Go big: Kate Timmerman

From the outback of Australia to the jungle of New York, Kate Timmerman shares her journey to Clifford Chance and how a renewed approach to measuring success is helping her stay true to her goals.

Photo credit: Thomas Donley, New York

I come from a rural town in Queensland, Australia. I grew up on a farm and originally wanted to focus on agricultural law. But as I followed my leads, I found myself working as a general corporate lawyer in Brisbane. The size of the Brisbane legal market is relatively small, which makes it a lot tougher to specialize in any one discipline, especially early in your career. Five years later, through a connection from my former firm, a colleague who had moved to Clifford Chance some years earlier made an introduction that led to an offer, and I took the opportunity to join her team in New York.

When I joined the private funds group here, I had a number of transferrable skills – and plenty more to learn. It’s been challenging, but we have a strong support network, and the team’s willingness to help me get up to speed has made it an enjoyable process.

Throughout my studies and legal career, I’ve embraced opportunities to further my skills, which have often required relocation and adjustment. Those transitions always involved more than just learning a new practice area with a new firm. It’s also about the small things, like finding somewhere to live, establishing a support network, adjusting to life in a new country and a new city. I was lucky to have joined an international firm with colleagues who have not only been there and done that, but are happy to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible for me.

I’ve been struck by the amount of flexibility we’re given – something the current generation of lawyers will only further develop. A lot of this is driven by the use of technology and making day-to-day tasks as automated as possible. On the one hand, it allows us to work remotely and enter into arrangements that can ensure there’s a balance between our personal and professional commitments – but I think the real value here is that it allows lawyers to continually up-skill and focus on activities that are going to enable them to provide meaningful and tailored advice to our clients.

Starting out in Australia, I was so very focused on a rigid set of goals: joining the best law firm, becoming a senior associate, progressing to partner. But once I started working toward those goals, I realized they only represented my perception of what success looked like, not what I really wanted to achieve. In reality, having the flexibility to learn new skills and using them to develop my career was more important. And I didn’t have to lose sight of my goals, just figure out the best way to approach them.