I started studying law at the University of Glasgow with a somewhat idealistic view of what sort of career that might lead to. Considering I had just turned sixteen and had just that Summer moved from a small Scottish island to the (dare I say it) bright lights of Glasgow, I won't hold that against my past self! Those first few years of university went by in a whirlwind of long shifts in the library and what felt like even longer shifts in a typically thankless retail job. Mixed into that was the 'anxious-about-my-CV' determination to fit in all the extra-curricular activities and work experience placements. At that point, the road to qualification certainly didn't seem easy, and it was hard to think about what law would really be like after that.
Even in those early days at university, I do remember small talk in the lecture halls turning to how the male to female split of budding lawyers was not what we expected, with female students coming out top in numbers. Naturally, a fair split of our academic staff were also female. Times had changed – what had once been a closed door was now wide open thanks to women like Madge Easton Anderson leading the way.
Through that door I merrily went when I secured my traineeship in the Summer after third year of university. I completed my LLB in 2016, and the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice in 2017, and it is easy to look back now on university with a very rosy tint – the fun, the friends, the genuinely inspirational academic staff who encouraged you not just to do well in exams but to really think and question things. However, by the end of it all, I was very much ready to leave the academic world and starting in a leading commercial firm felt like a natural step for me.
My traineeship was what really cemented that being a transactional lawyer is the right career for me. I truly loved my traineeship and whilst part of that was due to the quality and volume of work, the legal experience I gained, and the career I could start to see myself having, I would say the larger part was due to the people I worked with. Men and women at every level, partners, fee earners and support staff, who truly had a genuine interest in you, wanted to support you and to see you succeed. The teams I worked in encouraged me to use my voice, and that, even as a trainee, my input absolutely had value. Special mention should also be made to my fellow trainees, who were some of the most wonderfully independent and interesting women I have ever met. The traineeship really was a case of what you put into it, you could get out of it, tenfold. Of course, challenges came with the territory, and there were difficult times (as I am sure every trainee can testify to!).
I cannot quite put my finger on when I decided to move to London upon qualification, but all of a sudden that was it, my mind was set. I had always seen myself being in London at some point, and qualification just seemed like the perfect time. It was really helpful having colleagues and friends who were excited for me, and went out of their way to help me through the NQ application process (and the moving all my belongings on the train process!). People who were very happy to discuss with me what my future in law might be even if that future meant saying goodbye to those teams and offices.
The last day of my traineeship ended up being quite emotional. It was a culmination of seven years of personal and professional progress, and qualifying and moving to London all of a sudden felt like a 'big thing'. It is easy to doubt yourself and doubt a decision, but that was short-lived, as I have now qualified as a Banking & Finance lawyer in the London team, and I am absolutely certain it was the right decision. I have been so fortunate to, again, walk into another welcoming team, with so many amazing lawyers to learn from. It is fast paced, but there is always a new challenge and that is what I am looking for at this point of my career.
I am proud to be a woman in law in 2019 because I have been welcomed to sit at the table: it does not feel like there is a club I am not part of, or conversations I am only hearing whispers of by virtue of being a woman. I would like all women in law to be fortunate enough to have the experience I have had.