Pauline Rigby leads Forbes Solicitors’ fast-growing Corporate Law team.
During the past 12 months, she’s overseen deals totalling more than £60 million and is spearheading international investment across the North of England by connecting the region’s companies with businesses around the world.
She’s directly responsible for a team of more than 14 professionals, ranging from trainees to partners, and has also taken on the mantle of Forbes’ training principle. In this role, she fulfils her passion of helping young talent thrive and supporting the ambitions of many women striving for partnership.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
If sitting down and watching films and TV shows counts as planning, then yes, kind of! As a teenager I loved watching crime movies and TV series like Cracker. This inspired a fascination with criminal law and influenced my choices at college, University and the College of Law in York. However, as I learnt about the world of business, my interest quickly shifted from criminal to corporate law.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
One of the biggest challenges was trying to get a training contract right at the start of my career. I looked at the world of law and corporate culture and convinced myself that in interviews I needed to be a “polished professional”. I think some of this may have been trying to prove myself as a young woman, but it was also a case of trying to be a big city hotshot. It inevitably didn’t work in interviews. I was concentrating too hard on maintaining this false projection of perfection, when I should have been focusing more on being myself. I finally realised this and secured a paralegal role at Forbes Solicitors and I’m still enjoying being part of the firm 18 years later.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Apart from, of course, my two beautiful children, it was becoming equity partner and head of the corporate law team in my mid-thirties. I was particularly proud to have achieved this, whilst still striking a healthy work-life balance and raising a family.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Being genuine. After those early trainee interviews when I was trying to be something I wasn’t, I’ve always stayed true to myself. I think this bodes well with clients and colleagues, who prefer a mix of professionalism and personality. Successful business is built on strong relationships and works best when people are truly themselves.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I’ve benefitted from mentoring since the start of my career. It’s not necessarily been a formalised arrangement and has involved the ongoing guidance of supportive senior leaders. I think mentoring is really beneficial for sharing experience in a constructive way, which still allows other people to make the choices that best fit with who they are. In this sense, it helps people to arrive at the decisions and take actions that they genuinely believe in.
I’m now a training principle at Forbes Solicitors and heavily involved in helping bring new trainee talent into the firm and create career paths that enable people to fulfil their ambitions. Forbes has many offices and different specialisms, which creates endless opportunities. Being in a position to help young professionals realise these many different possibilities is a real privilege.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for gender equality, what would it be?
For flexible working not to be a major talking point or consideration for business leaders. Although progress has been made in terms of working practices, I think there’s still a stigma attached to flexible working for mums. Some people view it as a concession, almost as though it’s a favour that’s been extended to help a busy mum out. When we get to a point where people don’t even bat an eyelid that someone isn’t working so-called traditional hours because they have childcare commitments, we’ll be another step closer to gender equality.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Have more self-confidence and believe in who you are.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
A key focus is continuing to grow the team by building on our international links and specialisms. This will create career opportunities for young people right across Lancashire and the North West.
I am also really keen to help open-up the profession to young people who may have troubled backgrounds and who are striving for a second chance. I think there’s many manual professions out there that do a good job of this and there’s no reason why the legal profession can’t follow suit. It will require a shift in attitudes and changing misconceptions, but that’s not impossible.
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