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Our People Share Their Stories for International Women’s Day

This International Women’s Day, Seddons are sharing the stories of women across the firm as they reflect on their careers and personal experiences

To celebrate international women's day, we are sharing the stories of women across the firm. Juliet, Lara, Zoe and Lauren reflect on their careers and personal experiences, as well as their hopes for the future of equality and diversity in the legal profession. 

Juliet Baboolal - Partner

I remember starting my position at Seddons in February 2015 and finding out later that same year that I was going to be a mother. I was overjoyed, yet anxious at the same time, as there is an age-old stigma in the corporate world that motherhood and a successful career couldn’t co-exist.

There is no denying that being a committed mother and a great lawyer is challenging and exhausting at times, but it is certainly not impossible. Having a child didn’t make me less serious about work. In fact, it made me more determined to break that archaic belief that mothers had no real place and made no real contributions in the working world.

In 2019 I made Partner at Seddons and I believe this was because I challenged myself, didn’t allow motherhood to be a crutch and consistently reminded myself that I was good enough for the job. I have learned that to have a good work/life balance as a mother there must be a clear mental determination to do both, as there is always that feeling that 24 hours is not enough time to get everything done.

One piece of advice I would give to working mothers is that it's OK to have off days - there is no ‘right way’ or ‘magic formula’. Time management is a critical and invaluable tool in balancing both. I genuinely enjoy practicing law and embrace being a mother, so the thought of giving up one or the other was not an option I gave myself.

Admittedly, the management of clients, files, working life and a family can be mentally draining, but with an innate desire to really want to be successful at being a Solicitor and mother, a good team and strong familial support you can have the best of both worlds. Happy International Woman’s Day.

Zoe Pearse TEP - Associate

International Women’s Day – Women In Law: My Personal Journey at Seddons

The legal profession has traditionally been a male-dominated environment but recent reports from the Law Society indicate that since the early 1990’s women have represented over 60% of new entrants into the legal profession.  In addition to this, statistics also show there are now more women than men practicing as solicitors.  This new trend is positive but ideally, it is beneficial to have a balance of women and men practicing as solicitors and holding positions of leadership in law firms.  With gender equality and equal rights being a hot topic globally in all professions and not just the legal sector, I am proud to work for a law firm that actively promotes gender equality and encourages women to progress and achieve leadership roles within the firm. 

So how did I do it?  Here is my story of my progression as a woman at Seddons….

I joined the firm over a decade ago in October 2011 as a paralegal fresh from law school.  My initial role was working in the residential conveyancing department providing day to day assistance to fee earners and completing all-important administrative tasks.  It was always my aim and intention to progress to a qualified solicitor as soon as possible and two years later in 2013, I began my training contract with the firm.

The training contract is typically split into four separate areas of practice or seats of six months duration.  The firm offers seats in a diverse range of areas, and I completed four seats in residential and commercial property, family, property litigation and private client.  I received excellent training from my peers and enjoyed the exposure to both contentious and non-contentious areas. 

I then qualified as a solicitor in October 2015 into the private client department.  My role as a solicitor involved advising clients on matters such as wills, powers of attorney, probate and estate administration and general tax and estate planning.  My department typically has 4 / 5 fee earners and there has always been a healthy mix of women and men practitioners. 

In May 2020, I was delighted to be promoted to the position of Associate in my department.  My day-to-day role very much remains the same but as an Associate, I now have the additional responsibility of providing supervision and support to more junior members of the department.  As some of them are female and as someone who has spent years working to progress in the firm, I really relish the opportunity to support my colleagues who are on the same path and my experience enables me to do this, particularly from a women’s perspective.

At all times in my career both in and outside of the office whether dealing with employees, clients, contacts or referrers I have to say I feel I have never been knowingly hindered in any way as a woman. I think this shows just how far the legal profession has progressed and attitudes have changed with the modern world. I also firmly believe that I am judged on my experience and capability of being able to handle clients and contacts competently and with respect. That is something any quality solicitor should be able to do regardless of their sex.

I hope this insight into my journey at Seddons has been interesting and highlights the possibilities available to women in the legal profession to (with a lot of hard work) transition from a paralegal/support role to a successful professional practitioner in a senior role.

Lara Nyman - Partner

I have always been surrounded by strong fiercely independent and career-orientated women and fortunate to be the third generation of my family to have gone to university having attained degrees in medicine, engineering and law.  It was instilled in me from an early age that nothing was impossible, and gender was not a bar to achievement.  My secondary education was founded on a strong social ethos of promoting the power of education, particularly for women regardless of social, economic, cultural, ethnic or religious background. 

A legal career was not something I had always dreamt of pursuing, having toyed with a career in academia and graphic design, but I clearly remember the day decided to become a lawyer sitting in the sunshine on the steps of the student union wondering what I was going to do next.  Partly motivated by the two further years of studying as opposed to finding immediate employment I applied to the College of Law, and it turned out to be the best decision I made: I have and continue to thoroughly enjoy my role as a lawyer, and I am acutely aware that not many can say that they truly love their job.  I do.

That said, forging a career in law has not been easy as a woman and it is only now, having lived through a pandemic which tested me on the stresses of homeschooling and work deadlines, that I feel freely able to admit the difficulties navigating a work-life balance.  I have always carried the guilt of leaving my young children in the care of others, leaving the house before they woke up and returning well after they went to bed and this simply does not go away.  Nor does the constant need to prove yourself in a male-dominated industry feeling guilty leaving the office (on time) to attend a school play or a parent evening or having to justify the need to come in slightly later to deal with childcare issues and the pressure of feeling obligated to ‘make up’ the time. In addition, I faced my fair share of gender bias.  I would like to think that this was largely unconscious, but often it was obvious if not on the odd occasion deliberate.  I have not allowed gender bias to define me and whilst the patronising and condescending comments from ‘older’ opponents, the inappropriate remarks and the ‘mansplaining’ can be tiresome, they have made me stronger and I have learnt to treat such behaviours as a reflection of the person demonstrating them rather than a commentary on my legal capabilities. 

Looking back, I do think I allowed the bias to prevent me from being more proactive in my career and on occasion to hold back, but consequently, I am a firm believer that we have a moral obligation to give back to the next generation and in doing so, break the stereotypes that exist.  I regard it a real honour to continue in whatever way I can to promote and support the voices of those before me.  In doing so I am in no way putting myself on an equal footing of those incredible, strong women who shaped the legal future for all of us, but I like to think that the opportunities and teachings they gave me enable me to do my bit whether it be giving pro bono advice, career talks to secondary schools or mentoring young adults.  I am a strong advocate of promoting women within law and with more women choosing careers in the property and construction sector diversity, equality and inclusion is becoming more widespread although there is still some way to go.  We need to shout about our achievements, our successes, and our strengths as it is our pride in ourselves and our abilities that will #breakthebias.

Lauren Taylor - Trainee Solicitor

Female representation in law – are the numbers changing?

After a number of years as a paralegal in central London, I began my training contract almost 6 months ago at Seddons. Now, ahead of International Women’s Day, I am delving into the current figures of female representation within the industry, from trainees up to partner level, to see what the future may hold for my career.

At first glance, the junior end of the profession has seen a drastic change in trends over the last few decades, with the number of female juniors often doubling their male counterparts in the profession.

The figures at the higher end, however, leave a lot to be desired. According to research, only around one-fifth of partners in UK law firms are female (it’s even less for equity partners). So why is this? Arguably there needs to be some allowance of time for those female juniors to reach more senior positions. Yet, it is difficult to believe that this is the only cause since female lawyers have been in the industry for some time now. Lack of adequate maternity leave, and even poor paternity leave, can mean that women are socially expected to take the brunt of the childcare in the younger years of the child’s life, and their male colleagues are not then obliged to take such a chunk of time out of their career and fight for their position when they return. Progress has clearly been made, but what can firms do to tackle this issue further?

An obvious start would be to create more senior positions for women within law firms. If the number of women in senior roles increases, we should start to see better gender equality across the whole board, inspiring junior lawyers to see that this can be a career for life. Getting into the profession is no longer a problem, but the focus must be placed on long-term goals. As a trainee at Seddons, even before beginning my training contract, I have been encouraged to think beyond the two year period, and instead focus my training with a view to becoming Partner one day. An encouraging method of training that should be used across the industry.

There must also be engagement from both men and women in the industry, it is a collective responsibility for the profession as a whole to ensure that women are encouraged to fulfil their potential. This may be by offering agile working policies and the opportunity to work from home to assist with the home life vs work-life balance and encouraging women to return to work after maternity leave with a degree of flexibility (which is an obvious reason that women fail to reach the top, when they are unable to return to work full time after one year and then opportunities dry out for them). Change of course does not happen overnight, and much progress has been made over the years but with women representing such a high percentage of those in the role, now is the time to shape the future of the profession. That does not mean dislodging the positions of men in senior roles, but working together for a more diverse future.

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