International Women’s Day 2021
International Women’s Day 2021
We’re committed to helping everyone in the firm be the very best version of themselves. It’s integral to our shared purpose to enable success through a positive experience with Paris Smith. We strive to create environments and connections in which employees, clients and our communities can all thrive.
Women hold several key roles in our business, but there is more we can and will do. We recognise the importance of encouraging every member of our team to feel able to develop their career in whatever direction they desire.
Everyone at the firm has an equal opportunity to contribute to our vision and purpose. Everyone has an equal opportunity to excel in their area of work – and everyone is able to apply and be considered for management and leadership roles. We’re committed to ensuring that no member of staff ever feels that their gender is a barrier to progression.
Laura Trapnell, Head of Intellectual Property
Laura has been with the firm for 10 years, co-leading a team of bright and enthusiastic commercial solicitors alongside her role as deputy data protection officer for the firm. Laura also works with the charity WetWheels as a volunteer.
“I am proud of the work I produce for clients, and I am always humbled by the trust that they bestow on us. One of my proudest legal achievement was persuading the Intellectual Property Office to register a client’s generic trade mark by submitting well-crafted evidence of use which clearly demonstrated that despite being descriptive, the client’s use of the mark had become synonymous with their company; we submitted substantial statements from national industry bodies, the general public and exhibited their numerous trade awards and despite a long battle with the IPO on some very technical aspects of trade mark law, we were successful and the client’s mark remains on the register some 5 years later. The client had previously been told by multiple different advisers that it would never be registered but I wouldn’t accept no as an answer!”
Jane Biddlecombe, Head of Immigration
Jane is an associate in our employment department and also heads up our specialist immigration team, advising on all aspects of this complex, and constantly changing area of law. Jane has been with the firm for nearly 18 years and retrained a few years ago to specialise in Immigration law.
“Having been an experienced employment lawyer for many years, going back to being newly qualified in an area of law was challenging and scary. However, I really wanted to help people in relation to this complicated area of law. I can now advise companies how to recruit the best talent for their businesses, whether that potential recruit lives in the UK or overseas.
Working part time (in various patterns as my children have got older) has enabled me to try and get my work/life balance right and I’m grateful that I work for a firm that has allowed me the flexibility to do this and actively supported me throughout.
Elizabeth Power, Head of Tax and Estate Planning
Elizabeth specialises in elderly client and lack of capacity work. This means looking after those who don’t have the mental capacity to manage their affairs themselves, and well as supporting the families who are looking after them. Elizabeth is also a Mental Health First Aider and a Dementia Friend.
“My biggest success was being appointed as head of the Tax and Estate Planning department in February 2020. The role is phenomenally demanding, and in equal measure, rewarding. And I’m very lucky because I work with amazing colleagues. The biggest challenge is undoubtedly balancing trying to be the very best I can at work in a full-time role, while also being the very best I can at home. And I don’t get it right every time – the balance is very tricky. But I keep trying to do the best I can in each of those roles.”
Emily Sadler, Franchising Specialist
Emily is an associate in the commercial department, specialising in franchising. Emily started this specialism by reviewing a franchise agreement for a Toni & Guy franchisee and has been on their panel of recommended lawyers ever since. Emily now works across various sectors from fast food to baby swimming, helping franchisees fully understand what they sign up for.
“I think that my experience assisting franchisees and the sheer amount and variety of agreements that I have seen over the years, mean that I’m also well placed to advise franchisors, as I have seen both sides from a legal perspective. Some of my greatest work achievements have been negotiating good outcomes for franchisors or franchisees where the parties have been able to reach relatively amicable solutions to disputes.
Outside of work, two small children keep me busy and I try to run 2-3 times a week primarily for sanity-saving reasons, especially during the last year. The pandemic has brought its challenges juggling my type of work with home schooling! I’m the chair of the firm’s charity committee and enjoy this non-legal role very much, which give my colleagues and I the opportunity to support two local charities each year through fundraising initiatives.
I’ve faced challenges in my personal life that have impacted my career – a serious health crisis for starters. I have had to ‘start again’ many times over which, while frustrating, has also increased my resilience and ambition. Life is a journey not a race! My illness has also given me a strong sense of what’s important in life and that whilst your career is undoubtedly a large part of your life, it’s not everything.”
Minaz Rahman, Trainee Solicitor
Minaz joined us in 2019 as a paralegal in the Property Finance team. She’s now undertaking her seat (work experience) in the commercial property team and is due to qualify in 2022.
“No one in my family had attended university before me and so it was a big deal when I said to my family that I wanted to study law at university. From a young age I found myself translating for my parents, assisting with completing forms and providing general advice through research, as my parents struggled with English language. It was quite natural for me to choose law as a profession with the skills I gained in my childhood.
For me as a young solicitor, it’s really exciting that I’m with a firm who are committed to positive change, and that there’s a pathway for women to senior positions.”
Claire Merritt, Employment Partner
Claire has been with the firm for 14 years, having started as a trainee. She works with large employers advising them on a variety of employment issues. Claire has a particular interest in mental health in the workplace; she is a Mental Health First Aider and also delivers training for companies on the complex issues around wellbeing and mental health. Claire is also part of the training committee and coaches our junior staff.
“One of my biggest achievements is the ongoing relationships I have with my colleagues and clients. I’m happy to say I’ve worked with some clients for over a decade now and I feel part of their team. These relationships drive me on and make the job worthwhile.
I feel my hard work has always been recognised by my clients and colleagues. However, being a younger female partner does raise challenges. I’ve been mistaken, on several occasions, as a junior to my trainees – generally, at networking events or seminars and with male trainees. This is deeply embarrassing for all concerned and shows the unconscious bias that still permeates our working world. These assumptions are human and the reality of the wiring of our brains. When I close my eyes and imagine a partner in a law firm, I don’t picture myself. One day I hope that changes. I do feel there is a barrier to being taken seriously if you happen to be female, however once people work with me and know my skills, then I think that speaks for itself.”
Joanne Spittles, Development Land and Commercial Property Specialist
Joanne is a partner and team leader in the commercial property team, and is also on the board (on a voluntary basis) of the New Forest Enterprise Centre (NFEC). This is a non-profit organisation providing office and workshop accommodation on “easy in, easy out” terms to small and start-up businesses.
“Working in the property and construction industry, which is male dominated, was challenging as a young female solicitor, particularly with things like networking events; walking into a networking event can be nerve-wracking at the best of times – more so if you are a young female and everyone else in the room would appear to be older, male, and all known to each other.
I chose to work in property law because the firm I trained with made it interesting and challenging, and now I pride myself on being able to deliver a first-rate service to my clients and colleagues.
Interestingly, despite the under-representation of women in the property industry as a whole, this is not (now) reflected in the legal profession. I very much hope that women will continue to be attracted into the property and construction industry which I continue to find as enjoyable and interesting as when I first set out on my career.