Shattering the glass ceiling: a comment from a junior solicitor
The debate around how to ensure that there continues to be more and more senior women in the legal profession is never-ending. I am an ambitious junior solicitor at an early stage of my career. I am also soon to get married. Both of these features mean that I find myself constantly thinking about my future career, what path it will take and whether I will get to where I want to be. Inevitably, this leads me to look around at my peers, colleagues and the senior management of my firm to see how they do it. I am constantly searching for my role model(s).
Diversity figures and the number of women who are in senior partnership/management roles in the legal profession is currently a hot topic and there has been much coverage in the press about this recently.
Looking from my position, I feel that I am lucky. I work in a firm where I am managed on a day-to-day business by a female partner. In addition, the head of my team is a female equity partner and the head of the litigation department (the largest department in my firm) is also a woman. These successful women are role models for me and have had an impact upon me in a number of ways.
Firstly, surviving the first year of my professional practice has certainly been a challenge. Nobody warned me of the immense daily pressures that I would experience as a junior solicitor as I tried to feel my way in the world of legal knowledge. I have had to demonstrate commitment and top quality work to my firm whilst instilling confidence in my clients. I believe that being managed by female partners has provided me with invaluable guidance through this year. My supervisor has understood the challenges that I had to face and has always been empathetic and supportive. I think sometimes the importance of empathy in the legal profession is forgotten. Most women, in my opinion, are naturally empathetic. It does not necessarily mean that we cannot be confident and successful litigators – it simply means that we understand and appreciate our clients (or anyone else’s position).
Secondly, having female role models in senior positions has helped me become confident that I can achieve great things. It has fuelled my passion to succeed and to prove that women can attain success in our profession.
What all of these women that I refer to, who have influenced the first year of my qualification, have in common is a desire to do top quality work, are formidable businesswomen and have a commitment to our profession. I like to think that above all this is why they have achieved their position.
I thoroughly support the initiative by Chambers and Partners Women in Law and I look forward with interest to reading the other contributors’ comments. My blog posts will cover the experiences from my perspective as a junior female solicitor about my practice and the day-to-day lifestyle realities that I face on my way up to shattering the glass ceiling.
Sarah Maslen, Blake Lapthorn
Follow Sarah on Twitter: @SarahM_Lawyer