FIONA Giblin is creating history, but that’s not the way she sees it.
Ms Giblin has been named managing partner of Maddens Lawyers — the first woman to hold such a position in the south-west.
Not so much crashing through the glass ceiling, Ms Giblin has carefully balanced work and family for about two decades to be the natural successor to Warrnambool’s biggest law firm.
Newly married in 1997, Ms Giblin shared her time between Melbourne law firm Minter Ellison and the family farm at Ecklin, successfully negotiating a four-day week.
“That was a huge thing at the time — quite ground-breaking,” she said.
But Ms Giblin was keen to return to the south-west and in 1998 began at Warrnambool firm Mackay Taylor, working part-time after having her first child.
After a stint as in-house counsel with Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, Ms Giblin took a break from the law to concentrate on her young family.
In 2006 Ms Giblin decided to return to the workforce and began as a legal secretary at Maddens Lawyers.
“We all knew how over-qualified I was, but it was a good fit at the time, for all of us,” she said with a laugh.
Two years later Ms Giblin worked to regain her practicing certificate and return to life as a lawyer. Within a year she was partner.
Ms Giblin takes over as managing partner from fellow commercial lawyer Robert Cole, who will continue to work full-time at the practice.
Despite the change, Ms Giblin said it would be “business as usual”.
“New face, same scene,” she said.
“I’ll now have a little more management responsibilities, while Robert will have more time to spend with his clients.
“Robert and I have worked closely on overseeing the practice for a while now and will continue to do so. So any changes with the new arrangement will be subtle.
“It will be a collaborative partnership.”
Mr Cole, who has been in the role for the past 17 years, said the change was a healthy step for the business.
“We know only too well the dangers of ignoring the necessity of succession in a business,” he said.
Ms Giblin, a mother of five, admits while life was already busy enough, things are about to step up a notch.
She said husband Anthony was her “fundamental backstop” and that the family was good at making the most of the time they had together.
“To be honest, we’ve always got something happening and we don’t sleep a lot,” she said. “But that’s the way our life is. We know and accept it.
“We make it work, and make sure that the time we have together as a family is quality time.
“The kids pitch in, Ant and I work together.”