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5 November 2015updated 10 Nov 2015 12:09pm

Up Close and Personal with Jacqueline McGuigan Solicitor at TMP Solicitors LLP

Q&A. 

By Jacqueline McGuigan

How did you get into law?

My legal career began in 1989 when I joined a local law firm in an administration role in a family department. It was supposed to be a temporary role to fund my studies to become a social worker. After a couple of months I really enjoyed the legal aspect of what I was doing and decided to switch career and become a lawyer. I continued to work all through my legal studies. I scrapped my plan of going to university as I did not want to be saddled with debt and figured out that I could work and pay for studies at the same time. Also, as a stroke of luck some of my employers paid for my studies in return for me staying to work for them and providing my services. I am eternally grateful for that support. By the time I qualified I was debt free from studies whilst some of my fellow students had £40,000 student loans to pay back! 

On the day I qualified as a solicitor I was offered partnership at my then law firm. I went from frying pan to the fire and it was a great learning curve.

You now practice employment law. Why the switch?

In my early days of practising law I soon learnt that I was very persuasive in getting what I wanted. Starting from sponsorship of legal studies to achieving good results for my clients. Translating my natural persuasive skills onto getting what my clients wanted was a match made in heaven.

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My initial drive to do social work and rid the world of domestic strife soon waned as reality hit when I learned that there was never any winners or losers in family and child care cases.

I switched to employment law because I found the law fascinating, it had human emotion, and it was so pivotal to a just and fair society that it was a natural and easy progression for me to make. Plus there were winners and losers, which gave finality to disputes and meant that I always strove to win!

You run your own law firm in Canary Wharf. How come?

I was probably the world’s worst employee in terms of line managing and keeping in a box. I don’t stick rigidly to rules. I like to do my own thing and I’m not afraid to speak out. So heading up my own law firm was the normal next step for me.

Working for myself has enormous benefits.  I am not a small cog in a big wheel. My clients get a one-to-one service knowing that I am always at the end of the phone if they have problems. An example of this personal service happened recently when at 6pm on a Friday evening I got a phone call from a former client asking for urgent help. The client was stuck at an airport needing an affidavit sworn by a solicitor.  The flight was cancelled by the airline and re-arranged for the next day so as to get the affidavit drafted and sworn. We met the next morning (a Saturday) with holy book and affidavit in hand. With affidavit sworn I am pleased to say that my client was able to board his rearranged flight and fly to his holiday destination.

There is still a problem with diversity in the legal profession does that concern you?

Yes it does but a huge amount of progress has been made since I joined. It was only 20 years ago when I decided to break with tradition and I wore trousers to work. The senior partner looked at me in horror and I was almost sent home to change as the senior partner felt that I was improperly dressed. Things have come along way since then. Women are rising to the top but it is still a very slow process. There is a along way to go to achieve a diverse and gender balanced profession that represents the public it serves.