You're talking to a friend of a friend at a party. How do you describe what you do?
That's a hard one because I have a number of roles. I of course try to keep clients happy by helping resolve their problems, but I also help drive the Hogan Lovells diversity agenda, represent the interests of partners on the Hogan Lovells board and keep the firm out of court (I am responsible for the firm's PII).
What are you working on at the moment?
My caseload is quite varied and often involves litigation outside this jurisdiction. I'm currently dealing with a dispute in Tbilisi in Georgia, a duress case for US pharma clients in the Commercial Court, and a film finance related dispute in Germany. Dealing with lawyers in other jurisdictions is a bit like working on diversity issues. It helps you remember that what can seem obvious in our own (legal) world can be anything but that for other people.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a Saturday girl in Boots the Chemist, followed shortly afterwards as a night cleaner at a mental hospital: I can still picture all those false teeth in glasses in the bathrooms...
I think what I most enjoyed was being London Managing Partner for Hogan Lovells from 2005 to 2009: the role was very challenging (especially given the position we all faced during the financial crisis) but great experience.
Share some great advice you've been given.
To progress your career, don't just do a great job, make sure other people know you have done a great job!
What's in your desk drawers?
My mug collection including the mug I was given on my first day in the firm: September 1981, and the one I acquired on my first trip to our 'new' Hong Kong office in 1983. I still use that one on a daily basis.
Can you recommend a local lunch or coffee spot?
Comptoir Gascon in Charterhouse Street.
How do you relax?
I enjoy taking 'interesting' holidays. If you want to get away from e-mail, you can't beat North Korea! At weekends I like walking, especially so now with our recently acquired rescue dog, Ted.
What's your pet hate?
Ted's bad breath...and misuse of apostrophes.
Sum up working as a solicitor in one word.
One word! I'm a solicitor... two please: endlessly varied.
If I had to choose somewhere other than London, it would be Berlin.
What book is on your bedside table?
Lonely Planet Guide to Iran. Iran is somewhere I've long since wanted to visit, but school terms, climate (it's too hot for me in the summer holidays) and U.S. travel restrictions have held me back.
What needs to happen to get more women into City firm leadership roles?
If leadership means partnership, firms need to identify high potential women from a very early stage in their careers and give them, genuinely, the same opportunities and support as their male colleagues.
That means real buy in from 'line' partners to addressing all the unconscious biases in the way we work relating to work allocation, client opportunities, business development, informal mentoring and sponsorship and not simply measuring potential purely by billable hours.
Plus, we need to tell the individual women and the firm that they can and should be partners. In relation to management roles, law firm management needs just to make the appointments. Most women partners have worked extraordinarily hard to become partners and have developed the skills needed. If given the opportunity they will thrive.
You are the Law Society Excellence Awards Woman Lawyer of the Year; what does that mean to you?
It gave me a genuine sense of pleasure that all the efforts of not just me but the whole team on diversity initiatives and people development at Hogan Lovells have been recognised.
If you hadn't become a solicitor, what would you have done?
I would like to have become a doctor: I still relish excising splinters from my family's hands when called upon!