The legal observer

by Maria Seale
19 March 2019

Maria Seale, Ethic Minority Lawyers Division committee memberMaria Seale joined the Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division in 2016 and is a valued voice in the committee. 

She recently attended a Council meeting at the Law Society and wrote about her experience.

From nervously contacting the president to observing the room and decision-making process of the Law Society, she encourages more solicitors to consider getting involved.

I decided I wanted to become a solicitor after watching Crown Court on television at the impressionable age of 15 years old.

Years later I did question this decision after a master sitting in the Royal Courts of Justice refused my application as he stated he could not hear me, whereby I raised my voice in order to facilitate but after several attempts a fellow outdoor clerk advised me that the master would not hear me as I was wearing trousers instead of a skirt.

I was not perturbed and I now wear trousers most of the time for work!

I describe myself as a trailblazer solicitor. I took an unusual route to qualify as I trained while working as I didn’t want to go to university and I wanted to earn while I learned.

Now, they are called apprenticeship degrees and I wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone who wishes to become a solicitor in this economic climate.

I am also a committee member of the Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division at the Law Society. A growing division and community of lawyers, we represent all BAME solicitors and encourage all those living and working in the regions to come and find out what we are about.

It took me a while to decide to join a Law Society committee. I wasn’t sure if I had the time, skill set or connections to contribute to their work and what committees actually did. How misinformed was I?

The Law Society needs people like me and you to represent the lawyers and clients they serve. I have been honoured to be a contributor to an established society of lawyers.

I have also been intrigued by how the Law Society Council decision-making takes place and moreover, how over 100 council members have their voices heard at council meetings.

I have a background in providing in-house support to regulatory and membership organisations and I feel that I need to know more to understand how I can support the Law Society with my experience.

Therefore, I took a step forward and requested the opportunity to observe a council meeting. My palms were sweating as I typed the email to the current president, Christina Blacklaws.

I really don’t know why but I think it was to do with a lack of understanding of the hierarchy in the organisation. I had a delightful response from her and she welcomed me to the meeting which took place in February 2019.

I must admit I felt a little intimidated when I arrived on the day, but all counsellors and staff were very welcoming and put me at ease. The paperwork seemed overwhelming but easy to follow.

I could tell a lot of preparation and support was required to ensure council papers had the necessary detail and accuracy. The contributions from each member were measured and full of incidental evidence to assist with providing balanced views.

I felt proud to be part of such an interesting and at times comical bunch of lawyers.

I also found the workings of the meeting helped me to understand the decision-making process and how hard it is for the president to manage her fellow council members when differing views come from diverse areas of law.

The discussions also gave me a better connection with the current and future regulatory issues solicitors are facing and I will make a great effort to follow the continued work of the Law Society as a committee member and also as an individual member of the society.

I encourage all solicitors from newly qualified to many years standing to take advantage of the opportunity to be involved with the Law Society’s work.

There is plenty for everyone and you can indulge any literary, pro bono or lobbying hobbies you may have outside of the workplace. Working as a volunteer also allows you to connect with solicitors in fields that are not your own.

I truly believe in peer support in whatever form it may take. A casual conversation can lead to wonderful professional relationships which develop over many years.

Take a leap of faith, trust your instincts. Join a Law Society committee or apply to be a Council member. There is more out there than you can imagine.