HerStory 9 - Joanne Radcliff @ Brabners LLP
This week's episode in the HerStory series is a little different. Instead of owning her own business or side hustle, like in previous episodes; she's worked to the top of her field having just been made partner in her firm. Let me introduce Joanne Radcliff, from Brabners LLP in Manchester.
Hey Joanne! Thank you so much for joining me. Do you want to start by telling me about what you do...
"I am a Partner at Brabners LLP, a North West law firm with offices in Liverpool, Manchester and Preston.
I am a specialist in family law and have particular experience advising clients through divorce and separation, particularly those with significant and complex assets. I also regularly work with clients preparing pre-nuptial and cohabitation agreements."
That sounds so interesting and ridiculously impressive! Is the legal career what you've always pursued?
"Yes, I moved to Manchester to become a lawyer after university and am proud to have dedicated the last 12 years to my legal career. I started out as a Trainee Solicitor in 2006 and qualified in 2008. Over the years that have followed I have progressed from Solicitor, to Associate Solicitor, Senior Associate Solicitor, and then to Partner in May 2018."
HUGE CONGRATULATIONS on becoming partner! That's incredible! What an impressive and dedicated career path; and what a journey! Have you always known you wanted to do law?
"My interest in law began at a young age, when I was at Sixth Form College and joined the college debating team. I represented my college in a number of public speaking and debating competitions. At the age of 17 I won the award for Young British Female Public Speaker of the year in a national competition run by the Business and Professional Women UK organisation.
During that time I found that I had a flair for constructing an argument and for presenting it with effectiveness, which I knew would be strong qualities for a lawyer. I must also confess that I watched a lot of ‘Ally McBeal’ and ‘This Life’ in the late 90s and decided the glamorous seeming life of a lawyer was something to aspire to."
Sounds like you were made for this. And you can't beat a bit of TV influence, although I hope you've managed to steer clear of the creepy dancing baby!
The world of legal is so competitive and ruthless, what would you say is your biggest driver?
"I have always been ambitious and this propelled me through my academic studies and continues to in my work. I want to be successful and well regarded in my field and within my firm. This is a constant motivator."
With drive and ambition, often comes long hours, and stress. How do you manage to stay on top of your self care and well-being around your career?
"I am a big believer in taking time out for yourself and stepping away from the emails from time to time; whether that is for a few hours in the evening or for a holiday. We all need to be able to switch off from work. I have also found that exercise is a great stress reliever and as a result make sure I always find the time to get to the gym."
Switching off and having 'me-time'; whatever that might be is so important. Being able to channel that into exercise is an amazing way to handle it; something I'm really struggling to make a part of my self care routine at the moment.
You've talked about all of your successes and promotions over the last 12 years. But nothing like that comes easy. What would you say has been the biggest struggle or difficulty you've had to overcome?
"I went to a struggling comprehensive in a deprived area, which had wonderfully dedicated teachers, but suffered from under-funding and difficulties such as violence, truancy, bullying, substance abuse and sexual assaults. On average only about 20% of the pupils left with 5 GCSEs at C grade or above.
I never believed that my background should determine my future (nor should it for any student). I was fortunate to be surrounded my teachers, family and friends who supported me to achieve in extremely challenging circumstances."
WOW! To be able to come through that adversity right at the beginning to where you are now is so inspirational. It really does prove that it's all about what you make of a situation and your background doesn't determine your life if you want something hard enough.
You've had a lot of successes and big achievement over the 12 years, but what's your proudest moment so far?
"I genuinely struggle to pick just one moment. In 2015 I was ranked for the first time as a ‘Star Associate’ by Chambers and Partners (the guide to the leading lawyers in the UK), which was a real honour. I still getting a thrill each year when the rankings come out and I see my name.
More recently in 2018 I was elected onto the National Committee of Resolution, an organisation which represents thousands of family lawyers and other professionals across the country. In that role I am able to be at the forefront of an incredible organisation lobbying the government for changes to the law, and support other professionals to work in a way which helps families find constructive solutions to any disputes. Being elected by other family lawyers across the country into that role made me extremely proud."
That's incredible - to be recognised by peers within your field. I'm in awe! You've got to such a successful point in your career already - but do you have any goals or vision for the future? What's your end game? Is there anything left?
"I had always dreamt of becoming a Partner in a law firm by the age of 35, and I made it (just!). In my role I now intend to help Brabners in its ambitions for growth and lead the family law team in Manchester so it goes from strength to strength."
To have achieved SO much, so young is incredible. You should be really proud of yourself. Looking back, is there one bit of advice you wish you'd had before you started in this industry, that might have made the journey a bit easier?
"Rejection hurts, but you will survive it and become stronger as a result.
When I secured my training contract I was one of eight candidates to be given jobs out of 1,500 applicants. However, before that there were more rejections than I can count. What I came to realise is that a rejection doesn’t reflect on your abilities and is a chance to learn and improve."
Rejection is something we all come across in our careers one way or another, but it's very rarely discussed how it feels or how to handle it. Thank you for bringing it up; and I love your ability to spin it into an opportunity for development.
Now you've reached this point of success and achievement - is there one bit of advice you'd give to someone else thinking about getting into the legal world?
"Life is too short to spend it doing something you aren’t passionate about. Being a lawyer is demanding and challenging, but it will be incredibly rewarding if you enjoy it and have a real interest in the work."
Amazing advice and something that could be applied to most industries I think.
Final question...or the HerStory playlist - what's your go-to song to put on and get you super ready for the day?
"Just a Girl by No Doubt always gets me awake and raring to take on the world."
Cracking song! Thank you so much for your time Joanne, it's been great chatting to you.