For Jane Needham SC, the path to a successful career at the Bar definitely wasn’t linear.
She undertook what she describes as an “interesting but fairly impractical” degree in Medieval English, then realising employment opportunities were limited, she took a job at the Supreme Court of NSW. A law degree soon followed.
Needham has forged a reputation as a strong achiever at the Bar since she began practising in 1990, joining St James Hall Chambers soon after. In 2004 she was appointed Senior Counsel, and in 2013 Lawyers Weekly named her Senior Barrister of the Year.
“There is a real impetus around making the legal profession a better place to work as a whole, not just for women but for everyone.”
As President of the NSW Bar Association since 2014, she has driven significant change. Committed to fostering equal opportunity and diversity in the profession, Needham has overseen a wealth of initiatives from provision of dedicated child-care places for members of the Bar, to working with the Courts to make sitting hours more family-friendly, and actively role-models and champions flexible work practices.
“I think that there is a real impetus around making the legal profession a better place to work as a whole, not just for women, but for everyone,” she says. “I hope that the reforms started over the last year-and-a-half will gain momentum so that the Bar is seen as an exciting, flexible and accommodating place to work.”
As a practitioner specialising in equity, revenue and succession law, Needham is known for her tenacity and determination. She has appeared in significant cases in the succession area, including family provision matters with estate values up to AU$1 billion, and is currently appearing for the Truth, Justice and Healing Council as Senior Counsel in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
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