I lead a team of women simply by chance, not by design.
More importantly, as well as sharing the same gender, my team shares the same passion for what we do, the same ambition in terms of the outcomes we deliver for our clients and the same enthusiasm for making a real difference.
Yes, we all enjoy law (we are lawyers after all!), but our job is great because we play a small part in helping charities and education providers to deliver their outcomes for the communities they serve.
I was lucky enough to learn from a great (female) leader at the start of my career. A woman regarded as the ‘Queen of charity law’, Judith Hill. She was not only great at law, she was straight talking, very hardworking and she would always lead from the front when it came to her team. She was a role model for me and is certainly the type of leader I wanted to be.
I joined Bond Dickinson (previously Dickinson Dees) at the start of 2007 and took over as head of the team in 2012. It was a rather odd transition going from the number two to the number one and I was nervous that I wouldn’t have the credibility (or the grey hair) to be taken seriously in the marketplace.
Thankfully, that concern was misplaced and I’ve been blessed to have such a fantastic and loyal range of clients. No two days are ever the same, my clients keep me busy and I truly enjoy working with them.
I recruited Samantha Pritchard in 2012 into our Newcastle office, from Russell Cooke in London. I knew immediately upon meeting her
that I wanted her in my team. She is very calm, measured and quietly assured. She saw this as an opportunity to be part of a team that was on a journey to further grow its profile in the sector, to compete with the absolute best charity law firms and offer a first-class service to its clients. She wanted to be involved in interesting work and hasn’t been disappointed. I truly consider her to be the ‘ying’ to my ‘yang’.
Our team has a clear strategy: we want to provide all the services a charity needs and do that locally, regionally and nationally.
We have always had a number of clients across the country, but we wanted a more permanent presence in London and the south of England, in addition to our offering in the North East. It seemed fate, therefore, that over a coffee one day, myself and my former colleague, and friend, Jo Coleman (ex Farrers and IBB) decided to join forces.
In May last year, Jo joined our London office as a partner and alongside her, Eva Abeles, a highly regarded managing associate, bringing a fantastic range of new clients and leading our Southern hub.
This recruitment was also perfect timing because – as if I wasn’t busy enough, I decided to have twin babies; just to keep life interesting as a working mum.
As our workload and reputation has increased, Bond Dickinson has further recruited into the Newcastle office. At the start of this year, we took on Liverpudlian Alison Smullen, whose enthusiasm is refreshing and infectious in equal measure. She has been great at developing the team’s Twitter presence and is currently designing our free drop-in legal clinic that we intend to offer to charities to celebrate trustees’ week in November. We are very excited about it.
The recruitment of Sally Cooper into the Newcastle office (who previously trained and qualified at the firm) in September, makes the team complete, for now.
My next step is to ensure our national profile continues to enable me to bring opportunities for charities to the North East. Earlier this year, we hosted the Fundraising Regulator, and this month will bring the new Charity Governance Code to Newcastle. We’ve already hosted this event in London, and it was a huge success, so I am really looking forward to bringing it to our clients here in the region.
For me, life is not about standing still. We support some fantastic charities and are proud to work closely with many charities here in the North East, including the Percy Hedley Foundation and the Bowes Museum, Mental Health Matters, plus a number of independent schools and colleges. With the firm’s combination with American firm Womble Carlyle happening later this year, I am of course setting my sights on potential international opportunities too, but my focus will always be primarily here in the UK and especially the North East, as the place I call home.