It was difficult to break into the legal profession, particularly as I had no family or personal connections in the industry. In my experience, the fortunate ones who secured legal training contracts straight out of university often got a helping hand through the door. After almost a year of unsuccessful training contract applications, I chose the paralegal route. This gave me knowledge, experience and confidence, but more importantly a feeling that I was putting my degree to use. I qualified as a solicitor 14 years ago, and the profession was definitely more weighted on the male side back then. I don’t feel that being female held be back – my philosophy has always been that to prove myself, I needed to show hard work and dedication.
When I started out, clients were guided by their solicitor and trusted the advice they were given, while timescales were very much dictated by the solicitor.
Solicitors were office based, and there was no culture of flexible working or working from home; law firms had very basic websites and social media was unheard of.
Now that I’m in the role of managing partner, I feel more than ever that I am in the minority when attending events. While there does seem to be a lot more female lawyers in the profession, there aren’t as many in senior roles. I’m still regularly asked who my boss is, something which I have learnt to take in my stride, responding with a smile and the answer ‘me’.
Entering the profession being male or female is just as difficult as ever. One of the best things about being a managing partner is that I can ensure that our firm adopts a fair and equal approach to
recruitment of trainee solicitors, where background and connections aren’t taken into consideration. There is a lot more regulation surrounding trainee solicitors now to ensure their training is quality and varied. This does however restrict how many trainee vacancies a law firm can offer.
I have worked very hard, over the last few years, to take our firm forward in terms of technology, I see this as being crucial to our survival. We operate paperless files, have access to remote working and have desk phones integrated with mobiles. As a business, we can be very flexible if we need to be. But being so reliant on technology does have its drawbacks and we have stringent disaster recovery plans in place.
We live in an online generation where clients buy products at the click of a button and want the same speed and convenient service from their lawyer that they get from other companies, so expectations can be high.
Law continues to be as popular as ever as a university subject, with more and more women choosing it. I don’t think it will get any easier for young graduates to obtain the very limited number of training contracts that will be available. Firms who don’t embrace technology will undoubtedly struggle to provide the service that clients demand.
As for women, I see no reason at all as to why they can’t thrive and do well in the profession. For men or women, it will be hard work and determination that will get you to the top – gender shouldn’t really come into it.
2013: Managing partner at Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP
2011: Partner at Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP
2007: Residential conveyancing solicitor at Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP
2003: Residential conveyancing solicitor team leader at Bond Dickinson LLP