We are marking International Women’s Day by celebrating the achievements of some of our women.
What is International Women’s Day?
Sunday 8 March is International Women’s Day, a day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of woman worldwide. This is a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
This year’s theme is #EachforEqual, which aims to recognise that an equal world is an enabled world. The campaign says:
“Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.
“We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements.
“Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.
“Let’s all be #EachforEqual.”
One of the campaign’s missions is to forge inclusive workplaces so that women can thrive. Its aim is “to champion women of all backgrounds who dare to innovate, lead, and uplift others towards a more equal and inclusive workplace”.
To celebrate, we are highlighting some of our women’s career stories. These include a senior lawyer returning to work after having a baby, a junior lawyer just starting out, a trailblazing partner helping the next generation, and an associate who moved countries as a child refugee. Each has an inspiring story to tell.
Lucie Clinch is a knowledge development lawyer for the Injury and Divorce departments. She started at Stewarts in 2006 as a paralegal and has had three stints at the firm in different roles since then. It was her early days at Stewarts that convinced her she wanted to be an injury lawyer, and she is still involved in that today. Now a mother of two, she has managed to find a work-life balance in her current role. Lucie says:
“I have been lucky again to find a firm that supports my part-time working pattern, which now involves one child at school and one at nursery, and being ‘present’ for them in the evenings. For me, my job is an ideal balance of keeping in touch with the areas of the law I love, raising my profile in the field, but keeping some flexibility in my day-to-day role so I can read stories and catch a bit of Hey Duggee with the children.”
Early on in her career, she learnt the value of fostering her network and maintaining good relationships. She says:
“While the firm has expanded dramatically since I was first here in 2006, the ethos it had in Lincoln’s Inn remains. Staff turnover is relatively low, which suggests people are genuinely happy here; some of my paralegal colleagues are now partners at the firm. Even at their busiest, people often make a few minutes for you, and that is important when you are in knowledge management and always asking questions. I have maintained good relationships with colleagues at previous firms. You never know when you will cross paths again, or have someone you know on the other side to you, or in my case, be interviewed for a new job at the same firm 12 years later.”
Karen Hutchinson and Francesca Berry
Karen and Francesca are both legal directors in the Commercial Litigation team and have been job sharing in this role since October 2016. They each work three days a week, and say about the arrangement:
“It was with some trepidation that we initially put forward our job sharing proposal to the firm’s senior management. Whilst there has certainly been an increased focus on flexible and agile working practices within the legal sector in recent years, such arrangements, unfortunately, remain relatively unusual. Certainly, job sharing was untested within Stewarts. Would such an arrangement be perceived as unworkable or unpractical? Might it be viewed as a lack of commitment or interest in our career development?”
In their joint career story, they outline how they make this work, how they deal with client expectations and the benefits that have come from this arrangement.
Faranak is an associate in our Tax Litigation and Investigations team, who joined the firm in 2016. She knew as soon as she started studying law that she wanted to be a litigator, but her early years were quite unconventional for a City lawyer. Faranak was born in Iran to politically active parents during the eight-year-long war with Iraq. Her parents relocated to Sweden, where she arrived as a refugee in 1989.
“My parents had both been teachers in Iran and they tried to instil in me from a young age a notion to “dream big” and pursue my goals without feeling limited by any perceived ideas of disadvantage. I moved to the UK to study International Relations and Development Studies and funded myself through my studies and later law school, having decided to pursue a legal career in my mid-20s. I had loved my undergraduate degree and learning to critically analyse global political and economic power structures, but I craved studying something that could be applied in practice and provide a tool to solve problems.
“I completely disregarded my law tutors’ advice to keep an open mind about what type of law I wanted to practise and set out to become a litigator from day one.
“My advice to others, especially to those who might not come from traditional backgrounds that provide an obvious route into law, would be not to be afraid to take risks. Don’t feel limited by the additional hurdles that might be put in your way and don’t allow others to do so either. Try and figure out your own reasons for pursuing a particular path and career, and then stay honest to that intention.”
Emma Hatley is a partner in the Divorce and Family team. She has a reputation as being the best technical lawyer of her generation and is top-ranked by the legal directories. Emma is also the firm’s training partner and is involved in the firm’s trainee recruitment programme – helping the next generation of lawyers to fulfil their potential. Here she gives advice to those coming up through the ranks.
“Have confidence in your own judgment but don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. We are only human and all make mistakes but own up to any errors at the earliest time. You are never too old to learn new tricks.
“Teamwork is the key to our success. You can never pay too much attention to detail. Treat others as you wish to be treated.”
Emma is a senior associate in the Trust and Probate Litigation department. She is recognised by Chambers High Net Worth 2019 as an ‘Associate to Watch’, by Legal 500 as a ‘Next Generation’ lawyer, by Spear’s as a ‘Young Turk’, and has previously been ranked in ePrivateclient’s ‘Top 35 under 35’ private client practitioners. Emma gave the following advice to upcoming contentious trust lawyers:
“To someone getting involved in trust and probate litigation, I would advise not to lose sight of what truly matters to the client. Although the issues arising in these cases often require a cerebral approach, because of the highly personal nature of the disputes, emotion is often the main driver for the people involved. Helping your client to stand back from these emotions and see the bigger picture (and the risks involved) is where you can really add value.”
Kara is head of the Pro Bono department and supervises a team of trainees and paralegals who each run cases relating to non-compensation matters through The Legal Service.
Kara joined us fresh out of law school in 2005 as a paralegal in personal injury, and was soon offered a training contract. During her time as a trainee, she became involved with the firm’s pro bono work. About that time, she says:
“During my time as a trainee solicitor, we assisted many patients, but one, in particular, stood out for me. The patient was a young man who sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of a fall. The family was in severe financial difficulties and would often turn up at the hospital with a bag full of red letters from companies demanding payment.
“In addition to his financial concerns, the patient was experiencing difficulty with an insurance policy. He had taken out a critical illness insurance policy and had claimed on the policy following his injury. The insurer was refusing to make payment under the policy because of a reference in his medical records to smoking. Due to his limited English, the patient couldn’t understand why payment was not being made. I liaised with the insurer on the patient’s behalf and was able to answer all their questions. Subsequently, the patient received full payment under the policy, which enabled him to clear his debts. The look of relief on the patient and his wife’s faces when I gave them the good news that the insurer had agreed to pay will stay with me forever.”
Natalie joined the Commercial Litigation team in January 2020. She is the current President of the Junior London Solicitors Litigation Association and has been involved in numerous diversity and inclusion initiatives throughout her career. Natalie had an interesting route into the law, initially wanting to be a barrister before gaining experience as a solicitor in a vacation scheme and pursuing her career on that side of the legal profession. In 2017, she was awarded higher rights of audience in civil proceedings, which qualifies solicitors to represent clients in the higher courts in the UK.
She says to younger people entering the field:
“To anyone pursuing a career in the law, I would give three pieces of advice, which have been shared with me along the way. First, be guided in everything by integrity and in treating everyone that you encounter with respect, no matter their role or position. Second, be prepared to work hard with courage, excellence and passion. Don’t be afraid to try new approaches, to challenge the status quo, and keep striving to find better ways of doing things. Each time you step outside of your comfort zone, it gets easier. Clients look to lawyers to understand their business, to fight their corner in difficult situations and to innovate. The passion is important. I say this because I think that if you enjoy what you do, it will help you to endure any challenges you may face and to give your best. And finally, be yourself. There is only one you on the planet. Nobody else can be you like you can.”
Lorraine joined the Commercial Litigation department in 2015. She was promoted to the partnership in 2019, having just returned from maternity leave after having her first child. Lorraine was all too aware that planning for a family often clashes with the time in a lawyer’s career when they are thinking of career progression to partnership. She says:
“I returned from maternity leave with my partnership ambitions at the forefront of my mind, together with renewed determination and energy. However, I was also conscious that I had had time out of my practice area and needed to build up my caseload again from scratch.
“This could have been a stumbling block. Fortunately, that was not the case. I was overwhelmed upon my return by the warm welcome and support I received from those within my team. Those first few weeks back are critical. However, within a matter of days, I was busy on a number of interesting cases. Not only was I well looked after, I was also encouraged and challenged, and it was made clear to me that people cared about my career. No one considered my leave as an obstacle to my bid for partnership (if that was what I wanted).
“It was, and a year after returning from maternity leave I was made a partner in the Commercial Litigation team. One of the rewarding things about making partner was the positive message I hoped it would send to junior women at Stewarts. As a mentor and trainee supervisor, it has been particularly touching to hear that my promotion, relatively soon after returning from maternity leave, has inspired a number of women within the firm.”
Anna joined the Competition Litigation team in 2016 as a senior associate. Prior to that she trained and qualified at Clifford Chance, eventually specialising in competition cases. During her time there, she undertook a total of four secondments, three at client offices, and one in the firm’s Brussels office. This enabled Anna to build good relationships and also made her realise what it is like for a busy in-house counsel receiving legal advice. Upon joining Stewarts, Anna moved to the claimant side of competition and enjoyed the change in focus. Since joining Stewarts, Anna has had two children, returning from her latest maternity leave in January 2020. Anna received tips and support from colleagues, was in touch with the team throughout her maternity leave, and returned to work on flexible working arrangements. Anna gives the following advice to people starting out:
“If I were to give some advice to anyone starting a career in commercial law, I would say that your career is a marathon and not a sprint. You will need a strong work ethic but draw on the experiences from those around you to establish where you might see yourself in say five or 10 years. Seek out all the opportunities you can to build relationships with others in the industry from an early stage. For example, I am still in close contact with the intake of trainees I started out with back in 2006. Finally, as a working parent, I would say that it is important to be upfront with your department and HR about juggling work and childcare arrangements. It isn’t always easy, but having the support of others really helps.”
International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organisation specific.
For more information on International Women’s Day, visit their website.
Diversity and inclusion at Stewarts
The principles of inclusion, equal opportunity and diversity are important to us. We aim to create an inclusive culture that respects people’s differences and gives everyone a chance to excel at what they do. We believe that this is enhanced by embracing our staff’s different backgrounds and personalities, and creating a positive working environment.
You can find further information regarding diversity, inclusion and equal opportunities at Stewarts here.