One hundred years on from the act of parliament that allowed women to enter the legal profession, we profile some of Harrison Drury’s women in law about what the anniversary means to them.
In our second instalment we profile Wendy Newbury, a commercial property solicitor in our Clitheroe office.
Have you overcome particularly challenging times during your career?
My career has seen a series of challenges right from the start!
I qualified as a solicitor in 1991, hoping to join the property team in a local firm. With recession crippling the economy, the only jobs available were in its criminal department. Thankfully, I studied criminal law in my training contract and had six month’s experience, and so reluctantly I joined the criminal department as a defence solicitor.
My court was Darwen youth court, which was quite challenging. There were not many female criminal defence solicitors back in 1991 and I was not much older than the youths I defended! As my legal colleagues in Manchester and Leeds were losing jobs, I was able to diversify and I came to enjoy working in criminal law.
I then had short stints across several firms in Leeds as a commercial property lawyer. This involved a lengthy commute and long hours, so working nearer to home beckoned.
In 2000 I secured a job at Roscoes (now Napthens) in Blackburn. I was promoted to partner – a position most solicitors aim for and may find challenging to achieve – especially women. In fact, I was the only female of the eight partners.
During the 2008 recession, I was made redundant. It was Christmas and jobs were difficult to find. I started up on my own and worked for a while with a small law firm. I then joined a local firm, albeit on a far lower salary, but at least with a continuity of income.
Thinking the worst was over, little did I know harder times were ahead. I was diagnosed with breast cancer which involved debilitating chemotherapy treatment. Coupled with caring for my sick father I had no choice but to take a career break.
After a year or two away from the legal world, I started to look at how I could return.
I initially joined a London firm as a due diligence lawyer, working mainly from home but found that I missed transactional matters. I approached Harrison Drury at their Clitheroe office and was taken on with the understanding that I was to grow the commercial property department in Clitheroe. It has been a challenging journey as I joined with no portfolio of matters and needed to re-connect with business contacts and previous clients.
A lot of business development meetings, coffees and lunches followed. My first year at Harrison Drury was amazing and I was duly rewarded with a promotion to my current position as senior associate solicitor.
What is your proudest achievement, personal or career wise?
Professionally, my two proudest achievements are becoming the first female partner at Roscoes as well as securing my promotion at Harrison Drury in 2019, after two years’ absence from the profession.
Privately, sailing with my family to the Outer Hebrides and the Channel Islands.
What is your advice to woman entering the law profession?
Be determined to follow what you plan to do in your career and how you want to work. The ability to work from home was never available when I was a junior lawyer, and in fact, it was frowned upon.
Flexible working makes it easier for women to juggle family and home life with their career so make sure to use it.
What do you think is the most defining moment for women in law over the last 100 years?
When I started out in law, women were in the minority. They were not expected to fill senior positions at all. It was unheard of to have female partners and any women holding down these positions had to work much harder to ‘prove’ themselves. Since the introduction of the Equality Act 2010, over 50 per cent of law graduates are female and more and more women are now occupying senior posts in the legal profession. The Legal World is now opening up to women and giving them more equality in the workplace.