Today we mark International Women’s Day with the first in the series of insightful conversations with the inspirational women leaders behind Coole Bevis. Maria Puglisi joined the firm last year as Practice Director and in this interview she reveals her motivation for pursuing a career in the legal profession, key figures that have inspired her, her top tips for women in law and much more. We hope you enjoy the read.
Why did you enter the legal profession?
I decided to pursue a career in law from a very young age. I find law to be a very interesting discipline to study; it is intellectually challenging and stimulating. Law governs a great majority of our life and deals with complex problems around ethics, philosophy and morality. Pursuing a career in law, however, comes with a large amount of hard work and responsibility which I learned to accept at the outset before embarking on this journey. A career in law not only provides stability but it places you in the position to engross yourself with work that has justice at its heart in protecting fundamental human rights. Since I started my career in law, my work has always had meaning and purpose and it has always been very rewarding. I consider myself privileged to be able to serve in the legal profession and my career has been filled with life-changing work, incredible growth and I have gained a great deal of experience so far.
What does great leadership mean to you?
To me, great leadership is being able to develop people and bring out the best in themselves through consistency, passion, enthusiasm, dedication, efficiency and emotional intelligence. Great leaders are focused and committed to developing others whilst being self-aware and developing themselves. They tactfully push others beyond their comfort zone and encourage strategic thinking, innovation and action. They always show up and lead by example and where everyone else sees obstacles, great leaders see opportunities and possibilities to grow.
Has anyone inspired you during your career and if so, why?
Law runs in my family. My father was a barrister and my grandfather was a judge. They have been the key inspiring figures around my decision to pursue a career in law. I grew up observing them, learning from them and watching them practicing law with the greatest strength, passion, hard work, commitment, dedication and determination. And most of all with the most fervid inner desire to facilitate access to justice and to make justice for those who cannot make justice for themselves. Law has become more than a career to me; it is now a purpose.
What advice would you give to the twenty-year-old you?
The twenty-year-old me was truly the version of myself upon which I built endlessly and indefatigably in order to become the version of me that I am today. I can fairly say that I have maintained my pedantic attention to detail, resilience and perseverance during the years as I would have not been able to make it in law without commitment and discipline but I could have had more fun perhaps through the journey and I could have been a bit more creative with it instead of always aiming to strive for perfection. After years of practice, I have learned that perfection is subjective. Life is an amazing learning curve and we keep on changing and evolving. The twenty-year-old version of me would have definitely benefited from knowing that there are never final endings but just a series of new beginnings which are just as perfect as they can be.
What does the future hold for you?
I like this question very much as whilst I reflect on what answer I would like to give I note that my perspective has changed. Four years ago I wanted to be where I am now and I had to stop and think and pinch myself; how much of a fast change I went through and how determined I have been to achieve what I set out to achieve despite the challenges I faced. I then reflected on the fact that what the future holds for us does not come to us suddenly and unexpectedly; it is the culmination of steps, a continuous work in progress, both on the job and on ourselves and it is just amazing to look back and actually quantify those steps which were not necessarily evident or meaningful at the time you were taking them. The future is now for me as I continue to take more steps to learn about myself and to take it one day at the time. I am grateful for having survived and thrived during a global pandemic and my future holds value, purpose, health, growth, self-care, kindness and appreciation for me, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my clients and my profession.
What are your top three tips for women in law, and business, generally, today?
My approach on this is a holistic one; health is wealth for me and a business is a healthy business when it is made of healthy people and healthy business dynamics. There is a “business” of being a law practitioner and a “profession” of being a law practitioner and my mission has always been to harmonise these two aspects of practising law; as a woman in law and business myself and speaking from personal experience, my top three tips are: