I read Jurisprudence at Balliol College, graduating in 1995. After completing my BVC at the Inns of Court School of Law in London, I secured pupillage at Broadway House Chambers, Bradford and Leeds, and worked as a criminal barrister in Yorkshire for the best part of 20 years.
I now works as a specialist Corporate and Executive Coach, having launched my business in 2017. Nikki Alderson Coaching:
- supports law firms and Chambers attract and retain female talent; and
- empowers female lawyers to achieve career ambitions whilst creating congruent lives.
I specialise in 3 areas of coaching:
- Enhancing support for career break returners and experiencing career “transition”
- Providing a benefit for those recently promoted in the first 100 days of their new role
- Increasing awareness around workplace confidence, wellness and resilience/ mental toughness
What aspects of your law degree have proved to be the most useful in your career so far?
The most useful subjects in my career were those that gave me a good grounding in a general common law practice at the Bar: crime, criminology, tort and contract, although at the time, I had a particular interest in Jurisprudence.
What did you enjoy most when studying Law at Oxford?
Study-wise, criminology at Brasnose with Jeremy Horder and hearing Prof. Roger Hood speak about the Death Penalty.
Social life-wise, early morning rowing on the Cherwell, and a gloriously scorching first summer without exams whilst all other subjects had their mods.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of studying Law at Oxford?
To study law at Oxford is a once in a life time opportunity which is offered to a lucky few. It is worth seizing the chance with both hands, albeit with a good understanding that there will be lots of hardwork required, and anti-social hours kept. That said, it is excellent preparation for life at The Bar, and, I should imagine, as a hard-pressed city solicitor, given the pressures and demands of a career in law.
Who was the biggest influence on you when you studied here?
Prof. Jeremy Horder for his boundless enthusiasm and energy for his subject which inspired and motivated me to go for it at the criminal bar in Yorkshire whilst so many others were going down the milk round/ Magic circle commercial city solicitors route.
What’s your specialism? And, would you recommend that as a specialism to current Law undergraduates?
My specialism whilst in practice was crime, and yes, absolutely, I would recommend it to undergraduates as I think it is not only an integral part of a typical law degree, but also gives huge insights into the workings of the criminal justice system in today’s society. In addition, it was an area I was deeply passionate about and moved by, so if that sounds like you, I’d say it is important to choose subjects that interest you or that will be specifically useful to you in your chosen career path. That said, with all the recent cuts to publically funded work, whilst I would always recommend people follow their own instinctive paths, they should do so with their eyes wide open as to the financial implications of so doing.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career to date?
I had 2 significant challenges, albeit very different in nature, so impossible to say which represents “the biggest.” Firstly, I worked pro bono for the Bar Human Rights Committee in Kingston, Jamaica in 2004 supporting Death Row Attorneys out there and whilst initially only seconded for a 3 month placement, became involved in the most harrowing example I had personally experienced of a significant miscarriage of justice which resulted in the Death penalty being passed. After 5 more visits over the space of 18 months, so self-funded, others having raised charity money, I am delighted to say an appeal was won and the defendants released without retrial.
The second and equally significant challenge was conducting a full time practice at the criminal bar whilst being a mother of 3 very young children with a husband who worked away mid-week. It is vital to appreciate when entering law, and the Bar in particular, how demanding a profession it is and what personal sacrifices will have to be made if you want to succeed in the traditional sense. Fortunately for me, I live my life by 2 particular mantras which have made it easier for me to re-define my career at the mid-point:
- People don’t look back at life wishing they’d spent less time with their children; and
- live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect.
We continue to celebrate 100 years of women in law, what issues still need to be addressed?
There is a recruitment and retention crisis in the legal profession when it comes to female talent. The stats speak for themselves: 52% of women at entry level, 29% at partner level and down to just 19% at equity partner level.
There are a number of challenges which contribute:
- the difficulty of managing a career in law flexibly around caring responsibilities;
- sexual harassment;
- unconscious bias; &
- an out dated time based/ targets driven business model within firms
I looked at these and more in a recent blog I published to celebrate International Women’s Day 2019, and more importantly made suggestions for possible ways forward.
Why did you become involved in the Oxford Women in Law (OWL) network?
I have learnt such a lot from my successful career as a barrister, having gained great insights into the responsibilities, pressures and “expected” career paths of those, particularly women, working in law. I see a challenge within the profession of retaining talented female role models, given the dearth of women in senior partnership roles and within the judiciary, and I am passionate about addressing these issues through the coaching services I provide. When I read about the OWL network after having received some email marketing, I was immediately very interested in the organisation, not least seeing some obvious shared values and objectives. I am always happy to support networks that provide to women an opportunity to network, upskill and personally develop, which are all key factors in a long and happy life in law.