Anne is a trainee solicitor at Herbert Smith Freehills and winner of the Horsfall Turner essay prize 2017.
Essay title: The digital economy and its challenges for antitrust development.
Find out more and read the essay
1. You're talking to a friend of a friend at a party. How do you describe what you do?
I am in the not uncommon position that most 'friends of friends' also work in the legal profession, so the two words 'trainee solicitor' usually suffice. On the joyous occasion that I meet someone of a different background, I usually say that I am in the process of becoming a commercial lawyer and assist clients in navigating the sometimes slippery pathways of the legal realm.
2. What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently part of the Corporate Energy team at Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, working on various intra-European power projects and advising on the potential regulatory implications of Brexit on the sector.
3. What was your first proper job?
My first (UK-based) job was working the weekend shift stacking shelves at Sainsbury's whilst studying for my GDL. Not only did this job require a necessary upper body workout, it also taught me that it is always possible to keep a smile on regardless of how trying a particular customer might be. This resilience still comes in handy in my current position, though the stressors have changed a little.
4. How would you describe entering and winning the Competition Section’s 2017 Horsfall Turner essay prize?
I have always loved writing and been interested in competition law since my undergraduate time; so when I became aware of the essay competition, participating just felt like a natural thing to do, even if winning was not the initial intention.
As for actually winning first prize, the biggest reward for me was the validation that I can excel in such a forum with my slightly unorthodox, pop-culture filled writing style and in my non-native language (as I am a native German speaker). And, of course, the financial prize was an unexpected, but very welcome, bonus!
5. Share some great advice you've been given.
You don't know what you can't do until you try it; so there is no reason to get worked up about a new task. Should you not succeed on your first attempt, at least you know what to do differently next time around.
6. What's in your desk drawers?
Enough non-caffeinated herbal tea to supply a small army. I have a slight addiction to all things coffee-related and therefore try to stay clear of any other caffeinated drinks.
7. Can you recommend a local lunch or coffee spot?
Domali Bar & Kitchen near Crystal Palace Park. It's a lovely little place to enjoy good food or just a few drinks with friends; they even have a little garden area for when the sun is out.
8. How do you relax?
I alternate between sports (gym classes and kendo) and drawing illustrations to my favourite novels.
On the odd occasion that I visit my family in the countryside, I love to take the dogs for a hike into the woods without a specific route in mind and see where that takes me.
9. What is your pet hate?
White sandwich bread (in particular, the one with the crust already cut off). Having grown up in Germany, I could rave about bakery products, but don't want to bore anyone. My only message is that if you can press the product down, for it only to return to its original shape like a sponge, it is not bread!
10. Sum up being a solicitor, in a word.
11. Favourite city?
Maastricht (where I've lived for four years): beautiful, charming and has some of the best rijstevlaai in South Limburg.
12. What book is on your bedside table ?
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain; one of the few books I actually re-read on a regular basis. It's a very entertaining read and a great analysis of how the set-up of many large Western enterprises and cultures favours out-going, extroverted individuals. It's a book I highly recommend to anyone working in HR and in leadership positions in order to learn about the value of different types of people working in their business.
13. What needs to happen to get more women into leadership roles?
One thing that needs to be addressed and reassessed is the entrenched assumptions that the legal profession (and society generally) may still hold about women; and perhaps that women hold about themselves. By that, I do not mean the idea that women are necessarily at a disadvantage because of potential desires to have children and the practical implications that this entails.
Instead I feel that it is more prevalent amongst women – more so than men – to suffer from lower levels of self-confidence which can manifest as an unconscious form of self-sabotage to any more ambitious career prospects. In relative terms, female professionals therefore tend to be more prone than their male counterparts to not put themselves forward for leadership roles.
To address this problem we would need a bespoke support system that does not require an applicant, be they male or female, to have a certain characteristic (e.g. high self-confidence level) to succeed. Such a system would ideally include (i) genuine support from the early stages of the career on and not just once that person has been in the profession for a while; (ii) HR to directly approach potential candidates about their promotional chances rather than waiting for them to take the first step; and (iii) individualised support to identify the specific person's goals and needs.
14. If you hadn't become a solicitor, what would you have done?
As a trainee I am still working on the 'becoming-a-solicitor' thing; fingers crossed for that! However, if I hadn't chosen to study law, I would have tried my luck at political journalism and likely written a PhD in political science.