Congratulations to CEO Jo Avenell and Partnership Chair Polly Pope who both feature in NZ Lawyer's 'Elite Women' special report released today. This inaugural report celebrates the exceptional work of women who are paving the way in the legal profession, providing recognition to standout professional achievements over the past 12 months, along with their contributions to diversity and inclusion in the industry and how they’ve given back through volunteer roles and charity work.
In September, female leaders were able to be nominated which the NZ Lawyer team then reviewed to examine how each individual had made a meaningful contribution to the industry, and their team then narrowed down the list to the final 35 women who were selected to feature. This report follows on from Board Chair Allison Arthur-Young and Special Counsel Louise Taylor being recognised by NZ Lawyer as some of the most 'Influential Lawyers – Change-makers' 2021 in the country, and Allison additionally recognised on LawFuel's PowerList, earlier this year.
As our firm's CEO, Jo has played a defining role in our firm's culture through Russell McVeagh's transformation programme, and managing the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. She has embedded culture change in our firm's strategy – it's not a separate or finite initiative but an integral part of the firm's long-term strategy, and she remains committed to continuing to work with our people to ensure the firm evolves and embeds a culture where everyone can thrive.
Known for her open and transparent approach, these have been distinct themes leading up to and throughout our lockdowns, with Jo looking for opportunities for our firm to do the right thing, providing clear and reassuring communications to all stakeholders about the firm's response, which includes a strong focus on health, safety and wellbeing, and business continuity.
A current Global Women member and Champion for Change, Jo has championed diversity and inclusion throughout her career and regularly speaks about culture, transformation and diversity, including most recently presenting at a virtual event as part of the global Dive In Festival for Diversity and Inclusion in Insurance, where she shared her experiences on 'Cultivating a Psychologically Safe Workplace' and leading through periods of transformational change.
Polly is a Litigation partner who was elected Chair of the Partnership of Russell McVeagh in February 2021. Polly's disputes practice encompasses class actions, insolvency and restructuring, construction and financial regulatory disputes. Earlier in 2021, Polly was awarded the pan-Asia Women in Business Law Award Asia for Restructuring and Insolvency.
Polly is Fellow of the Arbitrators' and Mediators' Institute of New Zealand and of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK). She is a past winner of AMINZ's prestigious Sir Ronald Davison Award, and has been appointed to the arbitration panels of AMINZ and the NZDRC, and she is a Faculty Member of NZLS CLE's Litigation Skills course.
Polly co-founded Women in Restructuring and Insolvency, and in 2021, she took a lead role in reshaping the firm's pro bono policy.
You can read the full Elite Women feature here.