Shona Stockwell

In the Spotlight: Shona Stockwell, 2degrees

We talk with Shona Stockwell, Senior Corporate Counsel, 2 Degrees about her changing role as her family has grown.

Can you tell us about yourself and your role and your path to getting there.

I'm a person who likes variety and I was anxious about entering the law profession because I thought I would be pigeonholed very quickly. I distracted myself with dance and ski instructing for a while after law school, but finally took the plunge and started my career in the Commercial Team at Hesketh Henry. It was a pleasant surprise that I enjoyed working as a lawyer more than law school itself. After fours years in private practice I moved to an in-house role at Hutchinson 3G in the UK and immediately realized that the variety of in-house legal work suited me down to the ground.

When we returned to New Zealand I started with 2degrees as Corporate Counsel in 2013, worked my way up to Senior Corporate Counsel and also had my first child during that time. I was appointed Head of Legal, Commercial in 2018. However, shortly after my appointment we discovered that the twins were on their way!

When the twins were 5 months old it was clear to me that I would struggle to run the team at work and run the team at home. So I called my boss and asked for a demotion. Probably quite an unusual request! So my current role is Senior Corporate Counsel and I work part time.

What are you enjoying about being back fully on the tools rather than leading the team?

Now that I’m not involved in the day to day running of the Legal Team, my contribution to the company can be very targeted. I work on projects that enable the company to get the maximum benefit of my experience while working part time. I think of myself as an impact player running off the bench!

2 Degrees says that fighting for fair is part of its DNA. How has this philosophy helped create space and support for you to return to work after parental leave?

2degrees respects and encourages family life and this is evidenced through many different company policies. But it also rings true in day to day conversations. I was able to have open conversations with my boss both when I found out the twins were on their way and when I was trying to figure out how to return to work. I was never made to feel inconvenient and we openly brainstormed different ways to adapt. I was very nervous when it was time to tell my team and colleagues about the twins, but everyone was delighted (and a little fearful) for me! Another team member is now expecting and the current Head of Legal has again been very creative in finding a way to keep her on board.

What lessons could other legal teams take from your experience about making parental leave and return-to-work schemes more accessible and supportive?

Every Legal Team wants to attract and retain knowledge and experience so that it can provide relevant and good quality advice to the business. However, life never stands still. Peoples’ circumstances change. So I encourage Legal Teams to think creatively about how talent can be kept in a team. I also encourage people to try not to get too attached to job titles. Having a role that enables you to meaningfully contribute to the business whilst keeping a (relatively) manageable home life is the ultimate success in my mind.

What is the one piece of technology (either current or yet to be created) that would make your day job easier?

I’m a very visual person and like to “whiteboard” ideas or concepts during meetings. I really miss being able to do this on Zoom meetings. Is there an app for that?!