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Speaking to Weightmans’ Catriona Wolfenden

Catriona is Weightmans’ Innovation Manager and is responsible for the development, delivery and management of the firm’s innovation and technology projects, as well as its broader innovation programme. She works closely with the Innovation Group, clients, suppliers and legal teams to ensure that Weightmans continues to evolve and offers real market-leading solutions. After joining Weightmans in September 2007 following her PhD in Medical Law, she was admitted as a solicitor in 2011 and promoted to Partner in 2019.

Catriona has plenty of first-hand experience of civil litigation as she was a team leader in the costs department and as a Professional Support Lawyer, frequently provides strategic know how, training and technical support internally and externally.


Who runs your world?

My family and a colour coded outlook calendar!


Which woman empowers you?

Letitia Alice Walkington has an inspiring story – she was the first woman in the UK to get a LLD – Doctor of Law. Although she couldn’t practice and it would be many years before women could, she was a trailblazer, coaching other women to pass their exams to counteract the limited opportunities for women at school.


How does gender impact on your life/work experiences?

Being a woman working in tech is still something of a novelty to the outside world and I am frequently the only woman in a meeting, but you’ve got to roll with it and not take yourself too seriously.


There was a particularly amusing meeting with an external tech supplier pitching to get us to trial their software – I wasn’t a partner at the time and was joined by a male partner colleague. The external suppliers were all men in their mid twenties. They had clearly written me off as they entered the room and proceeded to pitch to my non tech but male colleague, ignoring my comments as they went. They concluded their pitch and asked about next steps and were very embarrassed when my colleague said he had no idea, I was the one with the budget and the tech knowledge!


What do you think the future holds for women both in your field and in the workplace overall?

Statistically law is a profession that is now pretty balanced in terms of male/female split at entrant stage but at partner level, women still make up only roughly a third of partners. I hope this changes over the next decade – no woman wants to be promoted just because they are a woman, but equally no woman should hold themselves back or doubt themselves just because they are a woman: female mentorship can help with this. I have female legal engineers in my team and I think it is really important that I help them push their boundaries and recognise that all opportunities are open to them, along with the rest of my team. The importance of supportive male cheerleaders should not be underestimated to offer sage advice and help navigate unfamiliar territories – I’m lucky to have had this and to have had some really helpful but unsugar coated advice over the years.


What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

Don’t beat yourself up or strive to ‘have it all’ – something that is often spoken like a mantra but that benefits no one. Aim for the stars but plan longer term. Balancing a professional career and a family is all about compromise, you just need to be absolutely clear on what your compromises are and remember that a compromise may be transient. I am lucky to have had a (male) boss who has embraced working flexibly so that I have had a day off mid week with my son – we have had all sorts of adventures and this is an example of one of the compromises I’ve chosen. It is transient – my son starts school in 2019 and my working patterns will change to coincide with that.