Women in Business: We Talk to Jennifer McNeil Partner at Dodds Solicitors
For our Spring issue of Dluxe Leicestershire, we talk to Jennifer McNeil, Partner at Dodds Solictors about life, her career, her aspirations and what it takes to make it in field of family law.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
Originally growing up in Derbyshire, I moved to Leicester to study Law & Psychology at De Montfort Uni. I am married with a daughter and a very boisterous cat! I first started at Dodds in 2006 and went off for a few years at another firm for a different perspective. Happily, I returned to my Dodds family in 2017 and haven’t looked back.
Have you always wanted to work in law?
Yes, aside from a few failed attempts at waitressing and pouring pints whilst at uni!
How did you decide to specialise in Family law?
A friend of mine, who was training to be a barrister, suggested I do some work experience at Dodds and it just so happened that one of their biggest departments was family law which is where I started out. I realised quite early on that this was my preference.
What are the key challenges in your job?
The Court service is drowning in cases to process, with all parties wanting their time in court and to be heard fairly. This can create delays which is frustrating for clients.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
Seeing someone who first came to me in one of the most difficult moments of their life, navigate
through it, and out the other side intact and often with a smile at the end.
What is an unusual aspect of the job/something people wouldn’t expect or be surprised that you do?
Solicitors do a great deal of their own advocacy i.e. attending court but many think that work is reserved for barristers.
How would your colleagues describe you?
You’d have to ask them but I’d probably say ‘tenacious’. That’s probably a polite way of putting it!!
Describe a typical working day?
There is often a lot of emails to work through on coming in first thing and that requires copious amounts of coffee. Usually then onto court or client meetings and some more emails and case
preparation in the afternoon depending on what’s on the following day. Alternatively, an urgent injunction application of some kind will come in and then everything goes out the window!
Outside of work, what do you like to do?
I just love spending time with family and friends, doing anything at all but it often revolves around babies and food!
Where are your favourite places in Leicester?
I absolutely love the old parts of the city centre. Since the regeneration project began a few years ago, that part of the city just looks better and better.
What is it about the city of Leicester that excites or surprises you most?
The constant changing landscape is exciting. It shows growth and development which can only be
good news for local businesses.
You specialise in Family Law within Dodds Solicitors; this must be quite stressful sometimes for you?
It can be. All families have issues and when those issues have to be litigated or resolved by lawyers,
it is a stressful time for all involved but part of my role is to provide objective advice which should hopefully bring the stress levels down.
With mental health being on the lips of everyone at the moment, how do you unwind?
I have a great circle of family and friends and we all take care of each other but I do think it is important to take time out for yourself and to ensure that you protect your health both mental and physical. Your wellbeing is so precious, you have to take time out. I unwind with an occasional spa day with the girls when I can, or a good film!
If someone is seeking legal advice on (family) matters, what should they look out for when choosing someone to represent them?
As mentioned above family matters can be incredibly stressful and tempered with all sorts of emotions and so best to find someone who is trained to give objective advice, rather than
diving in and possibly making matters worse. Resolution trained lawyers are best as they have to pass numerous exams to demonstrate that they are specialists in not antagonising an already difficult situation.
Do you think it’s easier for women to succeed in the legal profession or is there a glass ceiling?
I don’t believe in a glass ceiling. I believe that you can achieve anything you fully commit to but I do accept that woman taking time out to raise families can be a challenge to their careers. That said, most of my female friends are lawyers, and many like myself are Directors or Partners despite us all having taken time out for children. I believe that woman still face challenges in the workplace as do many others but I believe that our society is less tolerant of this and people are being awarded senior roles based on merit.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know…
Alongside some old friends, I won our Year 8 talent show playing Baby Spice in our Spice Girls band.
What is your ambition?
I’ve achieved my goal of becoming a lawyer, a partner and then, a mother. I think for me right now, I am just happy to live in the moment. Who knows where life will take me next?!
Dodds Solicitors is at Friar Lane, Leicester, LE1 5RA.
Tel 0116 262 8596
Dodds Solicitors LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership and is registered in England and Wales Partnership (No OC364487) Registered Office is 32 Friar Lane Leicester LE1 5RA
The Members of Dodds Solicitors LLP are Solicitors and a list of members’ are available for inspection at the registered office Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority SRA No 563422 VA