“People weren’t taking me as seriously until I showed them what I could do”
The background I come from is working class. I didn’t know whether to go to university full time, pursue the law or try something else. Attending university wasn’t something that anyone in my family had done before or that anyone necessarily pushed me to do.
I started looking at solicitor apprenticeships in the first year they were introduced. It felt a bit like fate; like it was meant to happen! I thought: “If I can enter the profession this way, I get everything I want: a fully funded law degree, a salary and my parents will be happy that I’m working full time.”
Apprenticeships are not the easy option! I was doing a degree and working at the same time. It’s great to have alternative routes. Some people are suited to full-time study and training contracts; others are suited to apprenticeships. Then you have to factor in people’s circumstances – alternative routes create a more equal playing field. I didn’t feel as though I was behind or missed out on anything. I think others are starting to view apprenticeships on an equal playing field now too.
Being the first in-house solicitor apprentice came with pressure. I didn’t realise how big this new route to qualification is for the profession and the impact it would have. I felt a responsibility to make it a success and show people like me that you can do it. There is pressure having people closely follow your career, or businesses waiting to see how I do before offering their own apprenticeships. But it’s paid off and it’s been an amazing experience.
I realised that representation isn’t always the norm. I never thought about my gender until I started going to external events and meeting others in the profession. I found a lot of people were not taking me as seriously until I showed them what I could do. Working in-house at ITV, I never felt lesser – as a woman or as someone from my background. I’ve always felt represented there, not just at the junior level but at a senior level as well.
Representation makes a difference. If you see someone who is like you, in the position that you want to be in, it makes you realise that it’s possible, and you can do it. If you don’t see that, you think that you won’t be accepted. It’s about having someone to look to and say: “They’ve done it, so I can do it too.” It would be incredible for someone to see me and think “she went to the same school I did” or “she’s from the same background that I’m from, and she’s done it”. Sometimes you have to be the first. If no one becomes that representation, then nothing will change.
I had an interest in media and TV, and the law. I’ve been able to merge them. I’ve met people who are keen on sports and they’ve also been able to merge their interest in sport with a career in law. The law affects everyone – whatever you’re interested in, you can make a career in law.
My work is so varied. I’d get bored doing the same things every day! I’m an NQ legal adviser in ITV’s brand protection team. We manage ITV’s intellectual property portfolio, doing things like registering trademarks, drafting specifications or looking after litigation and oppositions globally. One moment I’m registering a title in Mongolia, then Hungary or the UK. Seeing the result of the hours I’ve put in and being able to say “I’ve had a hand in that” is so rewarding.
I did a six-month secondment at a City firm. I wanted to make sure I had a plethora of experience and could make an informed decision about where I wanted my career to go. It was a valuable experience, but by the end of it there was no question that I wanted to work in-house. I just feel like I belong in-house. It allows me to mix business acumen with law. You can immerse yourself in a business or industry and make commercial decisions.
It’s hard not to compare yourself to others in this profession. Making mistakes and owning them was a lesson – because I felt like I couldn’t make mistakes. But everyone does. Being able to ask for help when you need it is really brave.
If I could say one thing to my younger self, I’d say: don’t rush. Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect – no one is perfect and no one is expecting you to be either. You don’t have to know all the answers. And be kind to yourself.
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