Celebrating International Women’s Day – Laura Peel

As part of the celebrations we speak with some of our fantastic female Solicitors next we speak with Laura Peel a Director in our Family Law Department.

What inspired you to pursue a career in law?

Good question! I completed a degree in English and enjoyed it but I didn’t particularly feel left with a defined career path. Lots of my friends were heading off into publishing and teaching, neither of which appealed and I had always wondered about law and, in particular being a court lawyer. The skills I had by the end of my degree seemed well suited – lots of reading (!). writing, persuading and arguing – all things I enjoy and now get paid to do!

What was your route from school to  director at RR?

I studied English at Leeds and, after much thought decided to complete what we used to call a conversion course but is now called a Postgraduate Diploma in Law, followed by the mandatory Legal Practice Course. I did both of those courses at the College of Law, York and then secured a training contract at a high street firm in North Yorkshire. It became obvious very early on that I wasn’t suited to non-contentious work (I guess I really like the persuading and arguing!) and so I concentrated on criminal and family law. There were lots of late nights, early mornings and middle of the night shifts at the police station in those early days but practising and training in criminal law gave me great experience as an advocate. It was child protection work that really interested me though and it was that interest that really drove a move to a larger city centre practise. I joined Richard Reed in 2010, a salaried partner in 2011 and then a director in 2012.  

What advice what you give your 18 year old self from a career perspective?

It is not as glamorous or dramatic as those American dramas would have you believe!

What is the most important lesson you’ve learnt in your career to date?

Pause, take a breath, prioritise. It is hard work and we are often working under pressure – court deadlines, client deadlines. Sometimes panic can creep in but there is always a way and it is usually to prioritise and deal with one thing at a time.

Do you think we have now reached a position of equality amongst the sexes in the legal profession?

I would very much like to think so. I see just as many, if not more female advocates and on the North East circuit, there are more female judges than male judges. That in itself speaks volumes.

What excites you about your job?

There are always interesting cases which can take twists and turns and each day is different.  

Who inspires you?

I was very recently dragged to the cinema to see On The Basis Of Sex. If you haven’t seen it, go. It was the last film I wanted to see (there was a lot of grumbling about me not wanting to watch a film about a lawyer!) but it was fantastic. I knew very little about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her fight for equal rights before watching it. It was a real eye opener.

A study conducted by the SRA in August 2017 found that women make up 48% of all lawyers in law firms, however, within larger law firms (with 50 plus partners) women make up only 29% of partners. What can be done to change this?

I would hope that will come with time and that the numbers will look very different in 10 years. Equality is being ever more encouraged. A good friend of mine works with a national law firm specifically to address this issue and I know from her that most larger firms now have someone like her with a view to equality becoming part of the firm’s mindset and to help break the cycle of male partners passing on to male partners.

Would you say there has been an attitude change in terms of equality since you started your career?

I trained at al high street firm where there were 3 male partners.  There was myself and a male trainee and when I qualified in 2004, I was the only female solicitor working there. Fast forward 15 years and I work at a firm where the managing director is a woman. I am a director and out of our four heads of department, two are female. Yes, there has been a change.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It is about recognition. The legal world has changed significantly for the better. Women are not just included but are very much seen and treated as equals.

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