Careers in Law
Monday, 1stOctober 2018
Wiggin LLP, London
On October 1st, 2018, Wellesley and Newnham Alums gathered for their third joint career panel event at Wiggins LLP. The focus of the evening’s discussion was on career trajectories in Law, and expertise and advice were provided by the six experts on the panel: Dame Vivien Rose DBE, Dame Elisabeth Laing DBE, Caroline Kean, Shira Fox (’05), Barbara Cohen (’61), and Vanessa Reid (’05).
The evening’s conversations weaved personal stories, choices made, and even touched on #MeToo. One key theme of the conversation was the need to identify your inclination towards a career interest. What do you like to do? Focus on that and you’ll get good at it, was the advice shared by Elisabeth, Caroline, and Vanessa. For some alums, this meant focusing on libel law (Caroline) or pursuing a careful career path to being a High Court Judge (Vivien). Barbara reminded all of us through her inspirational stories of the power of advocacy and perseverance in our careers, whether they are in public or private law practice. Indeed Barbara touched on another common theme of the evening, which is that we should respect and honor the non-linear career trajectories we may follow. Our careers are like a tree and each branch is a break or a different path. We must learn to recognize what our interests are but additionally not be afraid of difficult work.
Left to right: Vanessa Reid ’05, Barbara Cohen '61, Caroline Kean, Shira Fox ’05, and Dame Elisabeth Laing DBE
Learning to recognize these two points was Elisabeth’s guidance. Being open to a non-linear path means we should try career paths that are completely different from what we would expect. Shira had the same sentiment; don’t eliminate the imperfect opportunities as they play a role in building your career. Shira reminded us that one must find one’s unique selling point — what differentiates you from the others? What is your commodity? Of course, this is advice that applies to all industries!
As our career paths take twists and turns, one refines decision-making processes. Where have I made a similar decision? Draw on your history to inform your future decisions. Similarly identify the content and/or process from your work that you enjoy and use that data to inform career pivots. One of the themes from the audience Q&A was combining the roles of worker and caregiver — roles that women uniquely navigate as they integrate both in their lives. A point raised by an alum is that although firms and employers advertise themselves as ‘family friendly,’ the work load doesn’t change; one may need to work six days a week or work weekends to complete deliverables and show progress. A panelist encouraged us to make demands of our employers; if they care about diversity, then they need to modernize and update their expectations of employees who have a variety of family caregiving roles. Lastly, women should make themselves heard in terms of their achievements. Do not assume they will be observed. Wise words all around!
-Contributed by Afshin Zilanawala ’04
The Club would like to thank Caroline Diehl and Caroline Kean from Newnham College Associates for jointly organizing and for hosting, respectively.