Sophie Lalor-Harbord was promoted to partner at Stewarts in May 2022. Sophie specialises in complex commercial litigation and has particular experience in the media and technology sectors.
I joined Stewarts in 2015, having trained and worked at Olswang (now CMS).
In the seven years I have been at Stewarts, I have been promoted twice (first to senior associate and most recently to partner), got married, moved house three times, moved offices more times than I can count and had three babies. It has been a busy time, both professionally and personally.
Experience and expertise
I think I was drawn to litigation because I love listening to people’s stories and problem solving. My practice is broad, which I like to think is a strength and certainly keeps things interesting. In addition to bread-and-butter contractual disputes, I’ve done a lot of fraud work, which has sent me all over the world – glamorous locations such as Lebanon, Russia and Kenya and less glamorous ones such as Corby (apologies to anyone from Corby). For a long time at my previous firm, I worked on the Yukos Oil litigation, and at Stewarts, I spent two years working with the excellent Orb team.
Given my Olswang roots, I also have media litigation experience. I worked on the Vidal-Hall v Google case, which opened the way for compensation awards for non-pecuniary loss caused by breaches of the Data Protection Act. I also acted for News Corporation’s Management and Standards Committee investigating the News of the World voicemail interception cases. As a junior associate, one of my favourite cases was defending Warner Bros against a man who claimed the inspiration for the Matrix trilogy came from a dissertation he wrote at university. He turned up to the court hearing dressed as Neo.
The best thing about working at Stewarts is the people. Firstly, our lawyers are all technically outstanding. Just as important, everyone is fun to work with and we truly act as a team, supporting each other. We save our competitive sides for the fight with the opponent rather than wasting it internally competing with each other.
Return from maternity leave
Since coming back to work after having my first child, I have worked a four-day week. It is so important to me that I get to do the drop-off and pick-up from school on my non-working day and have a chance to speak to the teachers and other parents. I admit that in busy work periods, I end up working five days in four, but most of the time, I, together with the team I am working with, make it work well.
I don’t like the phrase ‘having it all’ because, in reality, most of us with children constantly worry that we don’t spend enough time at home or at work. Instead, I think we need to encourage parents to develop their own definitions of personal and professional success and ensure we respect and support that.
It is no secret that law firms struggle to retain mothers the further up the career ladder they progress. It is unfortunate that the time you are expected to go for partnership tends to be the same time you want to start a family. There is still much to be done in the legal industry to recognise that career paths don’t have to follow a straight line. I hope times are changing in this regard. The firm’s new policy that chargeable hours targets on return from maternity leave are scaled over a three-month period is really positive.
Coming back from maternity leave and having to build up your caseload again from scratch is challenging but it is not long before you forget you were ever away! Knowing the firm had the confidence in me to promote me while I was on leave gave me a huge confidence boost this time. The most useful meeting I had in my first week back was with our know-how team, who had prepared a pack of all the key legal developments I had missed over the last few months – thank you Angela Milner and the rest of the team.
My advice to those starting out is:
- Seek advice and guidance only from people you like and respect.
- Work hard and be flexible with your time whenever you can be. This will mean clients and colleagues will be far more understanding when you have to say no.
- Be nice to everyone you come across in your career. You are sure to meet them again one day, and you might need their help!
Stewarts Career Stories
We encourage our people to strive for excellence in everything they do. Our culture promotes a good work/life balance and supports the career progression of our staff.
We’ve highlighted some of the careers of our people, outlining the diverse paths they have taken to get where they are today.
Interested in joining us?
At Stewarts, we aim to recruit and retain the best people at all levels of the firm. The ability, dedication and technical excellence of our people are critical to the successes we achieve for our clients.
If you are interested in working for Stewarts our Careers section provides further details of our recruitment process and current opportunities.
You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and teams on our Expertise pages and more about the firm on our About Us section.
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