Claudine is founder and CEO of The Student Development Co. CIC, a non-profit organisation which aims to provide career related support and advice to 16-24 year olds from less privileged backgrounds who are or have recently finished studying. She is also an Associate in the Real Estate Dispute Resolution team at legal firm Mishcon de Reya.
Briefly describe your current job responsibilities.
I specialise in property disputes. That means I advise clients on a range of issues they have relating to property – landlord and tenant disputes, neighbour disputes or even general contract disputes where the subject matter of the contract relates to property.
I also sit on the firm’s Diversity Committee supporting the firm to ensure it upholds its values.
My typical day tends to start quite early because I will often wake up early, say 5 or 6am to work on The SDC before heading to work. I usually get to work between 8.30 and 9.30am. During the day at work, I will juggle a number of different matters, speaking to clients, the court, writing to opponents on the other side, liaising with intermediaries, drafting advice notes or emails etc. I finish work on average around 7 or 8pm and in the evenings will have dinner and continue working on The SDC or will chill out catching up one of my box sets!
What were the key decision points that were important in deciding your career path?
I was the exception to the rule because for no good reason at all, at 11 years old I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. I think I just knew it was one of those jobs that were good to have but I didn’t really know much more than that. I found that the subjects I studied and excelled in and the skills I enjoyed developing lent themselves to pursuing a career in law and the more I found out about it, the more I knew it would be right for me.
I remember someone asking me why I wanted to study law at university and my answer was “because it is everything”. I came to see and be intrigued by the way that law permeates everything that exists in our society, the contracts we enter into everyday when we buy something, the laws governing how you drive, the licences and agreements needed for the billboard you walk past on your way to work. That excited me and I wanted to be involved in that.
As for The SDC, I was continuously approached by young people and peers about how to get into and succeed in their careers, often in the legal industry. I had struggled through seeking out my own opportunities because I did not have any professionals in my family or network to turn to for support so I really wanted to do more than just answer questions when they arose. I wanted to create a platform which could provide the support that I would have benefited from when I was studying and thinking about my future.
At Mishcons, we have such a huge range of clients, it means that no case is the same and the clients you deal with all have very different personalities. I really enjoy the variety this brings to each and every day. But most of all, I enjoy learning the law, applying it to the case I am dealing with and engaging in legal arguments with the other side (and winning those arguments of course).
As CEO of The SDC – the most enjoyable thing is still the impact I can have on a young person seeking help or advice. When you help someone and they thank you, it honestly gives you the warmest feeling inside and reminds me why I wake up at 5am to do what I do!
I’m also really enjoying our new mobile app, Career Ear. This platform tackles a real issue in our society by enabling young people to have direct access to professionals who can provide them with current and relevant career related tips and advice – talking to people about the app really excites me and spurs me on to keep spreading the word about it to people right across the UK!
What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What strategies have you developed for tackling that challenge?
Time management is always the most challenging side for me. It’s a demanding job with demanding clients and it is important to me to deliver a good service for all of my clients – in order to do that, I have to make sure that I give realistic deadlines to clients for the work they instruct me to do and manage their expectations. I organise myself by having up to date to-do-lists, sometimes scheduled so that I allocate a specific time slot within my day to carry out certain pieces of work. I also have to make sure that I balance the amount of work I am doing with my commitments to The SDC. With that, I have built up a team of fantastic young volunteers, so that all the work does not fall solely on my shoulders.
What has been the most defining moment in your career to date?
Securing four vacation scheme placements and then accepting a training contract at Mishcon de Reya – that was an incredible achievement and up until that point I was still questioning myself. After that, I absolutely knew I was destined to be a successful lawyer!
Best piece of career advice you have ever received? And who was it from?
A colleague who trained me at Mishcon told me “be yourself”. I think we as women of colour will often try to be something we are not in order to get a job, or fit in with a particular group, feel accepted etc. But we often forget that we have so much to offer to business, our community and society at large by being ourselves and embracing our difference.
Away from your work role what are your passions?
I am a huge Arsenal fan. When we win, I am on top of the world, when we lose, I want to crawl into a hole and shut out the world! Besides that emotional rollercoaster I also really enjoy swimming.
What are the three (professional or personal) books/websites/ or resources that you would recommend to others?
Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert Kyiosaki
Think & Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
The Law Machine – Marcel Berlins and Clare Dyer – an excellent intro to law before I started university. It really helped before I started my degree.
What do you know now, that you wish you had known as you started your career?
I wish I had known not to doubt myself. I had real self-confidence issues when I was younger and throughout my entire academic life. I often thought I would completely fail my exams even though I was working so hard not to – I put myself through a lot of additional pressure for no reason. I wish that I had been kinder to myself and believed everyone when they said “hard work pays off” – it really does!
Do you have any advice for women entering your industry?
Surround yourself with positive senior female role models in law. Learn from their achievements and their mistakes to help propel yourself to the top!
If you weren’t in this role what would be your alternative career?
Something that involves travelling the world!
Claudine won Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the PRECIOUS Awards 2015
Connect with Claudine at: www.studentdevelopment.co.uk