From overcoming the challenges of being a working mother, to the benefits of wearing a stand-out colour to make an impact at conferences; Litigation Partner, Clarissa Coleman shares her experiences of working in a male-dominated profession and how in recent years, she’s seen the industry positively change and offer more equal opportunities for female lawyers.
Could you give us a brief history of your career and tell us how you came to your current role of Litigation Partner at Addleshaw Goddard?
I joined Clifford Chance in 1998 as a trainee solicitor and qualified into their Litigation Department in 2000. As a large, the London-based international law firm was a great place to learn and get involved in high-value, complex work.
In 2009, I moved in-house to work for Consensus Business Group as Head of Litigation, reporting to billionaire property entrepreneur, Vincent Tchenguiz. In my two years in the role, I worked on some high profile cases including a claim against Kaupthing Bank and a judicial review against the Serious Fraud Office. I was also involved in one of the leading Court of Appeal cases on privacy.
In 2011, I moved to Addleshaw Goddard as a Litigation Partner.
For those of us that are unsure, would you mind briefly summing up what the role of ‘Litigation Partner’ entails?
My role as a Litigation Partner is to act as a trusted adviser to clients that are seeking to resolve commercial disputes or deal with regulatory investigations. I help my clients evaluate their legal position and determine the most effective action to take.
The legal profession is traditionally a male-dominated one; has this posed any challenges in your career?
When I was a junior lawyer and started a family, I think some male colleagues mistakenly assumed that this meant I did not have serious career aspirations. Fortunately, in the last 10 – 15 years, attitudes have changed and the profession has got much better at encouraging, supporting and promoting working mothers.
As a senior woman in law, do you have any advice for women who want to work in a similar field?
Most importantly, you have got to enjoy what you do. For me, litigation is intellectually stimulating and I get to work with some very smart people on challenging and complicated problems. Find a good mentor in your field who you can give you sensible advice and guidance. If you have young children, make sure you have reliable childcare.
“Enjoy yourself and make the most of every opportunity you can. Lawyers are inclined to look at risks rather than the rewards of a situation. The unlikeliest thing can change your story in a positive way.”
What advice would you give to your younger self when you were starting out in law that you wish you’d have known?
What you know and who you know are both really important. It’s never too early to start building a network and learning how to market your skills.
Who would you consider a significant role model for you and why?
As a child, Margaret Thatcher was inspirational. I was only 5 years old when she became the first female PM and she proved that women could be at the very top of the career ladder in a male-dominated world.
What are some of the ways you take time out of your busy schedule and unwind from work?
I try to work out at least 3 times a week. I love boxing, it’s a fun way to let off steam. I play lots of board games with my husband and children at the weekends and I read a lot of books.
“When I attend a conference, I try to wear colour so that I can stand out from all the black suits.”
As a woman in business, how important is it to dress well for work?
I think it is essential. The first impression people have of you is how you are dressed; you need to look the part.
What are your ultimate workwear wardrobe staples?
A black dress and jacket, a pearl necklace and pair of heels. I’m a strong believer in investing in a few high quality items each season. I’ve got pieces from 2000 that still look good and fit well!
And finally, what are your favourite pieces from The Fold’s AW16 collection?
The Le Marais Peplum suit and pinstripe Eaton dress. I love the quality of the tailoring on these pieces and the peplum is a nice twist on a formal suit.
Photography: Kylie Eyra
Accessories: Clarissa’s Own
Shop Clarissa’s Favourites