My Story: Natasha Brown, Gowling WLG
Natasha Brown is a Senior Associate in the Real Estate Group at Gowling WLG. In this article, they detail their journey into law and the issues surrounding racial diversity in the profession.
In a few words, provide a brief summary of your career so far.
My route into law was not entirely direct. I completed an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Warwick University in 2008. After graduating I started working in a magistrates' court. Whilst working, I decided to fund myself and study the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) part-time at the University of Law. After completing the GDL I switched to part-time working and completed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) in one year. I secured a training contract straight after completing the LPC and trained with a commercial law firm based in London's West End. On qualification in 2015 I moved to Gowling WLG (Wragge Lawrence Graham at the time) and have been with the firm ever since. I am now a Senior Associate working in the Real Estate team.
At what point in your life did you decide a career in commercial law was the path you wanted to pursue?
Looking back, I always wanted to become a lawyer and all the work experience that I carried out during my school years was at law firms and in legal environments.
Whilst I was studying for the GDL and LPC, I saw more diversity in smaller and high street law firms and this influenced my decision to only apply to smaller law firms. It was not until I carried out commercial property work as part of my training contract that I realised I wanted to become a commercial property lawyer and that I also wanted to work in a larger firm with higher-profile clients. I was then fortunate to secure a newly qualified position at Gowling WLG in a great team where I have been ever since.
Pursuing a career in law is difficult enough without additional hurdles to overcome and barriers to breakdown. Can you please describe the difficulties you encountered, and how you overcame them?
I wouldn't say that I have experienced overt racism at any point in my career, although there have certainly been times when comments have been made (pretty much always unknowingly) that have made me feel uncomfortable.
I have found that the best way to deal with these situations is to have a good support network both at home and at work, and knowing who to discuss your concerns with. Being a member of EmbRACE (our diversity network here at Gowling) has also been great, as you have a ready-made support network.
However, I would say that seeing a lack of diversity in the legal profession was a barrier for me at times. For this reason, I have been supporting the trainee recruitment campaigns at Gowling for the past couple of years attending events, sharing my experiences, and being visible.
How do you think that diversity in the legal profession is improving? And, in your opinion, what steps still need to be made?
Looking back almost 10 years ago to when I was applying for training contracts, it seems to me that quite a lot has changed and continues to change. Law firms have realised how important it is to be representative and there is a real focus on recruiting more diverse candidates. This seems to be having an impact as I see more diversity behind me than ahead of me.
From my perspective, Gowling WLG is also really showing commitment to supporting its black and diverse colleagues in the firm. Our EmbRACE network was established three years ago and is still growing. We have board support and firm-wide engagement which means we have been able to achieve a good amount in the past few years- including establishing internal and external mentoring, holding discussions on matters relating to diversity, and hosting numerous events including ones for black history month.
The adoption by the firm of initiatives like the Halo Code does also go a long way to making colleagues feel more comfortable being their authentic selves.
However, there is still much to be done and in particular, representation really needs to be increased at a more senior level.
Where do you ideally see yourself in the next five years?
I would hope to be continuing to learn, working hard, and progressing with my career, but still with some engagement in diversity initiatives at the firm. Hopefully, there will also be increased diversity across the legal profession.
If you could only give one piece of advice to your 18-year-old self, what would it be?
It may sound cliché, but I would certainly say to have more confidence in myself and my abilities and to not shy away from pursuing my goals. This is something I am still learning now, and it can feel intimidating at times to be a woman and a person of colour working in the legal profession, but it is only really through having confidence in your own voice that you learn it's not actually as difficult as it might seem.
Gowling WLG is a proud supporter of the AllAboutLaw Employability Programme for Black Heritage students.
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