Christine Mary Green, Partner, Veale Wasbrough Vizards
How long have you been working with your current company?
10 years with this firm and its predecessors. We have undergone two mergers since I joined Vizards Oldham Brooke Blain in 2002 and we are now known as Veale Wasbrough Vizards. The firm has grown from approximately 70 staff in total based in London to 300 staff with offices in Bristol and London.
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position
I left the University of York with a degree in English Literature in 1982. I was keen to study law at the time but struggled with funding. Consequently, I worked in publishing and administrative roles with a conservation charity and the General Medical Council. After 10 years of working, I was able to fund myself through the conversion course and the finals. I then obtained Articles with Hextall Erskine, (predominantly an insurance litigation practice) with a view to doing medical defence work. In the event, I became pregnant with my daughter during my training and decided to opt for private client work rather than litigation, working part time until my daughter was able to attend secondary school. I have specialised in the Private Client field since that date. I obtained the STEP Diploma and took partnership in 2003. I became an equity partner at Vizards Tweedie in 2007 and have remained so in the current firm.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
Obtaining a very favourable tax efficient settlement for a client in a Will dispute. Due to an anomaly, the Will of the deceased did not benefit his long standing partner who was left in very difficult financial circumstances as a result. The claim was settled without recourse to litigation and the client was very happy. I think law is predominantly about delivering service to clients but this was a particularly gratifying result.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
Probably the biggest challenge at the moment is the global and national economy which impinges on many of us in different ways. Also, the changes in the structure of the legal profession, following the introduction of the Legal Services Act and the "squeezing" of legal services provision, will pose a particular challenge for Private Client lawyers.
We are seeking to overcome these difficulties by positioning ourselves correctly in the market place and more than ever being alive to the demands and needs of our client base.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
Work-life balance is now much easier as my daughter is at university. Prior to this, it was very difficult! I always seemed to be racing against the clock and was always the last to arrive at the school gates. I think I had to miss a number of important school events because of work commitments. The saddest time was when I missed my daughter's solo at school to see a client who needed urgent advice. In the end, the client failed to show up. I raced back to the school just in time to hear the applause and to see her taking her final bow.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
I am particularly grateful to the head of the College of Law at Lancaster Gate, Mr. Tuddenham. I went to see him when I was thinking of giving up my job and commencing my legal studies. He talked to me for a long time and gave me a great deal of encouragement without which I might not have persevered.
One of my lecturers at the College of Law was Professor Lesley King who continues to be a huge inspiration to me and many other private client lawyers. She is clear, concise and entertaining and bought the whole subject of wills and trusts to life for me.
Since I have been practising, I have worked with the same partner for nearly 20 years and I have always been fortunate enough to have worked with excellent lawyers. I think the most important lesson I have learnt is that law is a continual learning process and it is always dangerous if you think you know it all!
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
I do not particularly support "quotas" of women or other groups in the work place. I think these can lead to resentment. I firmly believe that women should compete equally with men on a level playing field. I would support job sharing and part time work for both sexes so that husband and wife can share childcare and the work place should support this wherever possible.
I feel that it is very important for women to get the right balance between work and childcare (as above) and I am committed to helping facilitate this. Children are the future for all of us and bringing them up in a loving and secure environment is of paramount importance.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female
In the early days of my career I did feel at a disadvantage and I think the expectation was that I would give up my legal career once I had a child. Consequently I had to struggle to obtain good quality work and instructions. Things have changed greatly over the last 20 years for the better but I think that women need to be helped more with part time work and flexible working arrangements.
I believe that men and women have different (but complementary) approaches to management and the ideal is a combination of both skill sets in the work place. Certainly, there are some management situations where I have felt that as a woman I can bring additional insights and understanding but I would not be in favour of the domination of either sex.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
Over the last five years or so we have seen increasingly flexible working arrangements, including job sharing which is making it easier for women to return to work after children and remain in the law. More and more women are making it to partnership level and are encouraging others. Also, changes taking place in other industries have impacted on the legal profession. With more women making board level, it is no longer surprising to see women in top legal jobs. I think these changes have come about as a result of shifting attitudes rather than as a result of any particular piece of legislation but the legislative framework is moving in favour of working arrangements which favour women.