Q & A: with Maneesha Prakash

Its almost as if we are all influenced by similar things and circumstances that lead us to pursue a career in law. One such woman is Maneesha, an Australian lawyer, business owner and human rights advocate.

In this question and answer interview, get to know more about her journey and what keeps her going while trying to achieve her goals.

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Full Names: Maneesha Prakash
Occupation: Founder and Director at Lexology Lawyers
Location: Brisbane, Australia
  • 1. Tell us more about yourself. (Background, age, what you do now)
    By way of background, I’m a Fijian-Indian-Australian, currently 33 years young and
    the Founder and Director of Lexology Lawyers in Brisbane, Australia. To define me
    another way, just imagine a not very tall but not very quiet dynamo who equal parts
    charms her clients and terrifies her opposition.
    2. How did you go about deciding to pursue a career in law?
    It’s probably a cliché, trite answer, but when I was in Grade 4, my mother handed me
    her copy of “To Kill A Mockingbird”. In a country where the rights of an entire class
    of people were attempted to be taken away, where women were largely discriminated
    against and where corruption was a sad reality, the idea that one person can truly
    make a difference was one that resounded strongly with me. Thus began a lifelong
    love affair with the law and being a “crusader of justice”. (I should add that I was
    probably the only Sixth Grader to own a power suit in all of Fiji, because you have the dress the part of course!).
    3. As an entrepreneur, how did you come up with your business idea? And kindly tell
    us more about the nature and work done by your business.
    As someone who has worked in top, mid and small firms, I quickly came to realise
    that my way of both doing business and ‘lawyering’ are vastly different to that of Big
    Law, or traditional law firms. More and more, clients are less impressed by the dark,
    serious, oak panelled firms of old, and the practitioners that go with those. Lawyers
    are essentially service providers, and they need to engage their clients on a more
    personal level. They have to be relatable, and that’s what my firm does – provides
    more accessible, easy to understand and high quality legal advice with a reasonable
    fee structure. Our clients are part of the Lexology Family, and they stay because we
    treat them as more than billable units.
    My firm is a general practice that assists clients with criminal, civil, family and
    domestic violence, family law and traffic law issues. We are very active in the
    community, providing pro-bono legal services by volunteering at community legal
    centres, with a specific interest in providing assistance to women.
    4. What are some of the challenges of being a lawyer and a business owner?
    Personally, the challenge for me was balancing the administrative side of the business
    with legal practice. As business owner, you simply can’t avoid the day-to-day running
    of the business, which is vastly different to lawyering! From marketing, to
    networking, to compliance and ensuring trust accounts are immaculate; there are a lot
    of “business” demands on a lawyer who owns their own firm. In short, conflicting
    priorities.
    Walking the line between the two is like walking a tightrope in Jimmy Choos (surely
    such a travesty has never occurred, but you get my point.) It can get tricky, because
  • owning the business can interfere with the business of law, but as with anything, you

    learn to juggle both areas as you go along and prioritise one aspect over the other as
    the day demands.
    Having just been through (the horror of) the end of financial year, reporting, auditing,
    finding pesky receipts, all make it difficult to manage the workload, because at the
    end of the day, the Principal is responsible for everything to do with the firm, so you
    have to check everything. I think the entire process would have been a million times
    more difficult where it not for my second degree in Business. I definitely recommend
    some sort of business foundation course before embarking on a journey as a business
    owner, because most lawyers would agree that they make for poor business owners.
    5. In your country, what would you say are some of the barriers across both the
    business and legal sectors for women?
    I think one of the most significant barriers is the perspective that women make bad
    business owners and worse lawyers, that they are too emotional, or not aggressive
    enough, or not capable enough to do well in these areas, and even if you are, you’ll be
    leaving to have a few dozen kids anyway.
    This stops people from hiring/promoting lawyers, and taking them seriously in the
    business arena. It’s as if society expects us to break out in hysterics during complex
    court cases or during a board meeting (spoiler alert – it never happens.)
    Further, women are expected to juggle multiple roles (wife/mother/domestic help) as
    well as their businesses and careers, while being paid less than their male
    counterparts. This juggling act itself, together with a lack of adequate compensation
    can be a barrier to women.
    6. How do you cope with the pressures to succeed as a female lawyer/ woman in law?
    In one way, there is no pressure from the outside population. The vast majority of the
    white, male population in law in Australia tend to dismiss the brown female who is
    still considered short in heels. People assume you’re not going to succeed. (Funnily
    enough, I have had many an opponent underestimate me to their detriment – they just
    assume you’re not a threat.) I have found that women in law have to work three times
    as hard to get half the success that men in the profession achieve, simple because of
    their gender.
    Because of this, there is also enormous pressure that I place on myself to succeed. I
    find that taking the time to unplug from the pressure to succeed and diving into the
    simple things, whether reading a book, taking a walk or a phone call to a friend who
    makes you laugh so hard you could pee helps ground me and put things into
    perspective. At the back of my mind, I frame it like this, “Yes I’m under a lot of
    pressure to succeed, but WHY do I want to succeed.” It always brings me back to
    what is important (ref. justice crusader above) and helps me cope with the pressure I may be feeling at the time.
  • I think it’s about finding what works for you. What’s important is that women

    acknowledge the enormous pressure that they are under and take steps to ensure that
    their mental health does not suffer, and also that they recognise that this
    acknowledgment does not make them weak.
    7. How do you see your career (whether as an entrepreneur or a lawyer) evolve in the
    next five (5) years?
    In the next five years, ideally Lexology will be able to open its doors internationally,
    in Fiji and New Zealand. The goal is to also mentor female lawyers who are new to
    the legal workforce and equip them to compete in a male dominated profession.
    Hopefully in the next five years, the business side is less of a trial by fire, and the ten year business plan is tracking nicely.
    8. What would you say are some of your personal traits that set you apart as a working woman?
    This is a tough one, but I would say I’m essentially a dreamer with a side of empathy,
    determination, work ethic and ambition. I had decided early on in life to risk it all for
    a dream of a firm that was different, and that would let me be my authentic self while
    doing what I love.
    9. Please provide us with personal and business social media handles for people
    looking to contact you.
    www.lexologylawyers.com.au
    @lexologylawyers
    @i_am_meesha_p on Instagram
    10. In closing, anything you’d like to add?
    In the words of Emma Watson, “women feel like we need permission… We need to
    lead and change that.” We need to be fearless, back ourselves and back each other, in law, in business, in life.

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