Jane Edwarde

 
Career highlights
  • University of Glasgow (1996 LLB Hons 2(1))
  • Diploma in Legal Practice with Distinction (1997)
  • Trained in Glasgow and Edinburgh with Bird Semple (now DLA Piper)
  • Qualified 1999 with DLA Piper as a real estate lawyer
  • Joined Slaughter and May real estate group 2001
  • Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test A with Distinction (2001)
  • Partner 2006 – first female real estate partner at Slaughter and May

I have been head of the firm’s real estate group since 2016.  I advise in relation to all aspects of commercial real estate including acquisitions, disposals, development, planning, leasing, financing and the real estate aspects of corporate transactions.  I am listed as a leading individual in the Real Estate section of Chambers UK, 2019. 

As well as my busy practice, I am actively involved in the management of the real estate group and key firm-wide matters.  I take a keen interest in the training and development of the next generation of young lawyers and I am heavily involved in the firm’s trainee recruitment programme.  I am jointly responsible for the firm’s relationship with the University of Glasgow and other Scottish universities, so I find myself back on campus quite often.  I take an active role in the firm’s commitment to attracting, recruiting and developing a diverse pipeline of talent.  I also act as mentor to several female associates and have recently benefited from ‘reverse mentoring’ with a more senior corporate associate.  I am particularly enthusiastic about the role of women, both in the law and also in the property industry.  I often organise informal female networking events with clients and industry contacts eg theatre trips, trips to London Fashion Week, concerts etc.

My key clients include Derwent London, Midlothian Capital Partners, Grosvenor, Dobbies Garden Centres, Arsenal, Everton, Marks and Spencer and the MCC.  I have been fortunate to enjoy a wide range of work and particular highlights include: 

  • being the Arsenal real estate partner, not only is the work varied and interesting but rewarding for me personally given I am an Arsenal fan and a regular at the Emirates stadium which we helped to build and continue to work on
  • advising Derwent London in relation to their Central London property portfolio including the major office, theatre and retail development above the new Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Road. Derwent London are one of the pre-eminent developers and investors in London, with a very stylish product and brand. They are also lovely people and a pleasure to work with and learn from
  • helping English National Ballet with their new offices and rehearsal space at London City Island. It has been interesting working with creative people building their new home in a vibrant developing area of London
  • advising Everton in connection with their new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock. We have exchanged contracts for Everton to move to a new site in Liverpool’s docks, and it has been fascinating learning about the design details eg how to angle the seats for maximum fan engagement or how to orientate the stadium to minimise glare from the sun for fans and the cameras

As a keen sports fan, I have been lucky to be involved in a number of major sports related deals.  In addition to Arsenal and Everton, I also act for the MCC in relation to Lord’s and I was instructed by Shahid Khan on his (ultimately unsuccessful) bid to buy Wembley from the FA.  Outside of work, my hobbies include yet more football, all sports especially running, spinning and skiing, eating out and trying to control two wayward kids aged 10 and 8.

What did your legal education at the University of Glasgow give you?

I think my legal education at the University of Glasgow gave me confidence and a great grounding for working life. First year was a blur and a big step up from school, especially given I was only 17 when I started university. I was definitely too young, but gap years were not so common in the nineties! Second year was maybe the hardest year academically, with lots of compulsory subjects to get through. I enjoyed having more time to explore my chosen subjects at honours level in my third and fourth years. I think that extra year of study is a real advantage over the English universities’ three year degree. Otherwise, I suspect your university years could pass too quickly and, especially in a law degree, would likely be dominated by compulsory subjects rather than subjects you have chosen out of academic interest and curiosity.

One of my honours subjects was human rights, and I was lucky enough to take the prestigious and challenging “Strasbourg project” with Professor Jim Murdoch. This project has been running for 20 years plus, and involves running a human rights case in teams, culminating in a trip to argue the case at a hearing in Strasbourg before real ECHR judges. This experience was very formative for me, teaching me to work in a team and argue on my feet. I am pleased that I continue to meet up with fellow Strasbourg alumni, old and new, for a dinner every year when the current students are in London for a preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice.

What struggles have you faced as a female in your profession?

The property industry is still male dominated, and most law firms have only around 20-25% female partners. That is something I am confident will change over time. At least 50% of our graduate trainees are female – women tend to do well at school and university and prepare well for interview. The challenge is to keep those women in their early thirties and beyond, when many of them also want to start a family. As employers we have to be flexible and understanding. And crucially as female partners and senior leaders, we have to show young women coming through that it is possible to “have it all”, and enjoyable too. By this I mean women can have a rewarding career, a happy family, good friends and hobbies and interests as well. It takes a lot of diary management, and some compromises inevitably. But you do not need to give up your career to be a mother – you can have both and with some adept juggling, it can and does work.

Diversity and inclusion is now one of the top agenda issues for all law firms and our clients. Much has been written and proven about a diverse group (from all perspectives, not just gender) making a better decision. Clients prefer diverse teams at pitches and on their deals. I am currently working on a project involving several other law firms and our clients. We are working together to identify practical changes we can make (and which clients can demand from their lawyers) which will tangibly improve diversity within law firms. For example, at the outset of transactions we can discuss with clients the proposed team to ensure it is diverse and that roles are allocated fairly.  We should also discuss with clients whether some of the team work flexibly and whether certain times for conference calls or meetings are more convenient than others. It is all about improving the dialogue and being more mindful in the way we work.

The clients on this project have been very keen to engage and I am hopeful that this project and others like it will bring about some positive change over time. This is important not just for women, but for everyone.