Sally Penni is an Award Winning Practicing Barrister and experienced Non-Executive Director of various boards. She is the founder of women in the Law and Business UK, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a companion of the Chartered Management Institute.
We spoke with Sally about women in the law, how she gets attention in the courtroom and her tips when it comes to attending interviews.
Why did you choose a career in Law?
I love being an advocate and using the law as a tool to help people and companies. I was hooked on Rumpole of the Bailey, this was legal drama before LA Law, Suits, Silk and others.
How do you make people pay attention to you in the courtroom?
That is difficult to answer because it depends on who the tribunal is. In the criminal courts it's the Jury and in a fraud case, a cybercrime case or a data protection breach case it's the jury and judge. I always speak clearly and avoid shouting, which is necessary for the art of persuasion.
What do you most enjoy about your non-executive director role?
I enjoy the variety of working on different boards such as housing boards, where I can add my governance and legal knowledge. I enjoy working at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester as I love the diversity and the breadth of work we are trying to bring to a traditional theatre. As the Founder and Chair of Women in the Law UK I love keynote speaking and the monthly seminars we have. Our aim is to offer women professional development opportunities so more can progress into leadership roles in the Law. Roles like becoming Partners, equity partners, QC and Judiciary, ultimately improving the retention of female returners to work.
What can people gain joining Women in The Law UK?
You can gain by learning from a range of speakers in the profession. The events provide a cross-sector selection of personal development events. We also run some purely 'for fun' events like our Pkiels and Hobbs event and the Maxine Peake events.
Do you think this is a good time for more women to get into law?
Yes. I am a positive person with a positive outlook so I would say that! There are more women entering the profession than ever. However, we know the numbers in decision-making positions are still low. The development of cybersecurity and data protection law is an exciting time at present. I do a lot of this work in the employment arena under the criminal angle of data protection breaches. I am co-writing a book so I think it a good time to get into law.
How can Law benefit from becoming more diverse?
There would be many benefits in diversity. I think we are a traditional profession. I wear a wig in court and we are steeped in history which is great. However, the world has changed and we need to adapt and diversify. A more diversified profession allows for a more interesting case, the development of the law and those who use the law.
Can you tell us about one of your greatest achievements in your career?
Gosh, this is a hard one. I think it was a case where I did pro bono when I started as a Barrister. I appealed a decision and got compensation for a young vulnerable girl and her grandmother. She had learning difficulties among other problems. She and her grandmother were so delighted with the award and I realised the difference the law could make to individuals. She wrote to me years later to thank me, her grandmother had passed away but she was doing well. Managing to work with three children and a husband is also a great achievement for me, my children inspire me every day and my achievements are their achievements too.
What career advice do you wish you could give to your younger self?
Resilience is a big one and something I admire in one of my hero's, JK Rowling.
Taking more time to enjoy the little things in life.
Give back more and also remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint in this job so don’t rush, but make the most of opportunities because life is short!
Do you have any tips for our candidates when it comes to attending interviews? This could be a relaxation technique, a preparation technique or anything else you can think of.
The best interview techniques I would suggest are;
Preparation - prepare well
If you are nervous, fake it till you make it. Take a deep breath before you go in. I use a yoga breathing technique, then bring your A game.
Listen and Learn to Shut Up
Candidates can keep talking and talking you may miss the real question being asked. This can be due to nerves but listening is equally important. Prepare yourself for any weak areas you may have and think of the most difficult question you could be asked and be prepared with an answer.
Be yourself you can only be you
Only you can give your best shot.
Reflect and see what you could have done better. I hope this helps.
Follow Sally on Twitter - @sallypenni1
And follow Women in the Law on Twitter here - @womeninthelawuk