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From me to you: Tanya Shillingford celebrates International Women's Day 2021

Tanya Shillingford joined Goodman Derrick as a trainee in 1991, became a partner in 2000 and is the head of the firm’s corporate team.  She specialises in corporate transactions, general corporate advice, LLPs (including LLP firm mergers) and also provides commercial and corporate advice including to media related clients, including the British Board of Film Classification and ITV.  Tanya is also an Ambassador for Women on Boards, a really great organisation which promotes and supports women to achieve company board roles, and we have been delighted to support Women on Boards for the last 9 years.

Q&A

What inspired you to become a lawyer? And where did you find personal drive to commit to the study and a life of learning and advising?  

I have to admit that I am not one of those who had a burning ambition to be a lawyer from a young age!  However with a barrister father and heated debates around the dinner table arguing my case about the issues of the day, a career in the law seemed like a natural progression.  On one memorable occasion I was required to give 3 good reasons why I needed my ears pieced at the age of 13!  My work ethic probably started with my parents too, but I also have a competitive streak and a desire to do any job well.    

Let’s be honest, the profession can be tough and the recent pandemic has made some things even tougher, have you found resilience hard to come by? You have probably surprised yourself too…  

I think we have all surprised ourselves by our resilience during the pandemic.  At Christmas I saw a newspaper article headed “The Lost Year”, but I don’t entirely agree.  I think we’ve found out a lot about ourselves and our resilience and adaptability in hard times, times that we could never have imagined.  But the one (only?) stand out positive of lockdown for me is how quickly we adapted to working from home.  While we won’t all want to do this for ever I think it has shown beyond doubt that home working and flexible working can work very effectively.  This must be good news for working mothers (and fathers) and anyone else who wants some flexibility in their working lives.          

If you were to advise the young woman that walked through the door for your first work experience job, what would you say?   

Learn as much as you can and soak it all up like a sponge!  Life as a lawyer is one of constantly learning new things as the law develops.  And don’t dismiss out of hand an area of law that isn’t currently appealing to you.  Law in practice can be very different to what you learn on a law degree or at law school.  I studied company law at university and hated it!  But seeing it work in practice really changed my mind and I’ve now been practising in this area for 28 years.       

And finally do you have any advice for the young lawyers starting out today, have things truly changed? 

Well, when I was a young lawyer in the 1990s I wore my first trouser suit to work and one of the then partners said “Tanya, why are you dressed as a chap?”  I would also go to client/lawyer meetings and almost always be the only woman in the room, and so that has massively changed, in a good way.  Of our associates at Goodman Derrick 64% are women and 35% of our partners are women too.   As for advice, take time to get to know your clients and their businesses, and to earn their trust in your advice.  Meetings/telephone/Zoom calls are great for this rather than exclusively exchanging emails.  Also learn from your colleagues, both in your chosen area of law and others.  Often a solution to a legal problem/issue can be as much about tactics and approach as the black letter law.      

From me to you: Goodman Derrick’s female lawyers celebrate International Women’s Day

Goodman Derrick are celebrating International Women’s Day with a series of interviews with senior associates and partners.

Reflecting upon a career in law, Goodman Derrick’ senior associates and partners have shared their early career stories and their experiences of working through the pandemic, providing guidance for the younger generation at the start of their careers.

Our lawyers’ interviews are available to read by clicking here.

Goodman Derrick LLP

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