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Career choice: Student and mediator

Anna Howard  

Name: Anna Howard
Level of PQE: 13 years
Current position and immediate former position: PhD candidate at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London. My former position was lecturer of law at Singapore Management University.

Why did you go into the law in the first place?

While I was studying for my A levels, I attended an introduction to law day at a university. That sparked my interest in law and I felt that I would enjoy, and might be suited to, studying and practising it.

What was your first job as a qualified solicitor?

I qualified into the Antitrust, Competition and Trade team of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. I later moved to the Competition and EU Regulatory team of Fieldfisher.

What was your reason(s) for choosing your career path?

I have changed my career path twice. The first move - from practising lawyer to lecturer - was due to two factors: i) our relocation to Singapore for my husband's job and ii) my desire to try a new path which was linked to the law but was not the practising of law. The freedom and sense of adventure which comes with a move abroad provided me with the platform for the change.

The second move - from lecturer to PhD student, LLM tutor and mediator - was, in part, due to our return to London. My desire to continue my career in teaching and academia led me to start a PhD. My interest in mediation was ignited through conversations with one of my mentors, Ian Macduff, while I was at Singapore Management University. Ian recommended John Sturrock QC's mediation course, which I completed on my return from Singapore, and which confirmed that I had found my vocation.

What steps did you take to make that move a reality (include details of resources that you found particularly helpful)?

A key step was talking with people who inspired me. I am incredibly fortunate to have a couple of mentors who have gently and wisely guided me at times of transition. Serendipity has also played a considerable role.

I would also emphasise the importance of having clear sight of what you enjoy and of your values. My conversations with the careers coach Rachel Brushfield greatly helped as I tried to gain clarity on these matters.

How easy or difficult did you find the move?

Both moves presented their own challenges and opportunities. Looking back I realise that one of the greatest obstacles was myself.

What do you consider to have been the key factor in enabling you to make that successful move?

I'd like to suggest two key factors: determination and the support of my family and mentors.

How did you find the transition after you made the move?

At the start, both moves were challenging. I recall being terrified as I walked into my first lecture. Once I had some experience behind me and gave myself permission to relax, I started to enjoy my new path.

What do you most enjoy about your current role?

Learning and writing about a field which intrigues me.

What did you learn about how to make change effectively and what would you have done differently?

I am not sure whether I made the changes effectively but what I do think is important is that you listen to that niggling and wise voice which tells you whether a new path might be right for you. At the end of the day, if you make a change which works for you, that's enough to be an effective change.

As for what I would have done differently, I would have been more patient and gentler with myself in the early months of the transition.

What are your three tips for a successful change in career direction?

  • Find the time to identify what you enjoy and what your values are and then, as you consider new roles, assess their suitability for you against these.
  • Listen to the advice of those who inspire you and whom you trust.
  • As one of mentors once said to me, 'be bold.' That advice has prompted me to say yes to many opportunities I would otherwise have shied away from. In the words of Johann Wolfgang Goethe 'Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.'



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