Q&A with Hannah Bignell
Hannah Bignell is a trainee solicitor at Fieldfisher LLP.
Tell us about your current role.
I'm a trainee solicitor at Fieldfisher LLP in London, about to go into my final seat.
I've sat in finance, employment and corporate. Half of my time in corporate has been spent on secondment at Accenture.
What motivated you to get involved in the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD)?
I love getting involved in the legal sector, especially through helping those on their journey to qualify and understanding the different routes to qualification that are available.
I'm particularly interested in the mental health work that the JLD has focused on and would like to get involved in this.
I also feel that from working in the legal field as a paralegal for three years, and from being unsuccessful in a lot of training contract applications, I've learnt a lot and gained some useful tips and want to help potential law candidates in regards to their applications.
At the start of your career, what made you choose law?
I wanted to study law as I enjoyed debating and analysing and wanted to help individuals through advising them on their legal rights.
Give us one piece of great advice you received.
Never apologise for something that is outside of your control.
Highlight some great work you've seen by others in increasing the representation of women and BAME solicitors as equity partners.
I've noticed that firms are hosting more seminars aimed at women, BAME solicitors and focusing on their career progression.
At my firm, we held an interesting discussion in 2019 with a panel of BAME senior solicitors asking them questions regarding their professional and personal experiences.
I think firms are actively trying to increase the number of women and BAME individuals at partner level but it'll take a significant amount of time until this is at an equal level.
What practical changes would you like see across the profession to increase diversity and social mobility?
Flexible working still seems to be a taboo and not many firms have fully engaged with it. Firms need to focus on this and really encourage it.
In terms of diversity, I think that the profession as a whole has really focused on this. The issue is that employers need to ensure they are finding diverse talent.
Firms should consider looking at students who are at GCSE and college level rather than university level. This has improved, especially with the introduction of solicitor apprenticeships in recent years, as it means not as many individuals are going through the traditional route.
What practical difference do you think the Junior Lawyers Division can make to individual members' careers?
We're a great sounding board and can act and publish certain voices or thoughts to a wide audience.
I think the JLD helps aspiring lawyers and members through sharing ideas, experiences and views and we help to shape the legal profession.
What one piece of advice would you give to senior leadership in City firms, who are looking to increase the numbers of women partners?
Understand the value of flexible working and the skills women can bring to leadership.
Actively encourage flexible working to ensure women feel better equipped to consider and apply for partnership.
Do you have a role model or someone who inspires you?
My lecturer and friend, Professor John Fitzpatrick OBE, who was the director of the Kent Law Clinic and my human rights lecturer at University of Kent has inspired me since I attended an open day at the university in 2009.
John is extremely kind and cares about the local community and his students. John went above and beyond to help me as a student adviser at the clinic and has always listened and been extremely supportive.