June 2024 | Catherine Giles | Nicholes Family Lawyers


Catherine Giles | Nicholes Family Lawyers

Looking back at your journey, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced as a woman lawyer entering the profession? 

Reflecting on my journey so far, the challenges I faced as a female entering the legal profession was gender bias and the gender pay gap. At times I felt the need to work harder to prove myself, earn respect and also be paid equal to my male counterparts. As a young lawyer and in different times, my legal peers were often dubious of the abilities of a young female lawyer and whilst I worked hard to prove them wrong, it was at times disheartening that I had to and often for less pay. It was the guidance and mentoring from other women that taught me to understand that the drive to work harder was in the long run a challenge to be accepted and taken head on.  It ultimately has served me well not only in my career but also when mentoring younger lawyers who are up and coming.

What makes you feel confident at Nicholes Family Lawyers?

What makes me feel confident working at Nicholes Family Lawyers is the firm's commitment to fostering an inclusive and supportive environment not only for everyone’s idiosyncratic personalities and backgrounds but also as a working mother of two. Being one of five partners in an all-female partnership team, we have sought to cultivate a culture where everyone feels valued and respected not only professionally but fostering their personal commitments whether that is family or other interests. Whilst this inclusive ethos empowers me to excel in my role, I view it as an inspiration for all young female lawyers who aspire to succeed in the legal sphere but also have a family and a homelife. Working at Nicholes not only makes me confident to be a better lawyer but it illustrates to me that the legal profession is heading in the right direction for everyone and most of all, women.

What personal action and/or collective initiatives do you believe are crucial for driving greater gender equality and representation within the legal profession?

Since the pandemic, many workplaces have provided employees greater flexibility with their working conditions including most workplaces, including law firms, having a work from home policy.  Very few law firms offered this flexibility prior to the pandemic either because they prioritised physical attendance or they were not appropriately set up for remote working.  The adoption of a more flexible working model has opened the door for both men and women to foster a better work life balance and it also allows both working parents to be involved with the household and parenting arrangements which in turn relieves the traditional hurdles for woman being in or returning to the workforce after children.  It is the traditional, and antiquated, perception that women are the primary home makers and parents which has continued the gender pay gap and minimised our representation in the work force, including in the legal profession which is often more demanding on our time.  It is my experience that firms now attract candidates and maintain talent by promoting these flexible working arrangements because we all know how invaluable it is for both men and women.

I truly believe that with the law firms maintaining work from home policies, we will continue to see more women enter and remain in the legal profession, which means more female mentors who provide valuable guidance for both female and male lawyers.

It is wonderful to see the increasing representation of women in the legal profession, including more females taking silk and judicial appointments, which I believe reflects how far society has progressed towards gender parity.  There is still more to be done but these initiatives are shifts crucial for driving greater gender equality and representation in our wonderful profession.