Member Of The Month

Michelle Mahoney: ‘The Future For Women Is In Our Hearts, Minds And Hands’

By Becky Hansen

Member Of The Month

By Becky Hansen

Our April Member Of The Month, Michelle Mahoney, is the Executive Director of Innovation at King & Wood Mallesons (KWM). Michelle’s career has included many first to market initiatives and she was one of the first Australians inducted as a Fellow to the international College of Law and Practice Management in 2013. In 2017, Michelle was awarded the International Legal Technology Association Distinguished Peer Leadership Award.

Innovation is change that adds value. While it often involves technology, it can also be a new way of working or thinking approach. Michelle is a serial intrepreneur and under Michelle’s leadership, KWM is in expert hands to maximise the opportunities and challenges that an evolving legal industry of machine learning and blockchain presents. Michelle joins us today to discuss her impressive career with KWM and advice for other women working to drive innovative solutions in their organisations.

What are you reading at the moment? If you’re more of a podcaster, what are you listening to? There are a number of podcasts that I listen to – Chat 10 Looks 3, NPR Planet Money and She Explores. I’m also reading ‘Smart Collaboration’ by Heidi K. Gardner.

What is a quote/motto you live by? Anything is possible.

Who is the most remarkable woman you’ve ever met and why? I am a huge fan of supportive, wise and generous women who embrace fellow women and encourage them to be their best selves. I am very lucky to have a circle of these who greatly enhance both my professional and personal life.

Why did you join Future Women? I was looking for long form and substantial information/community which was designed for thinking and doing women.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges for women in the workplace? Self-belief which can be self-limiting.

Tell us about an exciting innovation that’s flourished at KWM. How is it changing the way you work? We use artificial intelligence (supervised machine learning) to ingest and review client contracts. The combination of our experienced lawyers, along with an easy to use tool which serves up the AI results in an effective format, has significantly reduced time and the way the work is performed.

Innovation requires a safe and supportive work environment. How do you nurture an environment of inclusion and psychological safety at KWM so your employees can think big and put forward new ideas without fear? Innovation is one of the firm’s four priorities. We see innovation as a team sport, where everyone has a role to play. This priority is cascaded into our firm, practice, partner and staff plans. Support from the top down is important for ideas to flourish and people are confident to test and learn. Motivational alignment is important when you are encouraging your people to think big and experiment.

What are your strategies to changing ingrained assumptions and norms at KWM so innovation can thrive? We use an experimentation model which allows us to open up our thinking and test each hypothesis. This test and learn approach is critical for testing ingrained assumptions. Experiments provide a de-risked way to bring ideas to life.

Your role requires you to be creative and collaborative. What are the routines or stimuli that you use to ensure you can deliver the creative solutions KWM needs? I actively plan my week to ensure I have time for reading/listening, connecting and trying something new. I try every day to identify one new area of interest and curiosity to lean into. This has included everything from learning languages, meetups, further study, first time experiences and reading widely. Innovation is often the intersection of two existing ideas being brought together for the first time. Your ability to see ideas from different perspectives, industries, cultures and interests is important to bring new thinking.


“Innovation is often the intersection of two existing ideas being brought together for the first time. Your ability to see ideas from different perspectives, industries, cultures and interests is important to bring new thinking.”


There is a lot of coverage around new technology like blockchain and machine learning. How is this changing the way KWM practices law? Law is part of the knowledge economy which is indeed being impacted by the digital revolution. We started our machine learning journey back in 2015 and we are active in blockchain. These technologies will increasingly shape legal practice.

What strategies do you use to make sure you can switch off at the end of the day and keep your work at work? I need more of these! At the end of each day I review my team and personal Kanban boards. I move into the “Today” board the key things I need to achieve the following day. I find this clarity of key activities is a great way to keep focused and the noise at bay.

What advice do you have for ambitious young women who are trying to drive innovative change in their workplaces? You will need plenty of resilience, patience and self-belief. Prioritise strengthening your growth mindset. Collaboration and observation are key enablers. Innovation can be about bringing new thinking to old problems, renewing your curiosity and willingness to test and learn personally is critical.

If you weren’t the Executive Director of Innovation for KWM, what would you be doing? Designing a way for teenagers to feel understood, happy and excited about what their future holds.

The future for women is… In our hearts, minds and hands.

We can lift each other up… To be our best selves, when the tide rises we all rise.

I’m most fulfilled when… I have just finished trying something for the first time.