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Kayleigh Leonie

Law Society Council member, Kayleigh Leonie, shares her insight as part of our Women in Law campaign.

"Kayleigh Leonie
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I found having a mentor extremely valuable and would encourage any young women entering the profession to try to find themselves a senior female mentor.

Kayleigh Leonie, Law Society Council member
Howard Kennedy

Tell me about your career path, and how you got to your current position

When I was at secondary school my dad used to drive me home and we used to sit listening to Radio 4 together. I absolutely loved listening to what was happening in the news and hearing the political debates. For me the best political debates related to the legal system and developments in the law. I distinctly remember one very interesting discussion about Lord Denning and, despite not having any family members in the legal profession in law or any having gone to university, I aspired to be a solicitor.

I decided whilst studying my law degree at university that I wanted to be an employment lawyer. I trained at a High Street firm in Brighton before moving to a regional firm in Kent when I qualified. I have since been working for firms in the City and, more recently, have joined a start-up law firm with two former City partners where I work as a full-time employment lawyer.

What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?

When I was studying for my law degree I thought finding a training contract would be impossible so I signed up to start my accountancy exams with a global accountancy firm. A friend challenged me on my decision not to at least try and so I changed my career path, found a job as a legal assistant and began applying for training contracts. I was very fortunate to secure one at a firm in Brighton where I had studied law. On qualification I found it very challenging in a difficult market to find an employment role and had to relocate from Brighton in order to be able to specialise into the area I wanted to.

You have been a champion of wellbeing in the legal profession – what has inspired your passion in this area?

I was seconded into the employee relations team of a global accountancy firm for six months in 2016 in which I supported the firm’s employees experiencing physical and mental health conditions. That experience led to me to want to support junior lawyers with mental health issues and to help those experiencing high levels of stress at work. As part of my role as a Council Member of The Law Society of England and Wales representing junior lawyers, I have undertaken research into the levels of stress and mental ill-health experienced by junior lawyers. Based on the results of this research, I produced best practice guidance, on behalf of the Junior Lawyers Division, for employers aimed at supporting resilience and wellbeing in the workplace. I have since co-hosted three roundtable events for law firms to share their wellbeing strategies to help break down the stigma surrounding mental health in the legal profession.

What has been your proudest achievement personally and/or professionally?

Qualifying as a solicitor and attending my admissions ceremony with my family in 2012 was my proudest professional achievement. Last year I was awarded a Rising Star in Law Award by WeAreTheCity for the work I have been doing to support the legal profession and junior lawyers in relation to mental health and wellbeing. It was overwhelming that a senior female lawyer I look up to had taken the time to nominate me for the award and I was extremely proud to be shortlisted and then win the award.

What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

I love being a lawyer and I am passionate about trying to instigate change in culture in the legal profession for the next generation of aspiring lawyers. I find it extremely rewarding when junior lawyers thank me for the work I am doing and when firms tell me that they have been using my guidance to plan the wellbeing strategy for their organisation. It is great to know that the work I am doing is having a positive impact on the legal profession.

Have you got any advice for young women entering the legal profession?

My advice to young women would be: don’t be too hard on yourself, be persistent and try to remain positive. We all encounter set-backs throughout our careers but knowing how to learn from them will mean you can succeed with your legal career.

I became involved with The Law Society at a very early stage in my legal career when I was trainee being a founding member of the Sussex Junior Lawyers Division. I have since sat on the Executive Committee of the National Junior Lawyers Division, a Committee Member of the Women Lawyers Division and on the Law Society’s Employment Law Committee. Getting involved with professionals networks is an excellent way to develop your networking skills, share your experiences with your peers, build your legal network and it will boost your confidence. I would recommend finding something you are passionate about, whether it relates to law or not, to build your network and enhance your skillset.

I was very fortunate to take part in The Law Society’s mentoring scheme and really benefitted from having a senior female mentor guiding me through an early stage in my career when I transitioned from a firm in Kent to work in London. I found having a mentor extremely valuable and would encourage any young women entering the profession to try to find themselves a senior female mentor.

Who would be your female inspiration, either within or outside the legal industry?

It would have to be Lady Hale. As the first female president of the Supreme Court she has previously served as a high court judge, a lady justice of appeal and a lord of appeal in ordinary. She is an incredible lady who is passionate about the law and is a real inspiration to me.

What's next for you? What ambitions are you still aiming to fulfil?

I want to continue to drive firms to put the wellbeing of their staff at the top of their agendas. I have recently been appointed as a Trustee of LawCare, a charity which provides a free confidential helpline to those in the legal profession and their families along with a website packed full of factsheets and resources. I hope that through this I will be able to continue to support lawyers across the legal profession.


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