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Anne O’Donoghue Interview – 2023 Most Influential Lawyer | Australasian Lawyer


‘You can train for skill, but you can’t train for passion’

Anne O’Donoghue believes that being able to read situations – and the politics therein – is a critical asset for lawyers.

In this Australasian Lawyer exclusive, Anne O’Donoghue discusses her passion for modern slavery issues, Australia as an immigration nation, and the importance of passing on her years of experience to junior lawyers.

“I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny, and I knew this meant building a legal practice for like-minded people like myself who share the same passions, ethics and ethos,”
“Despite the challenges I faced with a young child, I had great support from my husband, and I understand my purpose, which gave me the encouragement I needed to take the next step.”

With a special interest in human rights, professional ethics, and modern slavery, O’Donoghue is acknowledged as one of Australia’s leading immigration law specialists. She is a tireless champion for the importance of Australian immigration lawyers gaining recognition in the global market and internationalising their practices.

Kylie Speer [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to Australasian Lawyer TV I’m Kylie Speer. And joining me today is Anne Frances O’Donoghue Managing Director and Principal Lawyer at Immigration Solutions Lawyers, and has been named winner of Australasian Lawyers, Most Influential Lawyers 2023 Welcome to you, and congratulations. And thank you so much for joining us today.

Anne Frances O’Donoghue [00:00:32] Oh, well, thank you. And it’s a pleasure to be here today.

Kylie Speer [00:00:37] Well, firstly, Anne, Did you have a plan for your career from the beginning? Or has it been one of chance and opportunities?

Anne Frances O’Donoghue [00:00:46] I’d say it’s been one of chance and opportunity. I was 40 years of age, I had a three year old son and I thought, Look, I’ve reached a glass ceiling in my career, and I need to set up my own firm. And I was going to work in employment law. And by chance, I came across a client that had a problem in immigration. And my husband suggested I should also combine the immigration side of things, I was a bit skeptical at the time, because I hadn’t worked in the immigration area I’d worked in, you know, corporate law, I’d worked in a whole lot of construction law. So I had good general training in legal aspects. And I just use those aspects and set up the practice. And of course, the immigration side of the practice started booming. And, you know, basically, I learned on the job. And it was a very interesting exercise I got involved with, in the beginning, the Irish Welfare Bureau, and did a lot of pro bono work for them in immigration areas. And yes, it was chance and opportunity.

Kylie Speer [00:02:01] What’s the biggest challenge in your current role? And how do you deal with it?

Anne Frances O’Donoghue [00:02:07] Well, I think COVID was a really big challenge. Our borders were close, we had all our staff working remotely, and no one knew where things were going. But we managed to run the business with staff working remotely. And we did a lot of people into the country getting permission to come in. Because there were restrictions, and you could get certain permissions through the Australian Border Force if it was essential work. And we were doing a lot of that work. But it certainly was challenging. It changed the way law practices ran, and it did produce challenges, but also it also, on the other hand, produced opportunities as well.

Kylie Speer [00:02:58] In your view, Anne, what is your strongest asset professionally?

Anne Frances O’Donoghue [00:03:04] That’s difficult, my strongest asset professionally, I, I think passion. I don’t think I think passion and emotional intelligence. You’ve got to have passion for the work. And as I tell my legal team, you know, you can train for skill, but you can’t train for passion, you’ve either got passion to watch or get a good outcome for clients. And I think emotional intelligence is also important to be able to read situations, and also read the politics. Of course, immigration is a very highly politically sensitive area to work in. And you have to be able to read the politics of the situation.

Kylie Speer [00:03:48] And what way would you describe your approach to your role and also your career?

Anne Frances O’Donoghue [00:03:55] Um, I think, really, my approach is very hands on. I don’t think you can sort of be in an ivory tower. As a managing director, you need to know what’s being involved in the day to day practice. There’s you don’t need to micromanage everything. But I think you need to understand from a macro point of view, how things are going and you also need to be charged with clients. I just don’t think you can subcontract all matters out to your legal staff, although they may be very good. I think it’s important that you have a hands on role, and also be there in a mentor capacity for junior members of staff who need that mentoring and training. And I see that, that not all law practices, give that mentor and training, which I think is important because, you know, experience is gained over a period of time. And if you don’t pass that on to the younger lawyers, how are they going to develop their careers in the future?

Kylie Speer [00:05:01] Looking forward, what ambitions or goals do you still have for your career Anne? 

Anne Frances O’Donoghue [00:05:09] Well, I suppose, you know, I’m my worst self critic, you know, I always feel there’s more that can be done. I think politically at the moment, it’s a very challenging time in the immigration portfolio. And there was, there’s more that I would like to do, especially for refugees, I was very much involved in the Afghan women, judges, getting them to Australia, through the good work of Baroness Helen, a candidate who arranged flights from Kabul, to Greece, and then we’re around visas for these judges to come to Australia. That was through the previous coalition and Minister Hawke, who is extremely helpful in getting those judges to Australia, we’ve still got a global refugee problem, we’ve still got a problem in Afghanistan, for Afghan women. And we need to have more places in Australia, Australia has been built on immigration and a lot of refugees who have really done well in Australia. And it is an immigration nation. Canada is leading the world in relation to bringing people in for many countries, and Australia should be up there. But at the moment, I think they’ve only increased the refugee intake by another two and a half 1000 to 20,000, which in my opinion is not enough. I think that challenge is there. I know we have issues in relation to housing and settlement, but our whole country has been built on immigration. It’s a matter of having the right levers on the immigration policy. And it can be a benefit to everyone.

Kylie Speer [00:07:03] And finally, Anne what is a pressing issue, which is not addressed adequately in immigration, both in Australia and globally? And how would you like to see this addressed?

Anne Frances O’Donoghue [00:07:15] Well, basically, I think one of the big issue is, is modern slavery. I’ve been very involved in and outspoken on the issue of modern slavery and human people trafficking. I’m on the IBA Working Group on modern slavery. And I’ve been an advocate for modern slavery issues. I think work worker exploitation in western democracies, is rife. And it’s very important that we have strong laws in Australia, we do but it’s got to basically, people have got to feel that they can come forward, we still where modern slavery is concerned, we do not have a visa product that a person who is a victim of modern slavery can reach out to, we have other sort of products. But it basically got to be determined by the Australian Federal Police as a victim of modern slavery. And there’s their definition is very, very narrow. And you can have severe labor abuses that someone has been through, but still not meet the definition of modern slavery and you’ve don’t get the deferred visa. So then we have to look at other strategies within the existing visa framework to bring this up to the minister’s attention. I think this is a glaring problem that needs to be looked at. I think that the government’s done a good job in making people more aware of modern slavery and labor abuses and legislation has been passed in relation to that. But if you are a non-resident of Australia, and you come into Australia, and you are a victim of modern slavery, you need to have a visa product that you can access.

Kylie Speer [00:09:07] Well, thank you so much for your time today. And congratulations once again Anne it was lovely speaking with you.

Anne Frances O’Donoghue [00:09:14] Well, it was lovely speaking with you, I suppose one other point that I wanted to make. Although my interest is in human rights of modern slavery, we have a very strong corporate immigration practice that we work at. And recently I was given the global elite thought leader for who’s who legal for Australia in corporate migration. So we have a very thriving corporate immigration practice as well, which the staff enjoy working on and we get some very interesting companies, overseas companies, Australian companies, because of the major skill shortage that we have So we’re, I suppose quite an eclectic law firm with our interests in immigration from that perspective.

Kylie Speer [00:10:09] Brilliant. Thanks so much once again Anne. And thank you, of course to our viewers for watching the latest episode of Australasian Lawyer TV. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Read Anne O’Donoghue Profile on AustralasianLawyer

Read Full Script on AustralasianLawyers Magazine

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