biggest learning curve in your career?
I think when I went in-house and was looking at after the legal work for all of Asia Pacific at a relatively young age, that was definitely the biggest learning curve. It changed fundamentally the way that I practice law. It really makes you partner with the business and work out what is driving business owners, and also, I guess, how to have more of a strategic approach as opposed to being a bit of a roadblock, because I think lawyers can sometimes be. It’s a real thrill to be an actual partner to a business and to be advising them, and not afraid to have that hard conversation particularly when you’re often the youngest person in the boardroom. It is important to really back yourself, your knowledge and your expertise and advocate on behalf of your client.
- Where would you like to be in 10 years?
Here in Newcastle I would think. It’s such an exciting time to be here, and there’s so much happening and so many opportunities for professionals and for business owners as well. In terms of Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors, I would expect us to be growing the Newcastle office and also probably our national footprint. And personally, there are a lot of fantastic organisations around town that I’d love to continue to be involved in, both in my professional capacity and also as an advisor in a board director capacity as well.
- Have you had any significant Hunter-based mentors during your career who have inspired you?
Absolutely, there are so many it’s hard to just pick a few. I’m a big believer that you should always take the best bits of every single person that you work with. And so, ofcourse, my directors from Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors, they are all technically brilliant but also just extraordinary and great humans to work with and really fantastic mentors to me in a legal sense. But I’m also quite privileged, I think, to work day-to-day with some really inspiring CEOs, business owners and people who actually inspire me quite a lot through their commercial approach and strategic value that they add to their companies.
I guess to name a few, there are people like Matt Benson who I think is doing great things at the Newcastle Racecourse; and ofcourse, Tony Cade, CEO of Hunter Net who’s also another great operator. And there are also some really smart, professional, brilliant women I think around town, including Martha Williams and Kirsten Molloy, who are not only great professionals but strategic and clever directors and advisers. I think people like that are also well-known for creating positive culture and getting the best out of their teams, and I think that’s something to really aspire to.