Non-traditional path opens doors
by Resolve editor Kate Tilley
Winning the Ron Shorter Public Speaking Award for Victoria/South Australia in 2019 has been a big stepping stone for Shannen De La Motte, significantly enhancing her career trajectory.
This year she joined the AILA National Board and became president of Melbourne’s Mighty Docklands Toastmaster Club and a Toastmasters area director.
Shannen, 28, is a junior legal counsel at AIG Australia Ltd and currently filling a parental leave position as company secretary.
She joined AIG in May 2016 as EA to general counsel Peter Hopkins, after completing a Bachelor of Law/Arts at La Trobe University.
Shannen hasn’t followed a traditional path for a law graduate but told Resolve working at AIG is a great experience.
Shannen saw the role advertised during her last year at university and decided to apply, knowing it would open doors to different opportunities and help her develop a range of unique legal skills.
While she began as an EA, it was on the basis she would take on more legal work as she garnered skills and that’s been the case.
“I didn’t study insurance law at uni, but I’m building my knowledge. There’s a lot to learn,” she told Resolve.
Shannen has developed legal drafting and contract negotiation skills, and a good understanding of insurance law principles.
When asked to step in as acting company secretary, she was justifiably nervous. But the training she received as a finalist for the Ron Shorter Award and her subsequent win, plus being in Toastmasters since 2017, gave her confidence.
The company secretary role has provided valuable skills that have benefited the AILA Board and been useful in her additional committee roles with the AILA Young Professionals and Ladies@AILA.
Shannen’s 2019 Ron Shorter Award paper was on price optimisation, which she argued could be implemented in Australia if properly defined and regulated. After she was judged the Victorian/South Australian winner, she presented the paper at the AILA national conference in Hobart.
Shannen is an active volunteer with the Animal Law Institute and Lawyers for Animals. She is passionate about bringing awareness to the wild animal trade, poaching, and ecotourism that exploits animals through elephant rides and photo opps with tiger cubs. “You don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes with these activities,” she told Resolve.
“I get very emotional when I see videos on social media of animal abuse. If I can do something to raise awareness and help stop animal exploitation, that’s better than doing nothing.”
Shannen’s always been a pet lover and this year adopted a rescue cat, Juno, who has taken over her Melbourne apartment.
During her university studies, Shannen worked casual or part time in the legal field. She had roles at a boutique law firm, the Victorian Coroners’ Court, and the Legal Services Board. She also volunteered at the Darebin Community Legal Centre and Social Security Rights Victoria and completed a three-month internship in the race discrimination team at the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2014.
She is an avid traveller, having visited South America, South Africa, Sri Lanka (where her parents were born), Nepal, Cuba, the USA, Portugal, Spain and Morocco.
But she’s only crossed the Tasman once for a weekend wedding in Auckland, so New Zealand is on her agenda once Covid-19 travel restrictions are lifted.