Robertsons / Getting to know Helen Twomey

Robertsons / Getting to know Helen Twomey

To celebrate women in insurance and female leaders in our industry, we asked Helen Twomey, partner at Robertsons Law, for some insights on what’s helped her be successful in her career to date, and to share some thoughts on the future of the industry. 

Helen set up Robertsons with colleague Michael Robertson in 2011, specialising in all types of insurance law with a particular focus on liability insurance.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve been given?

Helen: I’ve been given lots of important advice over the last 19 years of my career from lots of wise heads. But the most important advice which continues to be relevant is how to be a good leader: “Listen. Give credit. Communicate. Be accountable. Share the big picture. Keep your cool.” Ok that’s kind of six but it’s stuck to my wall and what I try to be…although I do not succeed more often than not!

Do you believe you’ve faced any barriers in your career? If so, how did you overcome them?

If anything, I feel I have experienced more barriers due to my age, particularly being a young partner of a law firm at 30. I think I have been extremely lucky to not experience any barriers in my career being a woman.  Litigation has a lot of female lawyers and there are many senior women at the bar and in the judiciary – the way has been well paved by women before me. 

Who has inspired you in your career?

There are a lot of people who have inspired me in my career, men and women, in many different ways. I have worked for, alongside and against many good lawyers and have had many good lawyers work for me – I have learned from them all and try to emulate where I can those skills that have inspired me in these individuals.  If I had to pick, two jump out: Michael Robertson my business partner inspires me every day still (even after 11 years in partnership!) and pushes me every day to be a better lawyer; Phillipa Fee inspires me as a female to be an intelligent, extremely well respected successful lawyer and mother, but not to lose sight of the day to day and to take time to stop and enjoy life and have a good laugh.  

Is there a woman you particularly admire?

I’m not sure there is one woman I admire most, but there is a type of woman I admire and she is intelligent, has a quiet confidence, is empathetic, has a strong moral compass but in saying all that she does not take life all too seriously and can stop and laugh a lot! That is what I would very much like to be and writing this has reminded me so thank you! 

Do you think more women need to be encouraged into insurance careers? How could this be done?

Insurance is a fantastic career but one that for many reasons does not have the same attraction as other careers for those starting out. I think this is largely due to a lack of awareness and understanding of the what insurance is and all the different career paths within it - more can be done engaging with tertiary institutions to increase the profile and attractiveness of insurance as a career. It would be great to see some sort of joint effort to achieve these, perhaps through the New Zealand Insurance Law Association or other similar industry group. 

What would be a message you’d send to young women or young people in general thinking starting out in their careers? 

Work hard and know your stuff. The more you know, the more powerful you are. Always be thorough. Strive to be the person that people count on. When something is asked of you, do it and do it well. If you’re resourceful and let your wisdom speak for itself, being a woman, or being young, or any other thing will fall to the wayside. At the end of the day, it’s about how much you know and confidence stems from that. 

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