Our Women in Law Wednesday this week is Cheryl Liddell. Cheryl studied Law at GCU and was also the Student Director of the Law Clinic in her 4thyear. Now that she has completed her diploma and is embarking on her traineeship, we caught up with her so that we could find out where she is now, get some advice for those following the same path as her and ask her opinion on the ‘women in law’ project..
We started by asking her the – rather generic – question, what inspired you to choose law? Cheryl replied with a rather generic (her words) answer, saying that law had always seemed really interesting on TV programmes. She explained that no one in her family had ever been to University so she didn’t have anyone to talk to who had done law, so she decided to go to college for two years first. She admitted that she enjoyed it so much more than she thought she would, so decided to progress into the LLB at GCU. Due to the two years she spent at college, she felt this gave her a helpful start in 1st year as she had covered a lot of the content already. Third year was where it started to get harder for her (as we all know too well).
Talking more about her time at GCU, Cheryl mentioned two of the GCU Law lecturers, Claire McFadzean and Alison Britton. She had worked with Claire through the Law Clinic and found her move from private practice to academia inspiring as a law student, similarly with Alison’s involvement with the Scottish Government, taking seminars and mountain climbing feats.
Moving on to her involvement with the Law Clinic, Cheryl explains that she was involved with the Law Clinic from 1styear. She stressed the importance of this involvement from the start of her degree throughout her interview, and encourages future managers to make sure that they are making 1st year students feel valued and involved. Talking of her achievements in the clinic, Cheryl explains that while she was student director the Law Clinic started to get recognised in the wider community and began to win awards. She attributes this to past managers as well. She also explains that she went to court once when volunteering at the Law Clinic, which as well as being an achievement at the time is also helping her with the litigation side of her traineeship now.
Moving on to where she is now, Cheryl explains that she is doing in house traineeship at Arnold Clark, which she is really enjoying. It is different from traditional traineeships in the sense that you do not get given seats, you are essentially there for any legal need that the company has. Anyone can come round and ask you a question. There is not the same hierarchy that there is in private practice, people from other departments will ask you for the same help whether you are a trainee or not. While she explains this can be a good thing, it can also be challenging as there are not as many people to ask for advice as in private practice. If someone chooses to come to her with her problem, which can be to do with a large range of legal issues, it is her responsibility to handle it.
Discussing her journey into her traineeship, Cheryl explains that she did not specifically choose to go in house. She began at Arnold Clark as a legal advisor, after a couple of months her boss offered her a traineeship. A good point to note for anyone who is feeling stressed about going into the diploma without a traineeship.
We then moved on to chat more about ‘women in law’. We asked her if she had ever felt disadvantaged as a woman in law, or alternatively, motivated. She explains that, although it is not a direct disadvantage to her, it is strange to go from the degree where classes are 80% female, to having 1 female to 10 males in practice. It is a stark difference and she wonders where everyone went. She definitely finds that being a woman motivates her. She wants to support the other women that she knows in the profession, explaining that, for example, if a job came up she would be more likely to send it to her female friends.
Finally, the question we ask every week, what does being a women in law mean to you? ‘It shows the development of how far women have come in law. So this project is obviously to commemorate the first 100 years of women entering the legal profession. The fact that when you look around the classroom that there can be 90% females, when 100 years ago we wouldn’t even be able to enter the profession. Now we have figures like Lady Hale. It shows society’s progression and their support of females in more extensive ways allowing them to do things that were once perceived as strictly ‘male jobs.’
Thank you to Cheryl for meeting us and getting involved with the project!