Swaab 2022 Lawyer Inter­view Series | Mary Digiglio

Why did you become a lawyer?

I had been work­ing as a recep­tion­ist in a real estate office whilst at school and in my first years at uni (when I start­ed a Bach­e­lor of Ear­ly Child­hood Edu­ca­tion). Work­ing in real estate exposed me to prop­er­ty trans­ac­tions and I became inter­est­ed in prop­er­ty law so I chose to switch degrees and give the law a go. I was moti­vat­ed to fin­ish my law degree swift­ly as I had lost some time start­ing and not com­plet­ing my pri­or degree, so it was head down and bum up for me. Once I fin­ished my degree (at which point I was still work­ing in real estate) I had a real pas­sion to become a prop­er­ty lawyer.

Why Swaab?

This is a big sto­ry — in 2009 when I was look­ing to move with my team from a firm whose cul­ture was no longer aligned with the cul­ture we had pre­vi­ous­ly enjoyed, one of my clients sug­gest­ed that I speak with Swaab. I met Fred Swaab (our founder) and Bron­wyn Pott (our then CEO) and my world was opened up to a very attrac­tive alter­na­tive to the large mid-tier nation­al firm envi­ron­ment my team and I had been a part of. Fred and Bron oozed warmth, char­ac­ter, inno­va­tion and pride in a firm with a cul­ture that they had hand craft­ed beau­ti­ful­ly. I left my first meet­ing (with them) with a clear impres­sion that Swaab would offer oppor­tu­ni­ties for me and my team to con­tribute in a mean­ing­ful way to the fir­m’s future. It became appar­ent very quick­ly there­after that not only had Fred and Bron built a spe­cial law firm but the firm was pep­pered with authen­tic gen­eros­i­ty to a degree I had nev­er expe­ri­enced before. I was in awe of Fred and what he was offer­ing to young part­ners (as I was then) who were look­ing for an oppor­tu­ni­ty to work hard in an envi­ron­ment that pro­mot­ed human val­ues that were impor­tant to me and my team.

What’s your best mem­o­ry or client success?

This ques­tion is too hard to answer. There is not one mem­o­ry or suc­cess that stands so far out from the next. 

To work in a pro­fes­sion and area of law which facil­i­tates the devel­op­ment of strong and mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships with long stand­ing clients is by far the best’ expe­ri­ence in my career. 

Hav­ing my long stand­ing client and friend, the late David Hazlett, ask me to be his Execu­tor and to estab­lish and Chair the Hazlett Fam­i­ly Coun­cil has been the most touch­ing expe­ri­ence as a lawyer. To know that David trust­ed me with his fam­i­ly and their wealth was very flattering. 

Also, to be cho­sen as the first non-founder man­ag­ing part­ner of Swaab (after Fred) has been the great­est oppor­tu­ni­ty I could have ever wished for and I am eter­nal­ly grate­ful to Fred and my then part­ners for their trust in me.

Who has been your great­est influence?

One of the great aspects of being a lawyer is that you meet and inter­act with many peo­ple and each per­son leaves you with a dif­fer­ent imprint. For me, I have been most influ­enced by three cat­e­gories of peo­ple: Legal men­tors, Col­leagues and Clients.

I have been lucky to have had some won­der­ful legal men­tors in John Graves, the late Ter­ry O’Con­nor, Bob Ternes, Peter Gar­rett, Tom Sut­tie, Tim L’O­r­ange, the late Fred Swaab – the list goes on. My men­tors have all been men – and I have nev­er ever felt at a dis­ad­van­tage because I was a women. I want to specif­i­cal­ly men­tion Fred. To be cho­sen as the first non- founder man­ag­ing part­ner of Swaab (after Fred) has been the great­est oppor­tu­ni­ty I could have ever wished for and I am eter­nal­ly grate­ful to Fred and my then part­ners for their trust in me.

I have also had some awe­some and long stand­ing team mem­bers and part­ners who have become close friends who have influ­enced and shaped me as a lawyer, a per­son and a leader. 

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, I have also been influ­enced great­ly by clients along my 21 year jour­ney prac­tis­ing as a lawyer. The late David Hazlett and the late Paul Ram­say are two clients who have left a last­ing impres­sion on me and my per­son­al brand.

What do you like to do out­side of work?

Watch and enjoy live Aussie Rock music – prefer­ably with a few Swaab col­leagues in tow.

I love the beach­es on the south coast of NSW – I just don’t get there as often as I’d like.

I can’t dance or sing to save myself but my 11 year old daugh­ter can do both very well. So l love to watch and lis­ten to her per­form. This is my favourite and most sat­is­fy­ing past-time.

Of course, I enjoy a great din­ing expe­ri­ence with a big bold South Aus­tralian red wine.

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