Senior partner at Browne Jacobson
I decided that I wanted to be a solicitor when I was a teenager. Although my father, the late John Eden, was a solicitor, he never spoke about his work at home, so it was actually far more difficult for me to find out about becoming a solicitor than people imagine. I knew very early on in my career that I had made the right choice.
I spent a year in a combined property/corporate seat and a second year in a litigation seat. My experience included the sale of an oil company, solicitors’ professional negligence and copyright matters. When I started my litigation seat, the firm’s debt collector became very ill with pneumonia, so I was thrown in at the deep end and had to run his caseload. It was a steep learning curve, but I was able to see cases through from start to finish rather than just working on small parts of larger cases. The breadth of experience I gained while training has been invaluable.
I am co-head of Browne Jacobson’s retail group and everything I do has a retail focus. I am unusual in that I advise on both real estate and commercial contract matters and, to that extent, I am more like a GC. As a result, I have built very strong relationships with clients over the years. I am passionate about the fashion industry and love working with brands, big and small. We work on a variety of matters ranging from flagship stores in Bond Street, to retailer websites, data issues and the overall customer experience.
I have been lucky enough to work on some amazing projects over the years, but two transactions stand out. In 2010, I worked on Louis Vuitton’s Young Arts project, a creative and cultural collaboration between the brand and five leading art institutions in London. Nothing like this had ever been done before and I had to agree terms with the five institutions. The project saw panels of young people from different areas of London, interacting as part of a peer-led youth forum for the enjoyment and further understanding of art. In the last year, I have worked with parcel carrier DPD on its ground-breaking Driver Code and new self-employed worker contract, both of which were designed to improve every aspect of the driver’s working relationship with DPD. Before producing the documents, I was involved in consultations with drivers on the changes and I also worked with DPD’s other advisers, including leading figures in the Labour movement.
I worked on Louis Vuitton’s Young Arts project, a creative and cultural collaboration between the brand and five leading art institutions in London
All cases have their own challenges. But it is always most difficult when the parties believe they have agreed that the project will proceed in a particular way and it quickly becomes clear that one party has an entirely different view.
I was the firm’s first female partner and am now the first female senior partner. As part of our recent celebrations for 100 years of women in law, we interviewed eight women across the firm. All of the interviewees, myself included, spoke of a lack of confidence at the start of our careers. We need to find a way to ensure that this lack of confidence does not prevent women from realising their full potential.
I am very ambitious for the firm and have a number of focus areas, but diversity and inclusion are at the top of my agenda. At a time when more women than men are joining the profession, it is important to demonstrate that women are able to participate in the choices being made by the firm and in their future. We welcome diversity and I want to ensure that we continue to create an environment where all kinds of people can thrive and succeed.
I do not believe in tokenism and it is not the answer to promote women simply to achieve a target. What is required is a dedicated programme to help women achieve their potential, with senior women in the business playing an active role in identifying tomorrow’s leaders and coaching or mentoring them to success.
I clearly remember the first Law Students dinner that I attended because I was the only woman among 50 men on my table. The situation back then was very different, but in those days, the vast majority of networking events involved playing golf or snooker, or drinks at the local servicemen’s club where women were not allowed. Obviously I felt excluded and suggestions that I could take clients to the ballet were not the solution.