Jessica Kerr has had an amazing career working in top commercial law firms and as an associate to a Supreme Court judge. It wasn’t until she had her daughter that she re-evaluated what was important in her life and set up her own legal practice. No mean feat with a 10-month-old. We love how Jessica has created flexibility so she can juggle her career while still prioritising her family.
Can you tell us about your career journey so far?
I moved to Melbourne eight years ago to start my law career at a top tier firm. I learnt an enormous amount and was very lucky to have the experience that I did. I eventually moved to another law firm and was there until I had my daughter with a one-year break to go and work for a judge. I have been very fortunate to work alongside some excellent lawyers and work on very interesting matters.
After having my daughter, I decided to set up my own practice, Sinclair + May. We work with start-ups, SMEs and social enterprises. We are a female-led, boutique commercial law firm, and help our clients with legal advice, litigation, employment law, business law and brand protection.
Congratulations on being the proud mum of a gorgeous daughter, Isobel. Can you tell us about how becoming a parent has changed your perspective on life?
It changed my perspective in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I have always been very focused on having a routine and trying to be in control, but from the moment of falling pregnant I think I lost all control!
I feel like being a mum has made me a much more patient and relaxed person, and focus on what really matters in life. The things that I remember from being a child are the memories I made with my family rather than things I had, and I am very much aware of that in being a parent.
Now, you started your own business when your daughter was just 10 months old. That would have been a difficult thing to do being a sleep deprived mum! How did you make it happen?
It wasn’t without support! I have a very supportive partner and had an amazing nanny that helped me feel like I could leave the house and my daughter would be OK. I set up very close to home so Isobel would also come to visit me to be breastfed which made the transition back to work much easier. Setting up my own business also meant that I could work as much or as little as I liked. When I had two hours of sleep it wasn’t a good idea to be drafting complicated legal agreements, but I could pull it together to have a coffee with a potential referrer or create social media content. While there are challenges in being a business owner, I think it was much easier to manage than going back to being an employee with limited flexibility.
You now have a very successful business with six employees. How have you found this experience and what advice would you have for other parents who are thinking of starting their own business?
Grow slowly! Making sure you are working in a way that is sustainable is so important. I think as an entrepreneur it is easy to get carried away with getting bigger and bigger but unless it is financially viable it isn’t a good idea!
I would also suggest making sure you outsource what you aren’t good at, e.g. bookkeeping, marketing, website development. Find people to support your business so you don’t stress over the things you aren’t good at.
Women are often told, “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” What are your thoughts on this?
I recently read a quote from Annabel Crabb:
“The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.^”
Unfortunately I think this is generally very true. For me, I really thought about the mum I wanted to be before anything else. I wanted to be able to do school pick-ups, to take holidays off and to be able to be at home if my daughter was unwell. I am fortunate to have a lot of flexibility in being a business owner, but I still feel like there is so much to learn in juggling career and family life.
Where do you see your career going next? What is one dream you have that you have yet to accomplish?
I am very happy with where my career is at. I love the clients I have and get a huge amount of enjoyment out of my work. I also love working with my team of incredible women. I am hoping to finish my Master of Laws this year which will feel like a huge achievement if I can do it!
How do you stay sane with the juggle? What is your way of coping when you find yourself frustrated, overwhelmed or burned out? How do you treat yourself?
I do personal training twice a week and walk to work whenever I can. I need exercise to feel calm and reduce anxiety. We also try to get away from the city once a month. I am also a huge advocate for screen-free time which helps me to feel more present.
Favourite time of the day is…morning
I’m happiest when…I have had a productive day at work, pick my daughter up early from kindergarten and have a relaxed afternoon with her.
I’m addicted to…Aesop hand cream.
Favourite wardrobe staple for work…I love Elk silk dresses and tops.
Favourite wardrobe staple for weekend…Nobody jeans and Silk and Threads tops.
Heels or flats? Flats. Belmore boots are my favourite.
^Crabb, Annabel, The Wife Drought, Ebury Australia, 2015.