October 27, 2009
Story by: Sarah Christian
Taking the risk to go after your heart's desire is no small feat. Dorothy was knocked around in a cyclone, propelled into the Land of Oz and thrust back out again; realising that she only had to look in her own backyard for what she truly loved.
For UTS: Law Alumnus and Masters of Intellectual Property lecturer Anny Slater, her recent achievement of NSW Women Lawyers' Association award Woman Lawyer of the Year in Private Practice is an affirmation that her risks in following her heart's desire - the creation of a sole legal practice and an Arts career - was the right choice and was not so far away after all. The award was judged by a panel made up of representatives from the Attorney-General’s Dept of NSW, the NSW Bar Association, the Law Society of NSW, the Australia Corporate Lawyers Association.
As a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal, she faced a crossroads when the firm broke up. Should she move to a firm of equivalent size and continue along the same path? Or open up her own private practice and pursue her artistic ambitions at the same time?
She chose the latter and Slaters Intellectual Property Lawyers was established in 2001. Slater describes the transition from a partner at large practice to a sole practitioner as a “mental and financial jump. There was a considerable risk that I could fall flat on my face”. This didn’t happen and success was quick to follow with the practice being named Best Enterprise at the Australian Business Awards in 2008.
Slater's decision to reinvent and diversify herself extended to her beginning to pursue her long time interest in the Arts and in 2001 she set up entertainment production company Moondance Pictures. Her Australian political comedy about the MV Tampa incident, which was co-produced with UTS Communications Alumnus Serafina Froio, was nominated for a United Nations Media Peace Prize, was short listed for nomination in the best live action short category of the 2004 Academy Awards and won a Christopher Wetzel comedy award from Chicago's Gene Siskel Center. Earlier this year, Oscar™ winner Michael Moore asked her to teach at Moore’s newly formed film school in the United States and personally chose her work to screen at his 2009 Transverse Film Festival. Here portfolio of work was recently honoured by the Australian Government by inclusion in Australia's National Collection held at the National Film and Sound Archive.
So how does she manage both careers? Slater describes herself as lucky that her careers have moved into "a symbiotic relationship and they tend to create work for each other" The artistic work is in "manageable chunks" as Slater has chosen to work on TVC's and mobile content resulting in a recent commission by Sony Pictures International to make short comedies for its international mobile network. She says "my law practice is very much based on the personal abilities I bring to the job, and so very much has my signature on it. If I took time out, for an extended period on say a feature film my law practice may suffer and I wouldn’t want that. I love both law and arts equally".
Slater says that although she did not have a mentor to turn to when making these tough decisions she has been able to rely on intuition and simple trial and error, To this end, two qualities that Slater rates as important for graduates to possess are resilience and to not be adverse to risk. Of resilience she says, "no matter what happens you have to keep putting a step forward, sometimes you feel like you are taking three steps backwards and another one sideways and then one step forward again. You will always be successful if you continue to take one step forward, one leg after another toward your goal".
She adds that as long as "risk is careful risk, then it is the best thing you can do because you are constantly pushing and testing yourself". While some risks may not pay off, Slater emphasises that when pursuing your dream, you should not be afraid to fail as "you can definitely learn from the things you don't do right the first time".
"Sometimes the hardest part is not identifying what it is you think you are good at or you must do - the hardest part is reaching for it, the physical starting towards that goal. It is the same concept of knowing you need to go to the gym but walking in that door is really hard. And when you are there you wonder why you didn't go many other times".
Slater says that "when I took risks on things that have been my heart's desire, I later found that my heart's desire was always really close, and that it wasn't a thousand years away and it wasn't thousand miles away. It was literally as close as the end of my fingers. I only had to reach for it. So our own heart's desire may be closer to us than we think, but we won’t realise it until we start the journey to it".