To enhance their professional and personal lives, women lawyers should find time for sport, Alex Kelham argues.
Since childhood, sport has always been an important part of my life. Now, as Head of Lewis Silkin’s Sports Business Group, it plays a huge part of my legal life too.
I’m a firm believer that you will be more successful, productive and have greater job satisfaction if you are passionate about and can connect to your subject matter. For me, that just so happened to be sport. However, even if I had not ended up in a sports law practice, sport itself would continue to play a key role in my life. Participation, at whatever level, has a whole host of benefits which women lawyers (indeed all lawyers) can draw from both professionally and in their personal lives.
Firstly, to thrive in law you need balance and agility (mental, perhaps more so than physical). You need to be fit and healthy, get decent sleep and take time away from the job to relax and gain perspective. Sport can give you all of this.
I no longer compete but I aim to work out at least four times a week. Having swum competitively for years, training up to 20 hours a week, I find that if I’ve not been in the water for a week or so I get a bit antsy. Swimming, for me, is like a form of therapy – immersed, with the metronome of my stroke ticking, I switch off from everything else and my mind can recharge. Outside of the pool, cycling is an opportunity to get out in the fresh air and spend time with my husband, while kick boxing provides so many endorphins that, on a Friday after my early morning class, I’m flying and energised for the last (official) day of the week.
The benefits of sport aren’t just from exercise though. Sport can also boost confidence and build skills. Teamwork, leadership and a strong work ethic are all skills which I believe I developed through my sporting career. And that’s to say nothing of a healthy appetite for competition and ‘will to win’ which I’m sure many lawyers would connect with.
Off the field of play, supporting sport as an avid fan, or perhaps as a mother of sporting kids, can provide escapism and a social environment which I’ve never found are matched in other activities.
Of course, none of these benefits are exclusive to women, but at the moment, more men than women seem to be benefiting from them. Why should we let them enjoy the advantages and not do so ourselves?!
Last week was Women’s Sport Week which coincided with the Leaders’ Sports Business Summit – a huge industry conference attended by thoseworking in sport. Walking around the conference as a woman, you can’t help but notice that you are in the minority – by a long way.
The gender disparities in the sports industry are also reflected in the number of women actively involved in sport more generally across the country. This is something which Women’s Sport Week and initiatives like “This Girl Can” are seeking to address. It’s not going to happen overnight, but changes are beginning to be seen.
I don’t know whether the statistic for the number of women lawyers actively engaged in sport is similarly poor, but I suspect it is.
Being a lawyer, to say nothing of being a female lawyer, is demanding and no doubt sport – or recreation more broadly - isn’t always prioritised. Given the benefits I mention above, perhaps it should be though.
Alex Kelham is a managing associate at Lewis Silkin.