Celebrating International Women's Day - Judith Fitzpatrick gives us an insight into her career in the law
To celebrate International Women’s Day we have an interview with our Director and Family Law Specialist, Judith Fitzpatrick. Judith talks to us about juggling life and career and how the legal profession has changed since she first qualified as a Solicitor.
1. Why did you decide on a career in the law?
When I was completing my “A” Levels at school, my plan was to go to University and study for a Degree in History, with a view to becoming a Teacher. I was the first in my family to go to University and at that time, whilst it is hard to believe it now, a Law Degree was an unusual course to follow. One of my best friends decided to explore studying Law at University and out of interest, I thought I would look into it. I was attracted by the course and I therefore switched from embarking upon a Degree in History, to one in Law. Having re-thought my career choices, I realised that I did not really want to be a Teacher and that the Solicitors profession was a more appealing option for me.
2. Has the Legal profession changed?
Over the years it has. When I first qualified as a Solicitor it was a profession that was dominated by men. Female lawyers were the exception to the rule. The reverse is true now. Working alongside male colleagues, it was often assumed that as a female you were a member of the support team, rather than a Solicitor. It is fair to say that amongst the older members of the profession, there was some prejudice against female lawyers, but for the most part, I did not experience this, finding that if you worked hard and demonstrated that you were conscientious and competent, then you would be able to progress in your career. I did so. Having qualified as a Solicitor after 4 years, I was offered a partnership in the practice.
3. Why choose Family Law?
I trained with a general practice which had offices in Leeds and Bradford. During my training I had the opportunity to work in different fields of law. Fortunately for me, there was an opening in the firm which meant that I could concentrate upon Family Law and to build upon an already established client base. I enjoyed this area of work and therefore this was a chance for me, which was too good to miss. I felt that I was the sort of person who could easily establish a rapport with others. I have always been interested in people and their problems. I considered that I was pragmatic in my approach and yet empathetic to my client’s needs, all of which characteristics I thought made me suitable for the role that I was undertaking.
4. What do you enjoy most about the work?
I get a great sense of satisfaction from helping clients navigate their way through what can often be an extremely emotionally difficult period in their lives when their marriage or relationship breaks down, or they have problems in making arrangements for their children. To have positive feedback at the end of a case is extremely gratifying. Recently one of my clients said “Judith, thank you so much for your help and support throughout this process. We relied on you and our trust was well founded. Your professionalism and expertise were only eclipsed by your compassion and “people skills”. This has been a very difficult time for myself and my family. I am not sure we would have coped had you not been in our corner.” I was thrilled to receive such comments.
5. Are there particular challenges for a solicitor?
I have always been career driven as are many of my colleagues. I was working up until a few days before my daughter was born in 1995 and I was back at work six weeks later. Juggling the demands of a home and the needs of a young child can be challenging and emotionally draining. Having said that, I do not regret any part of it. My daughter is now 23, she has achieved good examination results, she has graduated with an excellent Degree and is now embarking upon a career in management with the NHS. I am so proud when she sometimes expresses the view that she regards me as a good role model for her.
6. What is the the most challenging part of your job?
What can be challenging is combining the role of a Family Law Solicitor and being a Director of RDC Solicitors. Client work always has to come first, but time also has to be expended along with colleagues in managing the business and dealing with the regulatory requirements with which legal practices have to comply.
7. Where do you like to go on holiday?
I have enjoyed a number of holidays in the USA. In particular, I have spent time in Boston and New England area, I have enjoyed trips to California and most recently Washington, Charleston and Hilton Head. I must admit that I do not enjoy long haul flights, but having said that, it is unavoidable and the destinations more than make up for this.
8. What do you do when you are not at work?
Apart from travelling, I enjoy reading, dining out, cooking and entertaining friends. Occasional theatre trips, in particular, to see the ballet are a treat. I am also addicted to watching television soap operas, Coronation Street is my favourite.