Think HBR

Let's talk with Emma Mead

Emma Mead 2017 03
1. In a few words tell us about your current role.
Hi, I am the owner and managing partner at Burke & Mead Lawyers in Hunter Street, Newcastle. My firm is about looking after people. I lead a team of talented lawyers and support staff working in personal injury compensation, family and relationships law, and crime and traffic law.
2. How have you reached this point in your professional life?
I began my career in Sydney working as a law graduate with Stacks Goudkamp Solicitors. I returned home to Newcastle, opening a branch of Stacks Goudkamp until October 2008, when I left that firm to create Burke Elphick & Mead Lawyers.
Since 2013 the firm has been known as Burke & Mead lawyers. We have been in our current offices beside the heritage listed lock-up in Hunter Street for six years and recently obtained approval for naming rights on the building which looks great! I hold a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Laws. My work at Stacks lead me into personal Injury law. I am a Law Society Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury Law and a Workcover approved legal provider. I am a Nationally Accredited Mediator and Notary Public.
3. When you’re not at work, where can we find you?
I’m not good at sitting still, as my husband and two boys know, so on weekends I make sure they are full. We are so fortunate where we live to have such beautiful beaches and national parks.
My typical weekend includes a morning beach walk, watching my boy’s sport and in the afternoon catching up with friends. My favourite holiday each year is beach side camping with other families for a week around Easter (…importantly with no electronics) where hopefully I can’t be found.
4. Where do you find inspiration?
Getting people’s lives back together is very rewarding.
I meet some amazing people who have had some truly awful, and sometimes tragic things happen to them, or a loved one. I get my inspiration and drive from them.
I am motivated to do the best I can, and work to inspire my team to do the same. Every one of our client’s is special and has to travel a difficult path after a car accident or getting hurt at work, or similar. A lot of these people can never be what they were beforehand, so for me, it is super important I do my best for them and their family.
My team are the backbone of the firm and I was taught by my first boss to be the best teacher, leader and mentor I could be. I really like Sir Richard Branson’s quote- “Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” But I should add I really enjoy seeing former employees doing well after life at Burke & Mead!
5. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in your field?
I think the world and workplace are changing so rapidly at the moment my advice is that you can’t rest. What is best practice today won’t be in five year’s time. So you can never stop learning and know you can always learn something from someone else. Another thing is to be yourself – it’s easy: you can’t fake being anything else forever. And finally, lead by example and always treat people with respect.
6. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
Most of our work is from peer referral which is great as I’m a really private person, so while I do have to promote what the firm does, our people and me at work, I also try to avoid social media and things like this as much as possible!
7. How would you like to see the Hunter evolve over the next decade?
I’m on the Board of Newcastle NOW – so I’m really passionate about our city and region. My office is on the corner of Hunter and Watt Streets, so we are in the middle of multiple construction zones and yes, it is noisy, inconvenient, and annoying, but it won’t be forever and the result, I think and hope, will be good for the city.
Newcastle is a place people come home to, but with the development, harbour, beaches, University in the CBD, new Courts and light rail; I can see it is a place people will increasingly aspire to live and work in.
8. What’s your favourite Hunter restaurant/café/bar?
East End Hub for lunch, Mason for dinner.
9. Are you reading anything at the moment?
“All the Light We Cannot See “ by Anthony Doerr. A great read about a blind French girl and a German boy soldier - who try to survive the devastation of World War II. Put it on the list.
10. Do you have a favourite sport or team?
I enjoy following rugby union - so the Wallabies for me.
11. What’s the best line from a film you’ve ever heard?
While I didn’t think I would, I really enjoy the Game of Thrones Series, there are so many good lines, but I’ll settle on this one by Tyrion Lannister; as I enjoy empowering clients against the ‘powerful’: “The powerful have always preyed on the powerless, that’s how they became powerful in the first place.”