To mark international women’s day in March, RedLaw interviewed one of the very few female Chairmen of a London law firm, Memery Crystal’s Lesley Gregory. She talks about the challenges she faced in a “macho culture” and the juggling act faced by female lawyers to find that important balance of home and office life and career progression.
Tell us about Memery Crystal? What makes you unique?
What makes Memery Crystal unique are our people. Our intelligent, tailored approach makes us a more attractive proposition than the ‘one size fits all’ service offered by other law firms. We’re smart people; and not just academically. Intelligence for us means we’re more commercial, more agile, more adept at spotting opportunities. It means we can think laterally and not just from precedents. That means our clients get a better, more tailored service.
What three main attributes/personal qualities do you always look for when hiring a lawyer to join Memery Crystal?
Common sense; strong inter-personal skills; ability to work hard.
You have led Memery Crystal through a number of successful years whilst other larger law firms have struggled. What would you attribute this ongoing success to?
At Memery Crystal we try and encourage a collegiate partnership structure; not an “eat what you kill” remuneration structure. As such partners are rewarded for sharing clients and introducing other departments to their clients; they become clients of the firm rather than of an individual.
As well as being included in the ’Hot 100’ list and ‘Legal Business Woman of the Year’ awards, you are one of the very few female Chairmen of a London law firm. What challenges have you faced being a senior woman in the law?
This is true and as a corporate lawyer I am used to being in a minority. I have learnt to stand up to “macho culture” but not in an aggressive way. Use persuasive skills rather than confrontation – it gets a better result!
It can be a very “clubby” environment if clients and other advisers are predominately male therefore we have to break down the barriers. Always show a sense of humour and remain personable.
As you may know there are a higher number of female lawyers qualifying than make partner. Often women lawyers have children and there isn’t a route back or career progression with part time working or flexible working. What advice would you give to other female lawyers in law firms about juggling home and office life and career progression?
It is hard and is a balance for every individual at any stage in their career as it is not always possible straight away. In my experience, I advanced my career as far as possible before having children. Once you have this experience behind you, the firm will be more inclined to see your value to them and offer agile or flexible working if you want to return to work.
Also it is important to find a senior lawyer to act as mentor throughout your career. The mentor can be male or female but it is invaluable for young lawyers and we ensure all our young lawyers who want a mentor are allocated a partner to mentor them.
What does the future hold for Memery Crystal?
We’re committed to helping our clients with the challenges and opportunities that their businesses face. In the ever-changing legal landscape with a number of recent mergers, a pioneering, flexible, problem-solving attitude is crucial. We are a proudly independent law firm and at Memery Crystal, our entrepreneurial vision and global outlook have never been more important. We look forward to growing the firm and attracting more skilled, entrepreneurial lawyers to join us and continuing to deliver excellent service to our clients.