One memorable instance early on was when I had the opportunity to shadow an inspiring female District Judge at the Central Family Court in High Holborn. Her cases coming through the court system were so varied and personal that I knew if I were to qualify as a solicitor, I would want to specialise in a discipline that still retains its intrinsic connection with real people during turbulent times in their lives.
As a young female lawyer, one challenge I’ll never forget was when I did my seat in the Criminal Department. A particular ‘baptism of fire’ was when I travelled alone to Belmarsh and Wormwood Scrub prisons and had to take witness statements from a group of rowdy people smugglers. Whilst outside of my comfort zone, this experience helped shape my legal training, grow my confidence and better understand how to operate as a female lawyer in a very male dominated environment.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to have key role models shape my career, and thus far the majority have been female. In many ways, family law is unique as it has higher representation of female Partners in comparison to other areas of the law. I have had the privilege to work with one particular female Partner who has been a true mentor and someone I respect. She has given me an insight into how to manage successful client relationships, trusted me to work alongside her in key cases and inspired me to want to have a seat at the decision-making table. I strongly feel that mentorship is incredibly important and should continue to be prioritised.
Having recently become a mother I appreciate how difficult it can be juggling home life with the pressure and stress that invariably is part of a family lawyer’s life. And whilst I am excited to return to work full time this summer, it would be disingenuous for me to say I am not slightly apprehensive as well. I feel for many women because the return back to work can be a nerve wracking experience that our male counterparts don’t undertake. Juggling motherhood and a professional career is not easy but many firms have now become more flexible and fortunately I know that many women in our field succeed and thrive in this great profession.
So this month, when celebrating International Women’s Day, I would like to say a massive thank-you to all the female lawyers who have helped me on my journey.
Alexie Bonavia is an Associate Solicitor at Family Law in Partnership Ltd (FLIP).