From a young age I was driven by a wish to help others. My parents had vocational careers and I found it inspiring to watch them work not because they had to, but because they were passionate about what they did. I had always been interested in the law and followed high-profile legal cases with fascination, so studying law was a natural way to link these two interests.
I grew up in Norfolk but always had a desire to see more of the country. After A-levels, I did an LLB at Liverpool Polytechnic (as it was then) before moving to York College of Law. I then moved back down south and was offered a position as an articled clerk at Brachers. That was 1991 and I have been lucky to spend my entire career working for the same firm, which is unusual these days.
When I qualified I undertook general litigation but knew I wanted to specialise. An opportunity came up within my first two years to help grow a personal injury team. I jumped at the chance and thoroughly enjoyed it. Being able to support clients in need and make a difference gave me immense satisfaction and I was proud of what we achieved. I did, however, want to do more management and I was not happy with the direction in which the PI world was heading.
In an appraisal with the managing partner I said I would like to retrain as an employment lawyer. I had increased my knowledge in this area while supporting injured and disabled clients, and it seemed a natural extension. Remembering my parents’ careers, I knew I wanted to deal with people and make a difference. Working on these cases showed me something that I hadn’t yet realised about myself – that I thrived on intellectual challenge and using my persuasive and strategic skills in a different way.
Two months later the head of employment resigned and I took over. Gaining credibility with the team and our clients while quickly building knowledge was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I was surrounded by great people and we succeeded together.
True talent should always rise to the top and it is important to identify the leaders of tomorrow early and develop them today
I am passionate about good leadership and like working with individuals to bring out their best. If you couple this with the commitment I have to our business, becoming managing partner was a natural choice. The timing was slightly earlier than ideal as I had a two-year-old son and did not want to miss out on him growing up, but sometimes you take opportunities when they come.
There are many challenges of this role but the hardest is balancing the interests of all stakeholders and driving change fast enough. It can be a lonely job and one where everyone expects you to have all the answers. You need a sense of humour, dogged determination and a good support network.
I have enjoyed high-profile claims like the exit of a CEO from an NHS trust where we had to work closely with the Department of Health. I also became very fond of some of my PI clients for whom we achieved amazing results. But it is often the smaller things, such as working with businesses to develop and implement an HR strategy and then watching them thrive, that gave me the most satisfaction. Since being managing partner, our financial performance has improved and we have embedded a supportive organisational culture – this has given me a sense of pride.
The number of women in leadership positions is improving but I am bound to say there are still not enough. Balancing family life and taking long periods away from work to have children is always a challenge because there will naturally be times during your career when you struggle as an individual to be career-focused without a good support network. I strongly believe though that true talent should always rise to the top and it is important to identify the leaders of tomorrow early and develop them today.
Brachers has just celebrated its 125th anniversary. Our ethos has always been to look after staff, not compromise on quality and put our clients at the heart of everything we do. As a firm we are never complacent and value long-term relationships. Some clients have been with us for generations – of both their business and family.
Our belief drives the way we treat and value our clients, and our promise to be with them all the way. The current partners at Brachers have inherited a great legacy – our role is to pass it on to the next generation, bigger, stronger but underpinned with the same family values.