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Manchester High School for Girls

Lily Searle

Lily Searle (nee Tomkins), Class of 2010, Associate at Fieldfisher LLP

What was your experience at Manchester High like?

Great fun, probably because I spent most of my time there doing sport! When I first arrived in year 7, I was quite intimidated to be surrounded by so many clever people and I definitely felt far away from the smartest girls!

How do you feel it helped to shape the person you are today?

It was wonderful to be educated in a place where women and girls never felt limited by their gender. I think it was because of this that I never limited myself with what I could achieve and have never been put off working in a male dominated industry.

Were there any teachers who made a particular impression on you?

Too many to mention them all but I probably owe particular thanks to Mrs Newman, Miss Rowley, Mrs Watkins, Dr Poucher, Ms Keegan and Mrs Wells. I spent all my spare time dancing or doing athletics, much to the despair of other teachers, I am sure!

Are you still in touch with anyone from your time at School?

Yes! We recently had a mini reunion of a couple of us who live or work in Westminster, which was lovely.

What did you do after Manchester High?

I took a gap year straight after finishing MHSG to work as part of the Solicitor to the Inquiry team of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. This was a government ordered investigation into the high death and infection rates at Mid Staffordshire Hospital. I worked on the inquiry for a full year which was a really excellent, albeit sobering experience. After that, I read Law at the University of Warwick before joining Eversheds Sutherland for my professional lawyers training. I worked at Eversheds Sutherland for nearly 4 and a half years where I practised as a Corporate solicitor. I now work for Fieldfisher where I specialise in Equity Capital Markets and Mergers and Acquisitions.

What has been the highlight of your career?

The first Initial Public Offering I worked on as a junior lawyer was the flotation of Charter Court, which was a specialist challenger bank, on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange. We had a very lean team working on the IPO which meant long and punishing hours but it was a really exciting project to be involved in and it received a lot of press coverage. I particularly enjoyed the completion dinner hosted by the banks but had quite a surreal moment when I walked into a room of around 50 professionals, and discovered I was the only woman there!

What advice would you give to girls considering your career?

 Go for it! Law is an excellent career where you can put your academics to good use but also develop your business acumen and people skills. It is a challenging career and if you aren't careful, can be all-consuming. Make sure that if you are considering different areas of law, or different firms, that you do your research and understand what you are getting into. There are plenty of MHSG alumnae in all different areas of law, and each of these alumnae will themselves have a great network of people they can ask questions of, so please do ask for help because it is available.

Who are the inspirational figures in your life?

Dame Helena Morrisey, founder of the 30% Club is hugely impressive. The 30% Club aimed to achieve a minimum of 30% female representation on FTSE 100 boards. The target was reached in 2018 but there is a lot of work still to do. Aside from that, Baroness Hale, President of the Supreme Court is probably my legal idol!

What are your ambitions for the future?

I would like to become a Partner at Fieldfisher and one day be thought of as a noted practitioner in my field. Aside from that, at some stage I might like to train as a Coroner as I think this is an extremely important job.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

 I love Pilates, having taken it up a few years ago and get in a couple of classes every week. I also love to bake so you will often find me spending a Sunday afternoon in the kitchen surrounded by baking paraphernalia.

What achievements are you most proud of in life?

Being educated at the same school as the Pankhurst girls – very few people can say that!