Interview with Helen Watson, Head of Employment Law at Aaron and Partners Solicitors

Posted in Interviews on 18 Oct 2018

Tell us a bit about yourself Helen

I’m Head of Employment Law and an Owning Partner at Aaron & Partners LLP, as well as mum to Kai age 12. I am a Chairman and Ambassador of Claire House Children’s Hospice based on the Wirral and Liverpool and an active fundraiser for this charity and several others. I am also an Ambassador of the North Wales Institute of Directors.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in the legal sector?

I always wanted to be a lawyer from the age of four, believe it or not! However, I decided not to study law and instead opted to do a degree in Criminology and French at Keele University, spending a year of the course in Corsica.  After I got the taste for mooting at University, I did several work experience placements with different law firms then went on to do my Masters in Employment Law and completed Higher Rights of Audience after that.  I qualified into Employment Law and that’s been my specialist area of law for the last 20 years. 

Tell us about your role

My role is extremely varied and absolutely no day is the same, which I really love. I go from practicing employment law one minute to supervising and mentoring the next. I manage a team of 12 and as an owner of the business I play a strategic role in the direction and preparation of business plans for the firm.  I’m also a workplace investigator and mediator and regularly appear in the tribunals, as well as being an expert speaker at events.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

So many things; solving problems in a commercial and pragmatic way, working with a variety of different people, managing and mentoring my team, and strategic development. The job is so varied that there is something different to enjoy most days of the week and as employment law changes so rapidly it is definitely the most interesting area of law to practice in!

What’s the most challenging element of your job? / Have you faced any crossroads in your career so far and if so how did you manage that?

I think this job presents so many challenges which adds to the excitement and passion I have for Employment law. Potentially the biggest issue at the moment is Brexit and what the impact of that might be for UK Employment law and business generally…we can only hazard a guess at the present time, which of course adds to the uncertainty.

It’s definitely tricky juggling trying to be a great single mum with being a great lawyer and business owner. This is a challenge that women in particular still face when they are driven to succeed in big careers, but also want to devote time and abilities to being the best mums they can be.  With the help of a very supportive family and firm I feel I have successfully combined the two (perhaps with the odd one or two moments of juggling along the way!!)

So far what has been your career highlight?

There are so many to choose from! Being given the opportunity to become an owning partner of Aaron & Partners LLP was certainly one of my highlights, and winning my first tribunal case age 22 was a day I will never forget either.

Who or what has had the biggest influence on your professional career so far?

My biggest influence has undoubtedly been my mum, who having raised and supported me on her own then set me off on my way to University, supported me through the trials and tribulations of law finals and most importantly has played such a huge part in my son’s life enabling me to manage being a single mum whilst also giving the very best to my career.

What do you think the emerging skills are which will best equip lawyers for the future?

Undoubtedly IT skills, it is constantly evolving and it amazes me how IT advanced and capable new lawyers coming into the profession are.  Their bigger difficulties are going to be soft skills and people/client management which can’t be taught on a computer.

Do you have any advice for new trainees or paralegals beginning a career in law?

Get plenty of different types of work experience, get involved in charity work and make sure you have seen some of the world and gained those invaluable life experiences.

What do you believe women in law can be doing to support the next generation of female lawyers?

Mentoring is a good way of supporting and challenging these ladies to be the best they can possibly be.  Women tend to lack the self-confidence men have so it’s important for professional women to have a ‘go to’ for support.  I try to lead by example and show the up and coming females in the firm that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to.

What could you see yourself being or doing if you had not pursued a career in the legal sector?

Definitely something related to health and wellbeing which I practice through sport and nutrition and feel passionate about.

What do you do to relax outside the office?

I love quality time with my son and like to balance this and work with exercise, as it’s important to strike the balance of ‘you time’. I’m a qualified fitness instructor and personal trainer so spend a lot of time training in the gym, cycling and running both for personal enjoyment and to challenge myself personally as well as for charity fundraising. I’ve run the London marathon twice along with 82 half marathons and I have cycled parts of India, Cuba, Brazil, Vietnam and Cambodia. My next charity challenge is a bike ride from Milan to Venice next year. I also love long walks on the beach and climbing in the hills, it makes you properly appreciate what life is all about.

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