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Louise M (shoes) Empowerment series with Louise Matson and guest Jennifer Bicknell

Posted on September 06 2021

Louise M Empowerment series with Louise Matson and Jennifer Bicknell

 

The Louise M Empowerment series is hosted by Louise M shoes Founder Louise Matson. Louise is a former flight attendant and now business woman. She developed shoes that women love to wear for long hours on your feet.

The podcast series continues with Lawyer Jennifer Bicknell. Through our series we hope you are inspired to be the most empowered person you want and can be. 

Jennifer Bicknell has been practising law for almost 30 years. 

She spent 15 years as a litigator Minter Ellison, followed by 8 years as a partner at Kennedys, before founding her workplace law firm Bicknell Law & Consulting, in 2015. 

Whilst Jennifer does the “traditional” lawyery stuff like drafting employment contracts and resolving disputes, she spends most of her time working with clients as an extension of their business – strategically advising them on how to prevent small workplace issues becoming big, hairy ones. 

She is passionate about helping people have the tricky but necessary conversations they need to have to thrive in their career and business. br>
She does this through her day to day consulting as well as hher online course, one-on-one coaching and team workshops.

If you need help finding the right words for a tricky conversation, Jennifer is your person!

 Transcript of the interview with Jennifer Bicknell.

Louise Matson:

Well hello today on the Louise M Empowerment podcast series, I have the great pleasure of having Jennifer Bicknell along with me today. Jennifer has been practicing law for almost 30 years. She spent 15 years as a litigator at Minter Ellison followed by eight years as a partner at Kennedy's before founding her workplace law firm, Bicknell Law and Consulting in 2015. While Jennifer does the traditional lawyery stuff like drafting employment contracts and resolving disputes, she spends much of her time working with clients as an extension of their business. Strategically advising them on how to prevent small workplace issues, becoming big, hairy ones. She's passionate about helping people have the tricky but necessary conversations they need to have to thrive in their career and business. She does this day to day consulting as well as her online courses, one-on-one coaching and team workshops. If you need help finding the right words for a tricky conversation, Jennifer is your person. Welcome Jennifer Bicknell.

Jennifer Bicknell:

Thank you very much, Louise. Lovely to be here.

Louise Matson:

I am really excited and I must admit a little bit nervous because I, I don't know that I've actually had a proper conversation with you. Although we have been at the same conferences a couple of times, and I've watched you develop and that sense of fun. I just love that sense of fun that you have as well, even though you're, you know, in law, it's a very serious business, so it's really nice to have that ying and yang personality. I love it.

Jennifer Bicknell:

I mean, I think that lawyers are people too, and I think it's important that in any profession that you're approachable. So whether it's through my newsletter, which contains both cases and suggestions for great TV shows, I like to balance a bit of Law and a bit of fun.

Louise Matson:

Yeah, no, it's something we do have in common is, well, I do like a sense of fun, but Paris, you have Paris in the background there and hopefully we will get back there before too long. So yeah, that's nice to have that in the background to look at as well. Look today, we're talking about empowerment and I'm really intrigued to interview women and find out where their empowerment journey started, you know, was this in their childhood or is it something they've really had to work at developing or did it come quite naturally to them. Extra things you've done to feel empowered and then how you are now helping others to feel empowered through your business. So I think let's start off with what's the definition of empowerment for you?

Jennifer Bicknell:

I think for me, it's confidence. Feeling empowered is about having the confidence to do the things that I want to do and the things that I need to do.

Louise Matson:

Beautiful short easy. Fantastic. And do you think it presents physically or emotionally or both, this confidence?

Jennifer Bicknell:

For me it's more emotionally. Um, and psychologically, I think, it's like a mental state, you know what I mean? Like we humans are pretty good at telling ourselves stories in our head, you know, worrying about ghosts that aren't really there. So I think for me, it's about feeling confident, emotionally and psychologically, owning whatever it is I'm doing. And, I am fortunate enough, that I've never really had to worry about the physical part of it.

Louise Matson:

Sometimes when you're feeling confident, you might tend to stand taller or I don't know, that's how I sort of am when I'm feeling confident, I stand taller, but it doesn't obviously have to be that way for everybody.

Jennifer Bicknell:

Yes I guess, I guess you're right. And I mean, I'm a big fan of the power pose, you know? So I get what you're saying with that, but for me, it all sort of starts with sort of the head and the heart, I think.

Louise Matson:

Yeah. So on that note, you said it starts in the head and the heart as a child. How was your, who makes up your family? Do you have siblings and where were you in that sibling lineup perhaps? And did you feel, did that empowerment start as a child for you?

Jennifer Bicknell:

I'm the eldest of two, I have a brother who's two years younger than me and I'm very much the oldest child in the traditional sense, and yes, I think I did have a sense of empowerment as a child, but didn't have that label on it, you know what I mean. I think that's the sort of thing that you look back and you realize that you are very fortunate that, you know, I had a lovely childhood, I had great parents and they created a beautiful home where we felt happy and safe, and so I think that everything sort of sprang from there.

Louise Matson:

Was there anyone else, obviously your parents gave you confidence and that sense of you know, you're valued and heard, was there anyone else in your life, a grandparent or teacher or anyone else that encouraged you to be the best version of you as a child?

Jennifer Bicknell:

Yeah, so both of my parents left school when I was 14 and 15, because their families couldn't afford for them to stay at school, it was a financial thing, and they both decided very early on in their marriage that they wanted their children to have whatever opportunities they wanted to have. And they would determine that money would not be a reason why we didn't get those opportunities. So I always grew up knowing that there was no reason why I couldn't achieve what I wanted to achieve. Provided I put in the hard yards and well, I, I guess looking back, I mean, it's pretty amazing that like neither of my parents, they didn't resent the fact that they were denied, you know, my mum to be a teacher, but she couldn't be, but her aunt, my great aunt, really supported her when she left school and sort of helped her go through secretarial college.

Louise Matson:

And so my great aunt also took great pride in, I guess, pushing me to become the first member of the family to go to university. And so she was a big cheerleader of mine, which was lovely. I was also really fortunate to have some pretty terrific school teachers who encouraged me along the way. And, you know, it was Abba cause they encouraged me to sing in the lounge room, which I did. I'd like to think that that's where I got my sense of performance and fun, watching lots of my favorite music styles and lots of TV shows.

Louise Matson:

I have seen you dressed up, Jennifer photos of you dressed up, particularly those little dress up end of conference parties. It’s wonderful that you were brought up with a real sense that you can do, not people telling you that you can do, but you're not believing it. You actually really believed you could do that, which was, which was wonderful. It's a wonderful start. Do you believe that that really helped you go into your adult life, transitioning to adult life more easily?

Jennifer Bicknell:

Yeah, I think so. I mean, look, it's a chicken and egg, isn't it? I was always really driven. You know, I like to win, you know, not in an evil way, but I like to succeed, and I was always pretty competitive at whatever I did and I think it was because I was always told I could achieve things if I worked really, really hard and both my parents worked really hard. Like dad ended up going and studying at night for 10 years to get the qualifications, he would have got a feed, being able to get his education, you know, the traditional way by going to university. So I guess I really respected my parents work ethic and it was funny when I got my HSC results, I had actually planned to continue working in a bank, because I got a job over the holidays working at a bank as you do.

Jennifer Bicknell:

I was going to study part-time and they sat me down and they said, no, we've worked our whole lives to make sure that you can do it, not the easy way, but you know, go and experience university like the way you want to do it by going full time. And so they talked me out of sort of doing the part-time route. I'm really glad I did cause I absolutely loved being at uni, particularly since it was commerce and law, so it's a five-year degree anyway. They really encouraged that. And so it was just an ongoing, I guess, presence that they always, it was always there, but not something you consciously thought about.

Louise Matson:

I really love the fact that the way you are saying it, your parents encouraged you, but they weren't demanding it of you.

Jennifer Bicknell:

No.

Louise Matson:

It's more a sense that you, they felt you had the capacity and, you were able to do it and wanting you to have the best life you could have. So yeah, I really love that because there is that other way of demanding your child goes to uni when they're not really wanting to.

Jennifer Bicknell:

No, they weren't tiger parents at all, but they were very encouraging.

Louise Matson:

So did you go straight into a law firm when you finished?

Jennifer Bicknell:

Yeah. So at the end of fourth year of uni you can do what's called a summer clerkship. So I did a summer clerkship and then that was with Minter Ellison and they offered me a graduate job. So I ended up staying there for 14 years and it seems weird saying that now because you know, people change jobs so much more frequently now, but I ended up spending 14 years at Minters and then a group of us, 20 odd people of us left there in 2006 and we started up Kennedy's, which is an English firm that we started up the Australian office of Kennedy. So I was there for nine years and then I started my own firm. So I've got this longevity of employment with the same people, and I absolutely loved working with all of them. It was only really that I sort of had an epiphany one day and decided to start my own law firm.

Louise Matson:

Well, tell us about that. I love that story. You went to hear someone speak.

Jennifer Bicknell:

I did, I went to a Seth Godin concert. I didn't even really know much about Seth Godin, but I went and heard him speak and I was perfectly happy where I was in my job. I loved the people I worked with. I loved the work I did, and Seth said amongst other brilliant things, pick yourself. It was weird cause it was sort of something I thought I'd been doing my whole life anyway but the words just really resonated with me. And I realized that I'd always had this desire to run my own firm or have my own business, but because I'd been happy in what I was doing, I just did it the traditional way. I mean, I'd only had two jobs post university and both of them with the same group of people.

Jennifer Bicknell:

Like I left one firm to go with the same people to start up another one. So I'd been working with the same people for 24 years. But I realized that I did have this sort of urge to start my own business, so with very little planning, very little savings, cause you know I had this addiction to going to Paris. I just decided to start my own firm and did it with the blessing and support of the firm I was leaving and actually continued doing work with them for the first sort of four or five years after I left. But it was really interesting when I told my father what I was doing. He said to me, I think the exact words were well about bloody time, I always knew you would run your own business. I don't know what took you so long.

Louise Matson:

He knew you had it in you, gave support but not push you. Yeah really nice. So what other things have you done? I mean, you obviously have this great sense of confidence and you can do and how two words back yourself, changed your world a little but what other things, I mean do you do a lot of things with Business Chicks, have you been on their travels? You know, where does that leadership come from in you?

Jennifer Bicknell:

Yeah, so I went, I've done the LA and then New York study tour. I have to say one of the best days of my entire life was the day that we spent at the New York Fire Department training place in New York. It was extraordinary.

Louise Matson:

Dressing up were you?

Jennifer Bicknell:

We were dressing up. We wore the full outfits and we climbed stairs and we put out fires and we rescued people. I rescued two babies out of a smoke field building, well, two dolls, but it was more about talking to the firefighters, between doing those things and hearing the stories of 9/11 and hearing about the stories of belonging to a particular fire station and the teamwork that goes with working together. And it was just an extraordinary day. And I'm one of these people given the choice between like reading a piece of fiction or reading a business book, I'd rather read a business book, like the only podcasts I listen to are pretty much businessy ones.

Jennifer Bicknell:

Like I just love it. It's that I don't really see it as work. That's one of the things that I really noticed changed once I started my own business was I spent a lot more time sort of learning about leadership and those sorts of things. Whereas when I was, you know, working in the law firm, I was really focusing on just learning about the law that I was doing. Whereas now I, you know, obviously stay up to date with legal issues, but I'm learning more and more about management and leadership and because I'm working so closely with my clients in their businesses, rather than just giving them legal advice, I think it's a really different way of working.

Louise Matson:

So is that you're gaining more knowledge and that sense of empowerment through your podcasts, your books and business courses and networking. Is there anything else or is that what you, you put it down to that you've achieved this great sense of confidence and empowerment through those things?

Jennifer Bicknell:

Well, one of my clients has got me sitting on a, we call it an advisory board there is two gentlemen and I, and we advise the CEO and sole director on running the business, which is a very large successful business. I'm loving doing that because it's a chance to bring together my legal knowledge and work with other people looking at, you know, strategies for running this fantastic business. So I'd love to do more advisory work for businesses. But I guess the difference now between now what I do and what I did 10 years ago was instead of, I guess, just dispensing legal advice and being quite transactional, what I'm doing more and more now is I have clients who I've worked with for a long time and I'm sort of at the end of the phone.

Jennifer Bicknell:

And I introduced something when I started my business, lawyers have this thing where we, they, I can say they now, cause I didn't do it once I started my business, I said that I banned the six minute unit. Like I just don't believe in it. I never understood why we thought we should charge people in six minute blocks. So I charge in real minutes and it's because I want every client I had to never not pick up the phone to ask me a silly question. That would take two minutes for me to answer because they were worried that I was going to charge them six. So I like to think that clients can just pick up the phone and just ask a silly question, but there's no such thing as a silly question, and what I find is that I've built relationships with clients whereby they, they ring me before something goes pear shaped or they, because I worked so closely with them, I know the people in their business like, you know, and so there's no time for an, an employee to become toxic because as soon as I get a whiff of an employee misbehaving, I'm sort of holding the, the CEO or the GM or whoever, the HR manager accountable and saying, and what are we going to do about this person?

Jennifer Bicknell:

And so we're really being on the front foot and proactive about dealing with issues in their businesses. And that's what I really enjoy because I feel like I'm actually really adding value, not just coming in and fixing things when it's all going wrong.

Louise Matson:

I'm also wondering how through your business you're empowering others and you have these workshops. So aside from those one-to-one conversations you have for someone in a difficult situation and wants a solution, you have these workshops and you do like to help people with those difficult conversations. So that's empowering others, isn't it, helping them deal with those difficult conversations?

Jennifer Bicknell:

Yeah, because I, I realized, and that was actually one of the reasons why I started my business was I realized that all these really lovely people were being sued for employment law breaches. I did an analysis, I literally sat down and did an analysis of the last three months worth of cases. And I realized that almost every one of them could have been avoided if someone had had a difficult conversation, a few months before, but instead they'd ignored a problem or they didn't have to deal with it so they just sort of went la la la, it'll go away by itself. It doesn't. And so I realized that the key to preventing workplace disputes was people having conversations when they needed to have them. And no one was teaching people how to do it.

Jennifer Bicknell:

And it's because I guess it's one of those skills that we're supposed to pick up along the way, but if you don't get taught it and you don't learn it, then it's too embarrassing once by the time you're a senior manager or even a middle level manager to put your hand up and say, I don't know how to have a difficult conversation. And so I'm sort of on a mission now to teach people how to have them. And so I've created an online course it's only one hour, some easy to do, go to my website and it's there, or I do one-on-one sessions or workshops and I just help the person work out what their Achilles heel is because there's really three main reasons why people avoid having difficult conversations. I help diagnose them with what their problem is, and then we come up with a solution for how to fix it.

Louise Matson:

So I guess, you know, you're helping others feel empowered by solving difficult situations for them. And hopefully with that, you're not going to court perhaps, and a huge expense as well. So it sounds like you could, I know you have a niche probably who you help, but everyone needs help with the difficult conversations. I think I might go online and do that course as well. I mean, does it suit anyone?

Jennifer Bicknell:

Well, I mean, I've had people say to me that they've actually used the skills that they've picked up in the course, to dealing with issues in their private life. I mean, I've put a framework for how to tackle any sort of conversation that you're worried about how to handle. It's not rocket science, but it's just about having a bit of a structure, but also just working out what it is that's causing you to have the problem, because some people just can't come up with the words. And so I've put the words in the course. Well, some people just want to be liked and it's what I find is that you can say to someone, well, that's all good and well, but you know, is the person that you want to like you going to pay your mortgage for you.

Jennifer Bicknell:

Cause if they're not, then you need to find a way past that. You know what I mean? You need to, I mean, you need to do your job. And quite often it's just about helping people remember that they're getting paid to be a manager and it's not about confrontation. I think a lot of people think that having a different conversation that needs to be confrontational and it doesn't, you know, it could be to be done with kindness and empathy and if it's done well, I mean one of the things I guess I'm most proud of is that for the last 18 months during COVID, I've helped my clients bring to an end, a lot of people's employment sadly and not a single one of my clients has been sued because we've handled the end of the employment relationships with kindness and with integrity and done everything we can to try and help the people who've had to be let go finding work. And so it doesn't have to be confrontational.

Louise Matson:

Fantastic. What's the next thing for Jennifer Bicknell? What, are you looking forward to when all this lockdown situation is over, Paris obviously I was going to say Paris, and I noticed on your Facebook that you put an image with ‘the bin has had more outings’ than you have.

 

Jennifer Bicknell:

Yeah. So really hope it is over soon, but it'll be great to get back to doing Business Chicks conferences again, that would be fantastic.

Louise Matson:

So Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your empowerment journey. It sounded like it was an easy transition into adult because your parents had given you that really sound grounding of a sense of confidence in that you can achieve and you really believed it. And I think that's the important thing you can be told, you know, you can do something, but you have to believe it in yourself. So mindset is such a big thing as well. So congratulations on all your achievements. I look forward to continuing to follow you on Facebook and, and laugh at your posts but also be inspired and informed as well. So thanks so much for your time Jennifer. I look forward to speaking with you again in the future and seeing where Jennifer Bicknell is headed next.

Jennifer Bicknell:

My pleasure. Thanks very much.

Louise Matson:

Thanks Jennifer. Bye-bye.

To learn more about Jennifer Bicknell visit: https://jenniferbicknell.com.au or contact Jennifer: jen@jenniferbicknell.com.au Follow Jennifer on: https://www.instagram.com/jennifer.bi... https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-... If you would like to feel empowered in your shoes visit: https://www.louisemshoes.com Contact Louise Matson louise@louisemshoes.com

#law #lawyer @businesschicks #empowerment #podcast #cabincrewshoes #corporateshoes #comfortableshoes #fun #abba #dancing #businesswomen #womenleaders

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