Partner at Hart Brown, Guildford

I finished university and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. My legal aspirations only came later. My father was employed in the aviation industry and he suggested I work at the airport while I considered what career path I wanted to take. Fifteen years later I was still there.  

The airport environment is a unique place to work because you meet a variety of people from different countries all in the course of a working day. I would be involved in a Virgin flight sending aid out to Iraq one day, and then dealing with Henry Ford junior’s private jet the next. I was working at the time Richard Branson started his airline with one 747. Look where that airline is now. I still use the communication skills and commercial expertise I developed at the airport in my legal life today.  

I worked as an aircraft dispatcher and latterly as a flight planner. An aircraft dispatcher is the person you may not notice when travelling on holiday but they coordinate the safe turnaround of an aircraft. It is a responsible job and you have to be organised and time-focused. It is one of the reasons why I have little patience today when people are late for meetings, because time was such an important factor in my day-to-day life then. If a plane is half an hour late then this can have a huge knock-on effect both financially and logistically. I had to liaise with flight crews, baggage handlers, cleaners and caterers to ensure that everyone was working to the same goal and on time. 

Studying for the CPE was challenging with 12-hour shifts. During breaks I would often take my law books to read on the airport concourse 

It was at the airport that I first became interested in the legal profession. I have always believed in fairness and equal access to justice. I wanted to make a difference in the day-to-day working environment because I saw at first-hand how collective bargaining could benefit the rights of employees and how a harmonious working environment could help the health and safety of individuals. I became interested in how the mechanism of the disciplinary and grievance process was handled in the workplace, and how legal knowledge could successfully help resolve disputes.

I decided to study law part-time and studied for the Common Professional Exam while working full-time. It was challenging with 12-hour shifts. During breaks I would often take my law books to read on the airport concourse, while listening to other people’s excitement about going away on holiday. 

I secured a training contract specialising in personal injury law with a small practice on the south coast. When the firm needed someone to advise on employment law I volunteered, having been especially interested in that area of law when I was studying for the CPE.

My legal career highlight has been giving back to the community by offering pro bono advice to Citizens Advice. I am a supporter of the work Citizens Advice volunteers do, especially since legal aid for employment was cut. I have enjoyed writing about the issues which are important to me, such as equal pay and equal opportunities for women in the workplace. The articles have been published in national newspapers and online.   

The most rewarding cases are where I have secured much-needed support and resolution for employees when they are facing a difficult time at work, such as being bullied. As an employment lawyer you often find yourself being a counsellor, because you are there when someone is going through a difficult time in their life and your role is to listen.