Elizabeth Mukherji is very close to her two older sisters, both of whom have enjoyed successful careers at Slater and Gordon. From the age of 12 she would listen to their stories around the dinner table about what it’s like to work here and she knew one day she would follow in their footsteps.
Fast-forward to 2013. Elizabeth is now a successful Motor Vehicle Claims lawyer working out of our Dandenong office, continuing the unbroken streak of at least one O’Doherty (maiden name) sister working at the firm for 22 years and counting. Between them, over two decades these sisters have witnessed a monumental change in the landscape in which we work, not only in terms of the size and nature of the firm but also in how technology has impacted our working lives.
Interestingly, they each have a unique perspective on this based in the very different capacities in which they worked. The oldest sister, Katherine, was a legal assistant and law clerk to Andrew Grech, the firm’s current Managing Director, for six years (1994 to 2000), Jane worked in our IT team for five years (2000 to 2005) and Elizabeth has been working as a lawyer since being admitted in 2006.
The three sisters have a strong bond that has stood the test of time and distance. Even though Katherine is in Singapore – where she has lived for the past 13 years – and Jane has her hands full with three children, they try to keep in touch every couple of days. ‘The distance between us does not seem to matter,’ says Katherine. ‘We are very different as individuals but share the same values from having grown up together.’
‘We are even closer now as we get older,’ says Elizabeth. ‘Given I am quite a bit younger than my two sisters, it took me a while to reach a point where I stopped being the annoying younger sister. We are now great friends. Katherine comes home twice a year and it is like she has never left. Between her and Jane, I have five nieces who are a huge part of my life.’
When Katherine (Elizabeth’s oldest sister) casts her mind back to when she began working in the Slater and Gordon Lawyers Melbourne office in 1991 she recalls a firm that was steeped in tradition and paper-dependent. Although email and the internet were used in a limited capacity (predominantly for internal communication), all external correspondence was done via fax or postage. Court filing was all manual, and documents were filed in duplicate, stamped and then served by post or DX.
After a stint in the Major Projects Department, Katherine took on the role as legal assistant to Andrew Grech, who was then an associate working in the class action and compensation law practices. She says during the past 20 years the one thing she is certain that hasn’t changed is Andrew’s work ethic. ‘As a lawyer Andrew had very high standards in terms of his own work and the work of others, which made you want to do your absolute best at all times,’ she says. ‘Andrew always acknowledged this and was very encouraging.’
Katherine went on to complete her law degree while working at Slater and Gordon, and has practised as a solicitor in Singapore.
From a young age Elizabeth listened to the experiences of her oldest sister working with Andrew, which would have no doubt strengthened her resolve that she would one day too work at Slater and Gordon.
In 2000 Elizabeth was accepted into Bachelor of Laws at Monash University and soon after her ambition was realised when she landed a part-time position as a consultant in the call centre. In the four years she spent handling new client enquiries she grew to understand the firm and its values and was drawn to a career in plaintiff law.
By this time Katherine had left for Singapore, but Elizabeth’s other sister Jane was here working in our IT team. Jane remembers the IT team being very different to the one we have today, comprising only six staff. Since then the team has grown significantly, not only in size but in the scale and complexity of the projects.
When expectations are built up over so many years there is often a risk of an anticlimax when one’s goals are finally achieved. This hasn't been the case for Elizabeth. After doing a stint working predominantly on shareholder litigation and some immigration detention work, Elizabeth joined the Dandenong Motor Vehicle Claims practice in February 2011 and she has thrived in the busy team ever since.
‘I love my work at Slaters and cannot imagine working anywhere else,’ she says. ‘I find the work rewarding from both a personal and professional level. My clients, who are coping with horrific and life changing conditions, are a real inspiration and make me appreciate what I have so much more. From a professional level even though my work is predominantly focussed on one piece of legislation, each case is different so there is always something new to learn or think about. Many of my colleagues have worked at Slaters for well in excess of 10 years, and some in excess of 20 years, which says a lot about the firm.’