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Knowing when to delegate and when to take time to debrief is freeing Alison Neville to focus on building a legal practice that carefully guides people through life’s difficulties.

Tell us a little bit about Blackwell Short and your role as a solicitor -

Blackwell Short is a multidisciplinary law firm providing legal services for individuals, families, and businesses. We practice in conveyancing, family law, business law, litigation, and wills and estates. We are now the largest law firm in Orange and continue to grow. I am a family lawyer helping separating couples rebuild their parenting relationship for the best interests of their children. This often looks like giving realistic advice and considering the long-term impact on a child rather than going to war with the other parent. While I represent parents in court when necessary, I try to guide them through gentler options of making agreements through mediation or collaborative practice.

You are undoubtedly busy, how do you balance work and life responsibilities?

I try to be organised and I have a lot of support both at work and at home. It really does take a village to build a business and raise a family. We have a great team at Blackwell Short and we have a well-honed routine at home to make sure that everything gets done when it needs to.As much as your work would have its rewards, some days I can imagine it would take an emotional toll on you. What do you do to take care of yourself when things get hard?

I have done a lot of work on this to avoid burning out in family law. It does take an emotional toll and to have a lasting career as a family lawyer you need to know how to manage that. I have found a huge benefit in de-briefing with colleagues after a hard day as well as regular professional supervision which creates a designated time and space to work through some of the particular challenges as a lawyer. Going back to basics helps too. Early nights, good food – cutting out the sugary snacks, solid family time without any distractions, and a good book.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing businesswomen today?

The feeling that we need to do it all ourselves. We don’t. Get help from anywhere that you can whether it’s a part-time virtual assistant to prepare the backend processes in your business, a bookkeeper, or even making sure the kids are emptying the dishwasher and preparing their own lunch boxes just so that is one less thing that you have to do. Delegation is your friend.

What's one thing every woman should know about being successful in her career and life?

Success is defined by you, not by someone else. Your version of success won’t necessarily look like mine. Before you start deciding that you aren’t successful, spend some time on what it means to you. It doesn’t have to be a multi-million dollar income or a flashy car, success also looks like being able to earn an income and pick your kids up from school each day. Success may be owning your own home or being able to lock your rented apartment and travel the world each year.

What has been the highlight of your career?

In the last 18 months, there have been a few. I spoke to more than 100 lawyers at one of the greatest legal conferences in the country on the need for senior lawyers to engage in professional supervision. I became a director of Blackwell Short last year and am a founding member of the Central West Collaborative Professionals Group bringing a different way of practicing family law to the area.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women in business?

The rate of change that you are going to see will be phenomenal. When I started in law fax machines were the communication tool of choice. Embrace the new technology and way of doing things earlier than your competitors and you will be able to have a far greater impact.

What’s on the horizon for you and Blackwell Short in 2023?

I am focussing on growing our practice areas and the strengths within our team to offer a superior legal service to Orange and the greater Central West of NSW. We have created strong KPI’s for ourselves that we are meeting and I am confident that 2023 will be a year of great energy for the firm. Personally, after two years of not being able to spend time with people, I am really enjoying the networking opportunities that are available right now and meeting in person the dynamic women in business that we have in this area whom I had only been able to connect with online. I will also be one of the Regional Development Australia Ten4Ten mentors where 10 business leaders are matched with a local Year 11 student.

Location: Orange, NSW


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