How to Avoid Burnout
Aasha Foley, managing partner at iCLAW Culliney & Partners, shares her successful formula for balancing personal and professional responsibilities. Aasha Foley sees the law as a way to help people achieve their goals. Known for her ability to identify opportunities and anticipate outcomes, Aasha is an insightful, precise and pragmatic advisor. It’s this passion and […]
Aasha Foley, managing partner at iCLAW Culliney & Partners, shares her successful formula for balancing personal and professional responsibilities.
Aasha Foley sees the law as a way to help people achieve their goals. Known for her ability to identify opportunities and anticipate outcomes, Aasha is an insightful, precise and pragmatic advisor.
It’s this passion and drive that has seen her become one of New Zealand’s youngest partners and owners of a law firm, and recently named as a Rising Star by NZ Lawyer in 2021. It has taken a healthy balance of ambition and hard work, while avoiding burnout during her toughest career moments – establishing herself and co-starting a new business.
“After completing law school in 2011, in a post-GFC economy, opportunities were few and far between for graduate positions, particularly in the Waikato. I spent a few years balancing several secretarial positions, clerking, and completing further extra-curricular study – all with a goal of proving to the ‘world’, and the partnership at James & Wells that I was worth the bet.”
It paid off.
“My supervising partners at James & Wells were tough, but in the right way. Despite coming in at a secretarial level, I was immediately expected to perform, think and carry out my work like a lawyer.
In 2013 Aasha met Owen Culliney, and five years later aged 28, the pair founded their firm, iCLAW. The duo possessed a strong desire to be entrepreneurs within the business of law, and like a large majority of the millennial generation, they wanted to be seen to be ‘different.’
“For me, that meant creating an environment of equality, where what makes me different, or weird to some, is celebrated because it’s my strength.”
Regardless of her achievements, Aasha’s personal accession to partnership and ownership still attracts some sneers from industry peers. iCLAW’s approach to its marketing has been extremely successful, and for the second oldest profession built on archaic patriarchy, that has been somewhat confronting for some.
“iCLAW is coming up on four years in business, growing very quickly from the two of us to sixteen staff – and that has been no easy feat. In the early days I often likened starting a law firm to buying a zoo.”
Aasha balances her firm’s responsibilities with her 24/7 role as a young mother, admitting the challenges of sustaining both roles without burning out.
She is stringent on work and life balance, and maintaining harmony which is crucial, but unpredictably tricky.
That harmony is being connected to and caring for their staff and clients; it enables Aasha to practise effective methods of workload management, things she advocates deeply keep her staff happy and connected.
Focus on managing client’s expectations and purposeful connections with them.
“Be direct, true and offer solution-based communications that are proactive, not just reactive. Have ‘how we are going conversations’, as well as ‘what are we doing conversations’.”
Ask for help and accept it! Recognise and know your breaking point.
“It’s near impossible to unplug so it’s important to recognise when you’re close to or at a burnout stage, and take steps to do something about it. Asking for help or delegating to a colleague, having a deep and meaningful over a drink, or lifting some weights. Work from home, change your environment, take a day off. Find ways to detach during the week in a way that works for you and be conscious to prioritise taking that time for yourself.”
Build a great team.
“It’s not about the size of that team, but the strength. We live by the culture we have created, formed on the core value of caring for others. And we all know what they say about how it takes a village!”
Having freshly returned from maternity leave during the arrival of COVID-19, Aasha swiftly found herself returning home, to work in and run a business with a seven-month-old on her hip.
“The days felt endless at times, and expectations were relentless. Thankfully, we set iCLAW up so we were able to work from anywhere, and we wanted our staff to share that.”
As a business, Aasha explains they have always refused to accept that “things have always been done this way,” and are committed to finding solutions that fit the present; something she shares with other women looking to advance their careers.
“Look at how you may want to do things differently in your field. For us, we focus on our staff first and clients second. We believe happy people make good lawyers, and good lawyers keep happy clients.”
Aasha also adds the importance of developing a strong personal brand for yourself, and to be visible.
“Establish a relationship with a mentor. Always take on new challenges. Jump in the deep end and say YES to the experiences that ordinarily, by ‘industry standards’, you would not be ready for. Be someone that people want to work with and always behave with integrity and kindness.”
As a results and outcome driven person, Aasha is professionally forthright and possesses a strong moral compass.
“I believe in equality and rationality. My inspiration and strength are drawn from others who share my world view. People that stand up for others, that take the high road, and advocate for others.”
Long term, Aasha and her business partner Owen continue to expand iCLAW regionally and internationally, partnering with other entrepreneurial spirited lawyers to establish this growth within the industry.