At this year's Women in Law Summit, we're thrilled to be joined by Catherine Brown of Skilful Conversation.
Catherine Brown practised as a barrister for 15 years at Kings Chambers in Manchester, and brings all of that experience with her into her coaching and training business.
We sat down with her to discuss her journey as a founder and why she's joined this year's Women in Law Summit.
Why did you get involved with Women in Law Summit?I am passionate about using my skills and experience to help people achieve their full potential. As a former barrister myself, I am very aware that men are still outnumbering women at the most senior levels of the legal profession and I’m keen to do anything I can to redress that balance. Taking part in the Women in Law summit is an obvious way to further my mission.
Can you tell us more about Skilful Conversation? How and why did you found this business?After leaving the bar, I immediately went to acquire new skills by learning how to facilitate learning in adults. I have delivered training all over the world and achieved a lot of success in the field but I realised that it was the coaching aspect of that role to which I was most attracted, and which was allowing both me and my clients to make the biggest transformations. More learning followed in the form of an EMCC Diploma in Coaching and Mentoring and Skilful Conversation then followed as the vehicle to bring my coaching skills to high-achieving professionals.
What was one unexpected challenge, big or small, that you encountered whilst building Skilful Conversation?Learning how to sell myself. I now help people to do this for themselves but, at the outset, I gained a whole new appreciation for the help my clerks had given me in my former profession.
What do you enjoy the most about your day-to-day work?Seeing my clients achieve something they had previously thought was impossible. When they come back and say, I got that promotion or I spoke up in that meeting, that’s when I know I’m doing the right thing.
Do you have a ‘top tip’ for managers who are coaching or training people?For coaching - have faith in the other person’s ability to find their own solution.
For training – keep it interesting and innovative – nobody learns if they’re bored.
Why do you believe that women are important to the strength and development of the law sector?Well, they are half the population, and more than half of entrants to the profession, so it just seems obvious to me that if we don’t fully embrace what women have to offer, the profession naturally suffers. Also, when I think of the talent, intellect and creativity of the women in law I have worked with over the years, I know that the sector needs them to flourish.
What, in your opinion and experience, are some of the most effective ways to bring about more diversity and inclusion in the workplace?Anything which allows people of every background to achieve their full potential. For me, this starts with training across the board, particularly in unconscious bias. I had no formal training in this as a practising barrister which I now find astonishing.
I also think that if employers invest in coaching for there brightest prospects, they are much more likely to end up with balance at a senior level. Coaching can also help those already at the top to examine their own attitudes and management style which tends to open up more opportunities for all.
Finally, I am a firm believer that the responsibility for increasing diversity and inclusion lies with each of us. We need to make the conversation, and the solutions inclusive for this to work.