Inspirational Woman: Laura Jenkins | Partner, Commercial Litigation and Securities Litigation, Stewarts

Laura Jenkins is a Partner in the Commercial Litigation and Securities Litigation departments at Stewarts. Her practices focus on helping clients to navigate complex commercial disputes.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role.

I am a Partner in the Commercial Litigation and Securities Litigation teams at specialist dispute resolution law firm Stewarts. I work on a wide range of complex commercial disputes and investigations with a particular focus on the financial services sector. My cases have included claims arising in or relating to breaches of contract, securities claims, debt actions, insolvency-related issues, fraud claims and cross border enforcement as well as breach of confidence disputes. I joined Stewarts in 2008 from the Office of Fair Trading and I qualified in 2010. Eight years later – in 2018 – I was made Partner at the firm.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I had a mental picture of what I wanted to achieve but not a direct written plan for how to get there.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Being state-educated and not knowing any lawyers, I did not have great visibility on how to become a lawyer, which was at the time a fairly exclusive process.

I did a law degree, but on graduating, wasn’t sure law was for me, so I took time out and went travelling. When I came back, I had decided that law was in fact for me, but I was then behind the curve on training contract applications, which were largely two years in advance of start date. I self-funded the legal practice course through significant bank loans which was a very scary gamble.

I was eventually offered a training contract in my hometown of Sussex, but in the meantime got a role as a paralegal in the General Counsel’s office at the then Office of Fair Trading. The nature of the work and the London lifestyle drew me in. I decided to withdraw from my training contract and try again in London, which led me to my successful application to Stewarts and my 15-year career here.  I repaid my loans early!

How did you persevere through the tough times?

With the support of my family and determination that I was going in the right direction.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Aside from my two children, for whom I also have to give my husband some credit, making my partner at eight years qualified without sacrificing my sense of self to achieve it. I am very fortunate to work in an environment where individuals are competitive, but the environment is collegiate. Success is never at anyone else’s expense.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Positive attitude and exceptional organisational skills. I genuinely believe that if you try hard enough you can achieve (almost) anything.

In my younger years, I balanced education and then my career as a junior lawyer with playing premiership and representative rugby. I had to plan every day by the hour in order to accommodate training (on my own and as a team) and work/study. That discipline has helped me to balance my responsibilities to cases, business development, internal management and home life. Whilst I, of course, admit to dropping the ball every now and then (in rugby and in life!), I think that discipline has allowed me to focus and consequently to be successful.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring is very important; both within a working environment and external to it. I have been a mentor through various schemes, including City Solicitors Horizons and Future Frontiers (the involvement with which I led for the firm). I also informally mentor people in my teams and am similarly mentored. I think any mentoring role is an opportunity to have both a useful sounding board and a guiding hand.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Possibly controversially, equal contractual parental leave policies. Where parental leave policies provide for enhanced pay beyond statutory pay (which they all should!) they largely favour the primary care giver (usually the mother). This continues to mean that women take more parental leave then men. That initial period of leave not only means that it is largely women who step out of the workplace but it also perpetuates the (in)balance of responsibilities at home and has a knock on effect when women do return to work.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Just be yourself and you’ll get there. If you try to be someone else, you probably won’t like where you end up.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I have been on maternity leave twice in the last 4 years. I returned to work in December and am now putting my organisational skills to the test! Maternity leave inevitably has an impact on the momentum of your work-life, so my current challenge is rebuilding my contacts and sources of work to help build and expand my commercial litigation team’s work. That will in turn help Stewarts to achieve its growth targets and benefit my own career progression.

I’m also going to learn how to do a handstand.


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