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A new LexisNexis series, A day in the legal life—Women in the law meets some of the most influential and inspiring women in the legal industry and asks them to share their professional successes, day to day work and most memorable career moments. This week we get an insight into the life of a young associate at Bird & Bird LLP, and winner of the Inspirational Women in Law, Under 35 Lawyer of the Year Award 2018, Rachel Welch-Phillips.
groan. I am not a morning person and never have been. As such I have always made a promise to myself that whatever I am dragging myself out of bed for in the morning must be satisfying, enjoyable and ultimately serve a greater purpose. I am currently an associate at Bird & Bird LLP working in the Aviation Finance department. My day to day involves keeping planes in the air by assisting airlines with the leasing and financing of aircraft, as well as advising on how the industry can do better from an environmental perspective. Before becoming a lawyer, I was an environmentalist—I hold two degrees in Environmental Policy and have always had a passion for integrating into industry and helping them to be better corporate citizens.
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, raised in Caracas Venezuela and educated in the USA and Brazil, I never thought I would end up a city lawyer in London, and my route here is not a traditional one. I came to the UK to read MPhil Environmental Policy at Cambridge, following which I began working in London as an environmentalist. I worked with many lawyers during my first couple years in industry and found the job quite appealing. I undertook the completion of the LLB part time while working full time and realised that this was the field for me. I then applied directly for training contracts (not knowing what a vacation scheme was or that I should even apply for one!) as one of my Cambridge professors had once told me that was how one became a lawyer in the UK. Despite my ignorance of the general process, fortunately, my application fell into the right hands and I found my home at Bird & Bird.
This would have to be the moment I was nominated for and ultimately won the Inspirational Women in Law, Under 35 Lawyer of the Year Award. It was an honour to be recognised by First 100 Years, an inspirational institution that is doing exceptional work to recognise the female contribution to the legal profession. I am actively involved in BAME and gender advancement within the workplace and was honoured to have my contribution recognised. Easily my most memorable career moment to date!
Sometimes it feels like you stand out like a sore thumb, and other times it feels like there is really no difference. I work in a small team where I am the only female associate and there are no female partners, but I am fortunate enough that within my team I have never really felt my gender impact on my treatment in the workplace. However, there is a lot to be said for female mentorship and sponsorship—I would say that is what I yearn for the most within my department, and I often wonder how different my experience would be if I had it.
I don’t think any day is really typical! As a small team, there is a wide variety of work that crosses my desk and the subject matter will vary from carbon emissions verification advice to structuring complex security arrangements for aircraft financing. The typical parts are the more practical elements: I have breakfast in my firm’s delicious in-house canteen, then I am sat at my desk typing ferociously until my rumbling tummy tells me to go for lunch, following which the ferocious typing continues unless interrupted by a meeting or a call.
The law is wide and bountiful—find the area of law that makes you tingle with excitement and pursue that passion. At the risk of sounding like a Marie Kondo wannabe, the truth is there is nothing worse than dragging yourself out of bed for a day’s work that will bring you no joy.
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