Virginia, Competition/Antitrust Lawyer
Virginia is a 33 year old Sydney-based lawyer and the woman behind the blog & instagram @WhatVeeWore – a corporate and workwear style page. She is a Senior Associate in an Australian law firm working in the Competition/Antitrust practice group. She was admitted to practice in 2010.
About Virginia and What Vee Wore
Tell us a little bit about you and your background.
I’m Virginia – a competition/antitrust lawyer from Sydney. I post my work outfits and workwear inspiration on my instagram page @whatveewore, which I started in early 2018 after returning to work following my first stint of maternity leave.
I’ve been a lawyer for over 9 years. I graduated with an Arts degree in 2007 and my Law degree in 2009. I live in inner city Sydney with my husband and four boys – two by marriage (9 and 7) and two together (2 and 3 months). I’m currently on maternity leave for the second time with our 3 month old son.
Tell us about WhatVeeWore and how it all started.
I started my instagram page a couple of months after returning to work after my first stint of maternity leave. I’ve always been interested in fashion and see it as a creative outlet for me personally. I’ve always wanted a creative ‘side hustle’ and fashion was a natural choice of content – I’ve always loved shopping and styling pieces in my wardrobe.
I lost my style confidence after my body changed after having a baby (surprise surprise). I had already built an extensive wardrobe of corporate staples and found they weren’t fitting me in the same way. So, I essentially lost half of my wardrobe and had to start over to fill in those gaps. WhatVeeWore has connected me with so many fashionable, working women from around the world – I’ve especially loved connecting with working mums who love of fashion.
Let's Talk Business
What is your day job and how did you get into it?
I’m a Senior Associate in competition law in a national law firm in Australia. While studying, I worked as a paralegal at a law firm and then stayed on as a graduate lawyer. It was a huge help to work in the field related to my studies. When I get asked for my advice on how to break into a legal career, I can’t stress enough the importance of getting that practical experience as soon as possible.
I started out as a litigator in commercial matters and then shifted my focus to competition law (or ‘antitrust’ as it’s known in the US). It’s the area of law that deals with government regulation of businesses to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers. My firm is one of a handful of the top tier firms in this area and I’ve been fortunate to work alongside some heavy hitters.
My day is anything but a 9-to-5 routine! In the most general terms, it can vary from spending weeks on end running a court case, or I might be drafting legal advices for large corporate clients, or even coordinating compliance training. Of course, there’s always office admin to catch up on and I’m always looking for an excuse to get out the office to catch up with colleagues for a coffee.
What is the one thing you believe has helped you succeed and what advice would you give to someone wanting to do the same job?
Always keep a bottle of rosé handy! But seriously, law firms can be tough environments – you work long hours and the work is often intellectually challenging and carried out under intense time pressure. Ultimately, you have to get it done and it helps to think logically and keep calm.
I tell junior lawyers starting out to keep trying to think about what’s next. Nothing singles you out faster for progression than being the person who understands the bigger picture and can anticipate upcoming twists and turns. I actually had a very broad exposure as a junior lawyer, largely because I wanted to become indispensable and was too scared to say no to anything! That meant I worked on matters as diverse as tax prosecutions and retail refunds. What I realised was that it doesn’t go unnoticed when you always step up, and when you get noticed, you attract mentors who foster your interests and your career.
What makes you feel powerful, where do you get your motivation and who inspires you?
I feel as though I continue to come into my power now that I'm in my 30s and dressing the part totally helps! Throwing on a tailored blazer and grabbing a designer handbag can instantly give that extra lift of confidence.
But my motivation truly comes from my family. I am completely focused on working towards the goals we have, while enjoying the journey along the way.
Tell us about your transition as a working mum.
The transition was difficult. I struggled returning to work after my maternity leave – I felt guilty at work being away from my son and I felt guilty rushing home to my family and being unable to stay late in the office like I did before.
A piece of advice that I received from many other working parents that rings true is that you have to be easy on yourself and speak up when you’re struggling. Having that support from your employer makes all the difference. I would be open with my team as to when I needed to leave to pick up my son from day care and would log on after he went to bed to finish tasks and respond to emails. You learn to be even more productive with your time once kids come into the picture.
How would you describe your business style?
I’ve always been drawn to the classics. My favourite workwear ensembles combine timeless pieces with modern tweaks – like a peplum hem or a draped detail. In terms of colour, navy reigns supreme, but I’m always open to whatever works.
What advice would you give those dressing for a new job?
There’s no cookie cutter way of dressing for a new job but, as a general rule, it’s best to err on the side of caution - so stay away from shorter hemlines and low necklines.
Context is everything. Start off conservative and naturally find your groove once you’ve settled in. Do your research and dress so that you fit in to that environment.
What trends do you like to wear in the corporate fashion space?
I dabble in peplum now and again, the odd frill or pop of colour! I do believe in investing in high quality pieces so that go the distance – there are some pieces in my wardrobe that are over 7 years old and still going strong.
You can find Virginia on Instagram @whatveewore. If you have enjoyed this interview, let us know by leaving a comment down below!