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First-year law student pulls off inspirational panel event for international women’s day 2022

As part of the University’s international women’s day celebrations, first-year law student Megan Gough invited three successful women at various stages of their careers in law to deliver a Q&A panel event in our Department of Law and Criminology.

An image of a poster advertising the panel, includes the text "Meet the guest speakers" and the images of the three speakers.

Megan reached out to the panellists personally and was pleasantly surprised by how willing and happy they were to come and speak at Edge Hill. Tracy Morgan, partner at Levins Solicitors; Indunee Seneviratne, barrister at Oriel chambers; and Amie Boothman, barrister at Exchange Chambers joined us on-campus to answer student’s questions – with the event also chaired by another successful woman in law, Edge Hill’s very own Jennifer Giblin, lecturer in law.

The event was a huge success, with the panellists sharing some surprising, inspiring and insightful reflections on their own careers so far – from the perspective of a female professional in the legal sector. Megan tells us all about how the Q&A panel came to be, and what she learned from the process of organising such a successful event.

As an aspiring female barrister, I’d noticed a lack of female representation at guest talks and events. So it felt fitting to me, especially considering Edge Hill’s history in women’s rights and movements, to celebrate International Women’s Day by hosting an event celebrating women in law and allowing other aspirational women like myself to see representation.

All 3 of the women I invited to be on the panel have inspired me personally in my journey so far and have given me invaluable advice, so I just knew I had to ask if they’d share their experiences here at Edge Hill. I felt a little nervous reaching out to Amie and Indunee, as I hadn’t spoken to them much and I know it’s a lot to ask a barrister with how busy their schedules are. But I was so overjoyed when they responded very willingly and happy to take part, and so glad I asked!

I had fantastic support from the department to organise this event. The admin team and the conferences team are the unsung heroes behind these events – and very fittingly, our conferences team members are three amazing women, so I’d like to thank Jo, Jenny and Suzanne for their hard work and support. Staff in the Law department were brilliant – listening to my ideas and helping me to put plans in motion, advising me on how to go about booking catering and helping me to print and distribute flyers. And members of the Law society were very supportive too, helping to spread the word about the event and get everyone excited about it. I learned so much about event organisation, how much goes into it, and how rewarding it is when it all comes together.”

Students from the Law department were invited to submit questions in advance that were put to the panellists by the chair during the event, and hearing from successful women on a range of topics from entering the profession through to challenges like imposter syndrome and work-life balance was hugely insightful for students.

When asked “How can students stand-out in such a competitive field?”, Amie Boothman gave a heartfelt answer that came as a surprise to some of the audience.

“Don’t get too caught up on your application form. What really stands out is when you’ve gone and done something that you really love. It’s much more genuine, interesting and exciting to talk about – and that’s what will really set you apart”

The panellists were also asked “What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?”, and all 3 women were in agreement that the answer to this is imposter syndrome. Tracy said,

“For me, this links back to my background and educational upbringing, but it’s also hugely linked to being a woman. I find that in a lot of cases, as women, our competence is much higher than our confidence. Michelle Obama still suffers with imposter syndrome to this day, and if she feels this way, well then I’m in good company”

Indunee took time to reflect on her own personal challenges, including the loss of her Dad very early into her pupillage.

“It was a huge knock for me, and I wasn’t allowing myself the time to grieve. I hadn’t asked for help or let anyone at work know. When I finally told them, they were so supportive and gave me the time away from my pupillage to grieve and find myself again. If you don’t tell people what you’re going through, then nobody can support you. Whatever barriers you face, with the right support and determination, you can overcome them.”

Tracy closed the Q&A panel with a brilliant top tip that comes from personal experience.

“In my firm, I instil a culture where there is open communication and support from the top down. My experience as a woman in the legal sector has taught me how hugely important this is. My top tip to you as young professionals is – if you end up in a place where you don’t feel valued and supported, then it’s not the right place for you.”

Megan took time to reflect on what she learned from the panel, and how she feels inspired to push forward with her career goals to follow in their footsteps.

“Hearing the panellists talk about experiencing imposter syndrome was really eye-opening, and it’s inspiring to think that even if you sometimes feel like you’re not good enough, you can still achieve what you put your mind to. Listening to these women has inspired me to pursue my career goal with more passion and ferocity, and I plan to take up Amie’s advice about doing the things I love and not obsessing over trying to ‘perfect’ my CV. Hearing from them was inspirational, and as a first-year student it has just made me even more excited for what’s ahead.”

Megan has received glowing feedback from some of her peers about the event, who also feel inspired and excited to pursue their goals moving forward.

“Hearing from these women made me realise that I shouldn’t let anyone stop me from believing in myself just because I am a woman. The most inspirational thing they shared was that you can do anything you put your mind to, and overcome any obstacles in your way.” 

Natasha, 1st year EHU law student

“The most surprising thing I learned from the panel was the fact that successful women in law experience imposter syndrome just like I do – it made me feel less alone, and like I can get to where I want to be despite feeling this way.” 

Demi, 3rd year EHU Law student

“The panellists reminded me to keep going. Their advice was just what I needed to hear, and it’s given me the final push for my bar exams.”

Charlotte, bar course student

Finally, Megan tells us how much she’s achieved so far in the first seven months of her time at Edge Hill, and how joining the student Law society has had a lot to do with this.

“To anyone considering studying Law at Edge Hill, you will not regret joining the student Law society. Get involved with the workshops, the competitions, the balls. You’ll have so much fun, and have amazing things to add to your CV. The support system is amazing, and our president this year is another inspirational woman, Demi. She has been a fantastic role model to me. If you join the society and put yourself out there, you’ll achieve a great sense of pride in everything you do.”