Today is international women’s day, so I thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to share some stories of women who are excelling in their career and becoming fantastic lawyers! I have spoken to a few of the lovely ladies that work in various different roles across our Simpson Millar offices, to find out more about how they have got to where they are today, and the challenges that they have faced on the way.
Maya Bhatiani- Senior Associate Solicitor in the Family Team in Simpson Millar’s London Office.
“I was always interested in the law, for the wrong reasons – I loved John Grisham and decided to study law solely on that basis, which in all the literature is something they tell you not to do! But, I was passionate about wanting to help people and so I followed the conventional route in to the law – I studied law at Cardiff University where I left with a 2:1 and I did my LPC at Cardiff Law School the year after. It was only when doing my LPC that I knew family law was for me, despite always being interested in it. I then paralegalled for a year at a well-known firm, before travelling for 6 months. I came back to work in the legal sector in London on my return before completing my training contract. After that I headed back to a London firm I had previously worked at, where I spent a good few years and ended up as the Head of the Family and Wills and Probate department there. Following on from that, I moved in to the City and then headed to a start-up just outside of the square mile, heading up their family team. I left that firm to come to Simpson Millar for the larger, regional firm experience and to develop my career further.
I have always found that there has been a significant gender pay gap in the legal sector and it has always been somewhat of a ‘boys’ club’ in terms of promotions and networking. It has been a frustrating process seeing male colleagues of equal (or lesser) qualification earn more in similar roles and be promoted above me, seemingly on the basis of their gender. The responses received when I have questioned the same historically were lacking and I was left feeling incredibly frustrated that I was not seen as of equal value, or taken as seriously as my male counterparts. There has been much talk of closing the gender pay gap over the last few years, but in reality it remains and only a few of the larger corporate firms have opened up their books to scrutiny, which seems to be the only way to actually tackle the issue hands on. The rest are yet to follow.”
Bethany Peers- Team leader in Simpson Millar’s Manchester Office
“Whilst I was studying my A-levels my sister had a very serious car accident that left her with serious injuries and almost resulted in her having her legs amputated. Fast forward a few years and I find myself graduating with a law degree and joining my first law firm as a new claims advisor. I loved the idea of helping people like my sister was helped and with lots of perseverance and hard work I very quickly obtained an opportunity to run my own cases. Over the next two years I progressed through from portal files to litigated files to Multitrack ELPL cases – my absolute dream! I have been very fortunate and was given the opportunity to manage a team of young people taking those same first steps that I once did and absolutely love my role! I can’t say that I have ever felt at a disadvantage due to my gender and have always worked to my own strengths but I can’t emphasise enough how important it is for the ladies of our industry to know their mind and be assertive in their own progression. Never be a lesser version of yourself to fit into the female mould some would have you poured in to!”
Rita McGucken- Head of Learning and Development at Simpson Millar
Rita was the first person in her family to go to university, where she studied a teaching degree. Rita is passionate about supporting others and helping people, and once she graduated went into a role as an IT trainer, which she felt fulfilled her passions for supporting others. She later secured a role with Lexis Nexis, which is when she became interested in the Legal sector. Rita then moved to working in Learning and Development in-house, where she felt she was able to build relationships with people across the firm, and develop strategies for growth within the firm. She is now Head of Learning and Development at Simpson Millar, a role that she has been in for 18 months and loves.
Rita’s career has not come without its challenges. Although she has worked extremely hard, she feels as though at times she has struggled to have her voice heard. Although, she recognises that stereotypically women suffer more from imposter syndrome and lack of confidence, which she feels may relate to the problem of having her voice heard. Within her career Rita has also recognised the challenge of women attending networking events, as they are typically held out of office hours, which can rule those with family commitments out.
Despite the challenges that Rita has faced in her career, she is thriving in her role as Head of Learning and Development at Simpson Millar.
Rita’s advice to those in the early stages of their career is to be brave, and don’t let your inner critic hold you back.
Thank you to the lovely ladies at Simpson Millar who have helped me with this and who provide such a supportive atmosphere to be in. Thank you for showing aspiring women lawyers’ how it’s done, and sharing your stories!