“Born into a family of Scottish engineers, I had a choice of being an engineer or an engineer and so, I became…an engineer,” Slater quipped. “In my last year of engineering, I answered an ad for a job as a trainee chemical patent attorney and my pathway toward law began.”
Slater studied law part-time while training as a patent attorney, being admitted to practice as a solicitor in 1995. She struck out into sole practice in late 2001. While her whole family had long been in business for themselves, Slater felt it was the right move for her to gain organisational experience before she launched her own practice.
Like any business, solo practice has had its challenges.
“The best advice I have been given,” said Slater, “ is that ‘if you don’t chase bills, clients will assume you aren’t serious about your business.’”
Since launching in 2001, Slater has picked up best media law firm (from Corporate INTL Magazine, London), ‘top 5’ IP law firm (Macquarie Bank Thomson Reuters Australasian Law Awards) and NSW Woman Lawyer of the Year in Private Practice (2009 – 2011).
For lawyers considering a move to solo practice, Slater had this advice: “You can’t control the chaos around you; you can only navigate a pathway through it. When you go through a terrible time, think of it as training to ensure that the next time is not as terrible. Everything has its time, and you do get second chances.”
Over the years, Slater has been exposed to a number of unusual cases.
“I was honoured when I was asked to draft a patent specification for laparoscopic scissors used during keyhole surgery. At the time, it was revolutionary surgery and meant patients could return home within days rather than weeks. Once the specification was drafted, I was invited by the surgeon to watch him use the scissors during a gallbladder operation. He warned me that some observers do become nauseous and faint.”
After assuring him that she possessed a strong constitution, Slater didn’t last fifteen minutes before needing to excuse herself.
“At least I could cross ‘surgeon’ off my list of possible careers,” laughed Slater.
Speaking to Slater, it is obvious that she loves her work.
“Call me crazy but I fell in love with trade marks and copyright law; it’s a love affair that continues each day. I get my highs when I leave the office knowing that I’ve given practical, commercially minded advice that makes a difference.”
Never one to rest on her laurels, Slater is currently writing a book on intellectual property for the left brained thinker, alongside her College of Law LLM.
“I consider that it’s important to upskill at every opportunity,” said Slater. “I view the College as a centre of excellence for learning.”