Working in law and owning a business: Our interview with Hannah Williams
We recently caught up with Hannah Williams, Head of Private Client at M&M Solicitors. Not only is she a fabulous Solicitor specialising in Wills and Probate, Hannah is Co-Founder of Spotlight Cardiff - a networking group for business women in Cardiff to meet, network and share common business objectives. We love that!
Hannah deals with clients worldwide and has experience in leading law firms such as Geldards, trained at Dolmans and worked post-qualification at Eversheds!
Hannah has a vast variety of experience under her belt, including following her passion of working in the Arts by establishing a successful Theatre school winning the South Wales' Echo award 'They're in Business!'.
Hannah is also the only Welsh candidate in the running for the Law Society Council's one of 5 "Women Lawyers" roles to represent female lawyers in South Wales; representing returners to work, women who have had a career break, women who want to work part time and in particular, women who require childcare to pursue their careers in law.
Here's how our chat went!
1) What made you decide on a career in law?
So many factors shaped my decision to pursue law. I was of the generation of teens watching Ally McBeal and Legally Blonde came out as I went to uni, we can all be a bit more Elle! My Dad was a Solicitor and I took part in work experience schemes as a teenager that helped me see that this would be a good career that suited my skills. I think the biggest question many would have for me is “why come back to Law?” after I had spent 10 years in the arts. The answer to that is that I genuinely love dealing with people and private client was always a passion of mine. A career in law is really rewarding, there is scope for great progression and we can see the difference we are making in our client’s lives. For me, I felt that my experience after having some non-legal business development opportunities put me in a position where I could return and have the confidence to really make a difference in law and encourage more inclusion and wellbeing.
2) How did your career begin?
I followed the law degree and LPC route and started as a paralegal at Geldards in Cardiff for a year before starting my Training contract, which due to the prior experience was reduced to 18 months. I qualified at age 24 and worked post qualification at Eversheds. However, as I then decided to leave law and start an arts business, you could say that I’ve had to start out again many years later as a returner to Law. As a result I feel I can understand those that enter the career at a young age on a “traditional route” but also those who have followed a different path and joined or returned to Law later on.
3) In your career, have you experienced any set backs due to being female?
I wouldn’t say that I personally have felt being female has set me back individually as I entered the legal profession however society as a whole is certainly still patriarchal in many ways. A particular element of this that has impacted me is that, as a Mum of a young child, the expectation is still on women to be the main care provider and career progression can be effected by that including the cost of childcare and the knock on effect of choosing part time or hybrid working.
4) What does your current role entail?
I am the Head of Private client at M&M Solicitors in Cardiff. The firm has an outstanding reputation in crime and I have joined to develop the private client department. I specialise in wills and probate. We have clients in Cardiff and the surrounding areas but what I have particularly enjoyed about this firm compared to my previous experiences, is the opportunity to deal with clients who have international assets or family. I am enjoying meeting clients on zoom from literally all across the world – Thailand, Dubai, Uganda, Italy, China to name a few recent matters.
5) What exciting plans do you have coming up?
I’m a firm believer of being the change that you want to see. As a result of my experience in the public, private and third sector having taken a career break, I believe that I am a more well rounded person. I sincerely ascribes to the notion of putting people first. An inclusive legal environment needs to be emotionally intelligent and to consider that every Lawyer is “more than”. This has inspired me to apply to be one of the five “women lawyers” on the Law Society Council. I am currently one of 27 nominees and up for elections. Ballots will be sent to Members (those who have identified as female on their LS Account) around 11th August. Members will have until 4pm on Thursday 8 September to vote. I’m really hoping that those who hear from me are prompted to vote for me. Did you know that in 2021 70% of the profession have fewer than 20 years of post-qualification experience? but only 24% of the Law Society Council fell in that category? I really want to represent more junior lawyers in shaping the future of the Law Society, our future. In 2020 only 10% of Solicitors thought that the Law Society "does a good job in promoting their interests". I'd sincerely love to help change that and I’d hope to be representative of Ladies of Law. My InMail is always open to chat! I have spent 20 years teaching children, youth and adults so coaching and investing in young talent is definitely part of my DNA.
6) What would be your piece of advice to aspiring and working women in law?
Be unashamedly you. There are so many paths to working in law, now. Your career progression may or may not take a non direct route but all experience is good experience. All experience, including your “extra curricular” passions and your character will shape the type of lawyer that you will be and how you will best help your clients and Team. There’s no cookie cutter shape you should feel constrained by!
We are so inspired by Hannah's journey and love her passion for empowering women in law. We wish her all the best the future and in particular, running for one of The Law Society Council's Women Lawyers!
If you do not receive voting details regarding voting for “women lawyers” on the Law Society Council and feel that you are eligible to vote, you can contact the following e-mail address: email@example.com to request a voting ballot. Please note it is advisable to make these requests by Thursday 1 September as this will allow them time to check eligibility before they can request for ballots to be sent to members via Civica.