Elisabeth Storrs

BA 1981, LLB 1983

Elisabeth Storrs has recently published her first novel, The Wedding Shroud, which was written and researched over a period of 10 years. The Wedding Shroud is set in early Rome and Etruria. It was released in September 2010 by Pier 9/Murdoch Books in Australia and New Zealand. She is currently writing the sequel, due for release in 2013.

At present she runs a consultancy business advising companies on corporate governance. Elisabeth, who is better known to the business community as Lisa, established Corporate Secretariat Services Pty Ltd (Corpsec) in 2000 with the aim of providing resources to assist company secretaries of both large and small companies. Since its incorporation Corpsec has assisted the Caltex group of companies to establish a governance framework for its subsidiaries, created company secretarial timelines for Promina Limited and administered the corporate secretariat of Citigroup.

Lisa graduated from the University of Sydney in Arts/Law in 1983, majoring in English and having studied Classics. After graduating, she worked as a senior associate in the litigation section of Abbott Tout Solicitors before moving to the corporate secretariat of the NRMA Group in 1990’s as a corporate lawyer and co-company secretary.

She lives with her husband and two sons in Sydney. She is also a fellow of Chartered Secretaries Australia and a member of the Australian Institute of Directors.

You have a well-rounded career. Which roles did you find the most rewarding and what led you to begin your own consultancy business?

Strangely enough one of my most rewarding roles was working closely with the board of NRMA even though it was a fraught working environment. During that time I conducted two directors’ elections for a membership of 1.8 million, eleven general meetings in five years (including two requisitioned by members) as well as coordinating the production and printing of four Annual Reports. I found this time in my career very demanding due to the political dynamics of the board (there were a number of legal proceedings brought by various board members against the NRMA Group during this time). It was also incredibly rewarding, especially as I was given the opportunity to further my career at a senior level while holding a job share position.

What are some of your most memorable times at Sydney Law School? Who were your most inspiring professors?

I always considered that I had the best of both worlds when undertaking a combined Arts Law degree as I was able to enjoy life on the Sydney University campus and then move to the hub of the legal district while attending the Sydney Law School. I particularly enjoyed being so close to the law courts. The cafeteria in the Supreme Court building became a bit of a haunt for my friends and me. The view was great after spending most of the time in underground lecture theatres.

Professor Stan Hotop was a favourite of mine. His Public Law and Criminal Law lectures were legendary. Going to Prof Lane’s Constitutional Law lectures were always interesting given his eccentricities, too. I also appreciated Bob Austin’s tutorials. In fact I was lucky enough to work with him during the ‘NRMA years’ when he was a partner at Minter Ellison. It was a bit daunting given he had edited the text book on corporate law. He was great to work with, though, very approachable.

Roughly a third of our alumni do not end up practicing law. How has your law degree shaped your career and experience as an author?

I think that there are many ‘closet writers’ out there among the legal fraternity. I wanted to be a writer from a very young age but the economic realities of following that dream always outweighed actively pursuing it (ie. the average income for writers in Australia is approx $11,000 p.a.) Having said that, I always envisaged myself as a lawyer as I enjoy exercising the analytical, organisational and communication skills required to achieve results. Being a litigation lawyer, and then a company secretary, certainly enabled me to learn a lot about human nature which assisted me in developing various personality traits for the characters in my novel (although any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental!).

What one piece of advice would you give to law students today?

When choosing whether or not to deal (or continue to deal) with a person, their ethics are more important than their business acumen or intellectual ability.