I started having an interest in law when I was about 15 or 16. I didn’t initially study that at college as I didn’t think my grades were high enough, but I picked it up in my second year in sixth form. I loved it, particularly the criminal law part.
Whenever you really want to do something and your heart’s behind it you can make it happen.
My goal was to do criminal defence or prosecution. I was interested in crime and human behaviour.
I bring a lot of that into my coaching, how we as a society function as a whole piece, and how we affect one another. It’s fascinating.
University and law training
I chose criminology and sociology at university instead of law. I did get a first so that was the right decision for me.
I did my law conversion at Sussex University. It was the hardest year of my life – until I left law and became self employed – but it was so rewarding. I then did a legal practice course for a year in London, so altogether I was at university for five years.
My advice would be to go and get work experience in a law firm before you do that. It’s so much more expensive now, you’ve got to be really sure that it’s the career for you.
When I moved home from London to do the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) I got work experience at a firm in Worthing. I remember getting the Yellow Pages out and ringing all the law firms. I did a week’s work experience for them that summer and they were the firm I ended up having an 11-year career with.
Over the summer I worked for next to nothing and then stayed with them while I was studying.
What it’s like to be a lawyer
It suited my personality in that I was out and about. I did a lot of appeals when I started. I was going to various prisons taking instructions from clients with really serious offences, but that kept me out of the office talking to people. I’m not a sit-in-the-office all day kind of person.
I trained in London for two years. We had a lot of big cases at the Old Bailey where I was shadowing counsel. I learned a lot about what it takes to be on your feet in court.
One barrister got his client’s name wrong throughout the whole hearing, and I thought ‘I’m never doing that’, so after that, I always had my client’s name written down in front of me.
I was empathetic and self-aware enough that if they just became another number or name to me then I didn’t want to do it.
I had to be tough
Solicitors typically don’t do as much court work as barristers, which is why I chose that. I was shy and didn’t want to stand up and do all the talking, but that was actually what I was really good at. Sometimes the things you resist doing are the things you’re really good at.
Criminal solicitors do go to court more than other solicitors. You get really good at things like that when you’re doing it every day, it becomes second nature.
There were little things you would have in that profession as a woman.
I remember first being on my feet in court and I made an offer to a prosecutor in terms of a plea bargain. He didn’t even look up from his paper he just laughed at me. He was really dismissive. I was tough, but being a young woman I had to be that way to be heard.
Advice for budding lawyers
Go out and get the experience and be really sure that it’s what you want to do.
A career like law takes such a massive investment. If you’re really passionate about it, go for it, but always have other interests.
I didn’t want to be doing it for life, it was a tough job 24/7. After ten years I was starting to become part of the system and I’d lost a lot of me. I’d lost a lot of my spark. I was feeling grey and tired and wasn’t having as much fun.
Starting a business
When things were really mapped out for my career I felt really trapped, when I looked forward to ten years and saw myself still in the court building I knew I didn’t want it.
When I left my law career I really had to throw myself out there and expect a net to catch me, not really knowing what the next step was.
I set up a matchmaking business with a colleague. I did network marketing for a while. And then I discovered coaching.
Becoming a business coach
I work with women in prestigious careers who are feeling stuck and wanting a business. I’m quite spiritual as well so that comes into it, and life stuff, as if they aren’t alright then their business won’t be.
I kind of let it unfold. I started coaching burnt out lawyers because that’s what I knew.
And then I worked with women from all sorts of positions. It’s a lot of women who have fitted into the masculine corporate versions of success.
But actually I think women are going to be the future of business because we naturally go through change. We’re actually more adaptable than men. That emotional drive that we have that has been poo-pooed for so long, but with the rise of technology that’s become really important, that human connection.
Advice I’d give my younger self
Be prepared to move. I stayed in the same firm for 11 years, that actually wasn’t very helpful for me. But loyalty is one of my biggest values. And I had that attitude of I’ll climb the ladder and get to the top, but that isn’t really how the world works anymore.
I think there’s a real chance to change things and do things differently. It’s scary but it is exciting. And you get a chance to be a real leader in that.