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Disputes Team International Women’s Day 2022

08 March 2022 | Australia

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8 March 2022 is International Women’s Day, which promotes a gender equal world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. This year’s theme is #BreakTheBias and we asked several partners in the Dispute Resolution practice of Herbert Smith Freehills about their personal experiences with biases.


Anna Sutherland, Managing Partner, Disputes

Anna is Herbert Smith Freehills’s Joint-Managing Partner for Dispute Resolution globally, head of Disputes in Australia and a member of the firm’s Australian Executive. Anna achieved success in the legal profession at a time when the barriers facing lawyers with young families or other caring responsibilities were significant.

“When I was first achieving success in the legal profession, barriers facing lawyers with young families or other caring responsibilities were significant. Nevertheless, Herbert Smith Freehills was open norms being challenged, and we have seen progress providing more workplace flexibility and support for our people and their responsibilities outside the work context.

In recent years, I have proudly sponsored and supported four female colleagues on their journey to partnership. It has been such a joy to be able to nurture the careers of exceptional women who have crossed my path at Herbert Smith Freehills. Providing them with guidance and support has been wonderful and I look forward to continuing to champion the concept of ‘paying it forward’ to create a more diverse workplace as we continue to #BreakTheBias.

For the past two years, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the Disputes Team in the Asia Pacific has been my priority. Conscious of the pressure’s lawyers, with young families faced whilst working from home, as well as the barriers junior lawyers experience in their development, while working remotely. We need to ensure that we continue our efforts to break down the barriers, and not allow the pandemic to build new ones”.

“It’s been such a joy to be able to nurture the careers of a number of exceptional women who have crossed my path at HSF. We need to ensure that we continue our efforts to break down the barriers, and not allow the pandemic to build new ones” 

Anna Sutherland


Brooke Massender, Partner

Brooke  is considered a trailblazer, having been appointed as HSF’s inaugural Pro Bono Partner in 2020 after many years of building the pro bono practice. She currently leads the firm’s global Pro Bono team, working with colleagues right across our international network of 26 offices. Brooke’s practice focuses on leveraging her experience in social impact to advocate for systemic change, bringing together cross-sector stakeholders to achieve tangible outcomes for disadvantaged communities. Brooke has particular expertise in access to justice and working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients and has been instrumental in HSF being recognised as a leader in reconciliation. She enjoys listening to First Nations colleagues and clients to understand and support their aspirations.

“In my role as the inaugural Pro Bono Partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, I #breakthebias when I work at the intersection of many underrepresented groups as they seek access justice. I see it as part of my role to ensure those voices are heard, in particular voices of First Nations clients” .

“When I work at the intersection of many underrepresented groups as they seek access justice."

Brooke Massender


Christine Tran, Partner

Christine is a partner in the Sydney Disputes practice. She is a first generation Australian, born to Chinese-Vietnamese refugee parents. She is a partner sponsor of the Herbert Smith Freehills’ Multiculturalism Network, which aims to foster an inclusive community of people from all ethnic, religious, faith and cultural backgrounds. The Multiculturalism Network has provided many opportunities for our staff to broaden their perspectives and understanding of others, overcome their biases . Christine has spoken externally on the topic of ‘the bamboo ceiling’ and lent her professional insights to the Diverse Women in Law’s 2020 Advocacy workshop. More recently, in 2021, Christine was involved in the launch of [email protected] (a collaboration between the firm’s global diversity networks, with a particular focus on exploring intersections of identity) and facilitated a panel discussion on leadership and diversity in the media.

“As a first generation Australian, born to Chinese-Vietnamese refugee parents I span three cultural worlds. Because of this, I intuitively understand the power of diverse thinking and perspectives, and this allows me and my team to enhance client outcomes and enrich professional experience.

I’m a proud partner sponsor of the Herbert Smith Freehills’ Multiculturalism Network so that I can #BreakTheBias by challenging assumptions, providing opportunities for our people to broaden their perspectives and understand others, and leading sophisticated conversations on culture – beyond food!”.

“I intuitively understand the power of diverse thinking and perspectives, and this allows me and my team to enhance client outcomes"

Christine Tran


Rebekah Gay, Partner

Rebekah is a partner in the Sydney IP Disputes team, and co-practice lead for HSF’s global IP team. Rebekah is also one of the global co-chairs of HSF’s LGBTI+ network, the IRIS network. 

“As a global co-chair of the Herbert Smith Freehill’s LGBTQI+ network, Iris, I can #BreakTheBias by building the representation of lesbian, queer and trans women in the private law sector. I believe that visibility is a key part to how we drive change. Women need to see women succeed at all stages of their career, through self-representation. We are all women, but we are not all the same. That’s the beauty of diversity”.

“Women not only need to see other women at all stages of their career, they need to see women who represent themselves. I believe that visibility is a key part to how we drive change."

Rebekah Gay


Juliana Warner, Partner

Juliana is a partner in the Sydney Disputes practice, was the Sydney Office Managing Partner for 8 years and was the President of the NSW Law Society for 2021.

“When I started by career in the 1980’s, concepts of unconscious bias, gender equality and gender diversity were dismissed. Now, I can seize numerous opportunities to #BreakTheBias, most recently in my role as the President of the NSW Law Society, I engineered significant change for the legal profession by advocating for urgent reforms to Indigenous incarceration rates (with the worst statistics relating to incarceration of indigenous women) and launching the Law Society’s Sexual Harassment Portal.

Overhauling the Charter for the Advancement of Women in the Legal Profession to focus on the promotion of women from all backgrounds we added a new provision to prompt signatories to establish fair and transparent sexual discrimination and harassment complaints procedures. The Charter now has over 300 signatories (up from 180 at the start of my term as President) including almost all of the largest firms and covering thousands of lawyers in NSW. I’m very confident that this initiative will help to #BreakTheBias”.

“I engineered significant change for the legal profession by advocating for urgent reforms to Indigenous incarceration rates"

Juliana Warner


Bryony Adams, Partner

Bryony’s experience as a commercial litigator has placed her at the forefront of the diversity conversation in the law profession, particularly as it relates to the equitable briefing of female barristers. Bryony leads HSF’s equitable briefing working group in Australia. Initiatives Bryony has coordinated in this role have included seminars and roundtables to provide networking opportunities for women barristers, HSF lawyers and clients, promoting the experience of women barristers to the national HSF dispute resolution group through a monthly internal newsletter and tracking progress against briefing performance targets.

“As a commercial litigator, I have seen opportunity to lead a conversation on diversity, around the equitable briefing of female barristers. The Australian working group on equitable briefing identifies barristers with relevant expertise, experience, or interest in the relevant practice areas, ensuring female barristers are briefing on an appropriately proportionate basis.

Through the implementation of numerous initiatives, last year Herbert Smith Freehills briefed 44% of the dollar volume of briefs, to juniors, to female barristers. It is fantastic to see this initiative #BreakTheBias and move the needle on equitable briefing".

“Through the implementation of numerous initiatives, last year Herbert Smith Freehills briefed 44% of the dollar volume of briefs, to juniors, to female barristers"

Bryony Adams


Merryn Quayle, Partner

Merryn is a disputes partner and mother of 3 in our Melbourne office. She became a partner in HSF’s all-female Australasian promotions round in 2018 while 7 months pregnant with baby #3 before transferring to Melbourne (mid-parental leave). She has been a long term proponent of flexible work practices, inspired and mentored by those who came before her. She co-leads the Melbourne office’s equitable briefing initiatives and lives by example in creating a vibrant, diverse high performing culture.

“I come from a family of non-lawyers and grew up in the surf loving mid-north coast with a nerdy love for Law In Order. Perhaps somewhat naively and fortunately, I never felt that was a barrier to success in legal practice due in large part to the encouragement and support of those around me. I #BreakTheBias when I follow in the footsteps of the amazing female leaders in the law and this firm who paved the way for me, including by providing critical practical support (including babysitting services!) to juggle a busy practice with a young family and embrace more traditionally unorthodox work methods (like travelling with children interstate). I seek to carry on their good work by heading up our office’s equitable briefing initiatives, calling out bias and discrimination when I experience or see it and leading by example to help show that legal ability is blind to age, gender, family status or background.” 

“I follow in the footsteps of the amazing female leaders in the law and this firm who paved the way for me, including by providing critical practical support"

Merryn Quayle


Sue Gilchrist, Partner and Head of Intellectual Property, Australia

Sue Gilchrist is a senior partner at Herbert Smith Freehills and has many formal and informal roles at Herbert Smith Freehills and externally. Sue is the chair of the firm’s ELEVATE Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Steering Committee jointly with Kylie Arlidge who is a proud First Nations lawyer; Chair of our Global Pro bono and Responsible Business Council; an elected member of our Global Council (which is our board); and Head of the firm’s leading IP practice in Australia having built a successful IP disputes practice. Sue is also a mentor to many women partners and lawyers across the firm and externally, and has always been active in pressing for equality within the firm and the profession. Sue joined the firm as a grad in 1986 and became a partner in 1995. Sue is an active member of the community of NSW, including being a member of the board of Legal Aid NSW and a member of the Finance Audit & Risk Committee of the Art Gallery of NSW.

Sue is proud that Herbert Smith Freehills prioritises policies and actions that continue to move us towards equality and shatter biases. Sue believes there is much progress to celebrate, but also much more work to do, particularly in working together with our First Nations leaders and lawyers to close the gap.  

“Sue is proud that Herbert Smith Freehills prioritises policies and actions that continue to move us towards equality and shatter biases."

Sue Gilchrist