This year marks the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which paved the way for women to become lawyers. The First Hundred Years project celebrates the past to shape the future for women in law.
That is why Coodes is putting the spotlight on some of its team members to learn more about their experience in the legal profession.
Sonya Bassett, Partner and Head of Corporate and Commercial, reflects on her career to date.
My Uncle was the only person in my family who had gone to university. I decided to be the first female. I had applied to study History and French and I got into two fantastic universities but they were a long way away from my family. My boyfriend’s mum helped me to submit applications for universities closer to home and also had total faith that I should change to law. Becoming a lawyer was something I always talked of but perhaps did not have the confidence in myself to do at the time.
I will never forget my secondary school history teacher who knew how teenage me ticked so practiced some reverse psychology, saying that I should not bother applying for university. He studied law and my teenage-self thought ‘I will show him!’
My team are absolutely fantastic and loyal. They have a great work ethic and we always have each others’ backs.
Working in Cornwall means that we get to work with clients who have grown their businesses from scratch. They are passionate about what they do and they know the business from the very bottom up. It is an absolute pleasure to work with those clients and watch them flourish and benefit from all their hard work. It is very different to working for the massive corporate and PLCs.
I am inspired by people who ensure that their employees are happy and well. I am a true believer of looking after your employees as individuals with different needs. This naturally flows into a great service for the clients.
My team are the best asset. I also enjoy the flexibility which enables me to work and fit school drop offs into my day. We also have some really lovely clients.
My son will always be what makes me proud every single day.
I was a practicing lawyer in the days where the bosses commented on your bottom and treated you as inferior. I feel that times are changing but there needs to be more women at the top, which would be reflective of the workforce ratio. I also believe that the move towards trusting instinct and intuition are helping in the workplace. The move towards smart working also means that you get the best out of the best people and helps women to perform well at work and give their children the time they deserve.
Trust your instincts. Believe in yourself. Don’t feel you have to behave like a man to get to the top. Things are still changing and you will be there to see it. You can achieve anything you want to with hard work and determination.
Sonya Bassett is a Partner and Head of Corporate and Commercial at Coodes Solicitors.