"I found my voice": Salome Coker discusses her path to Council and the upcoming elections
Council member Salome Coker explains why she ran for election and the challenges she faced. She tells us about her experience on the Council and her thoughts about future candidates.
Salome Coker isn’t just a lawyer. She's also an artist and a Law Society Council member representing the City of London constituency.
Salome’s work as a freelance lawyer was both a motivator and a challenge when running for election.
She felt that there was a gap on Council when it came to representation for solicitors like her.
Path to election
Being freelance initially made her path to election challenging.
“You have to be registered within a specific constituency to stand [in a geographically-based seat] and the contract I had with a City firm at the time was coming to an end. The rules hadn’t taken into account someone like me.”
When she first submitted her application, it was rescinded for this very reason. The firm that Salome had just finished her latest contract with had to vouch for her to have her application reinstated.
“If the firm hadn’t stepped in, would I be on Council?”, she wonders, adding that the fact that the rules hadn’t even taken freelance solicitors into account felt like “even more reason” for her to stand.
Contracting is becoming increasingly popular among junior lawyers.
"Most law firms have some kind of contracting arm. It’s inevitable that this is how we’re going to work in the future.”
Another of her early motivations for standing was to connect with the wider profession, and her colleagues working outside the City. “I wanted to have a connection to the profession, and to broaden my experience."
"As a finance lawyer, you can be in a bit of a bubble – a lot of solicitors don’t practise in the City, or corporate law, so it was good to expand my network. When you’re not attached to a firm, you have to create your own career development.”
Representing the City of London
Her role as the representative for the City of London has other benefits for her career development, too.
Automatic membership of the City of London Law Society Committee
“It’s more firm led, so [has] 12 to 15 members. It really gave me access to partners and heads of firms”.
“Now, I have a network of really intelligent partners all across the City, which I wouldn’t have had without being on Council. They’re really supportive of me and my ideas.”
She also established that link between the Law Society and solicitors practising in the City.
Finding her voice
“As a young lawyer, or a young professional, a lot of times when you attend meetings you’re there to observe – you may not feel like you can [have an] input.
"On Council, we’re all equal. I found my voice from being on Council, and being able to disagree respectfully and stand with conviction. It’s like a muscle – the more you use it, the more it develops.”
Changes on the Council
When discussing her path to becoming a Council member, Salome reflects on a recent change to limit term lengths for representatives to 12 years.
“It was controversial because you can lose people with [knowledge of] the history of the institution.”
But, Salome recognises that it could encourage more people to stand for election who may not have done so before this change.
Salome herself won the seat of a former Law Society president. “I can imagine if I’d have known, I probably wouldn’t have stood!”
One proud moment
When asked about a moment that she felt particularly proud to be on Council, Salome says that being a part of the response to the pandemic was a stand-out moment for her.
“We went from having four or five meetings a year to 15. It was really positive to see Council come together and really rally for solicitors at a time that was unprecedented, and scary.”
Looking to the future
As the 2022 Council elections approach, Salome hopes that more people will stand: “No matter who they are, they have a right to be heard, and they have value in their opinion and experience.”
Salome’s choice to conduct her career on her own terms is something she feels yet-to-be elected Council members will also bring to the table.
“I think the new generation will be even more multi-faceted… I’m starting to see more people show up to work as their authentic self. More people realise their job doesn’t have to consume every aspect of them and they can build their careers around their lives.”
As our conversation draws to a close, Salome gives her advice for anyone thinking of standing for election to Council.
“Throw your hat in the ring – don’t overthink it too much. Be true to yourself and your experience, don’t try to imitate anyone else. That’s exactly what I did. I wrote my statement almost as a declaration – this is who I am – I made it clear, I’m an artist and a freelancer, and I felt like this was missing on Council.”
“So many people resonated with it. I had over 2000 votes,” she adds. “I was being myself. Be yourself and you can’t go wrong.”
Vote or stand in Council elections
Are you ready to choose the solicitors that best represent you? Could you be one of those representatives?
This summer, we’ll be electing solicitors representing diverse locations, practice areas and personal characteristics to join the Law Society Council.
The deadline for nominations to stand for election is Thursday 7 July at 4pm.