On International Women’s Day, Wilkin Chapman Partner and Head of the Commercial Property Team Rachael Dicken, gives an insight into her life as a career woman and busy mum-of-two
“To balance life is hard and I am not going to pretend otherwise, but we all have choices and I feel privileged to be within a firm that has given me the luxury to make those choices,” says Rachael with heartfelt honesty.
Rachael joined the Commercial Property team here at Wilkin Chapman in September 2013. Having qualified as a solicitor in Bristol in 2006, she relocated to Lincolnshire with her husband Dave whilst on maternity leave with their first child, who is now eight. The couple have since had a second child, now five.
Having made a choice to work fulltime after a short time on slightly reduced hours, Rachael is clear that it may not have happened in quite the same way if it were not for the support of her parents and her husband, whose shift working allows for shared childcare. But she is also adamant that women, whatever their circumstances, should be allowed to have the flexibility of choice to become a mother, whilst also pursuing a career fulltime.
“In the early days it was tough. I had a new job and was a new mum and of course that presented its challenges. But you find your rhythm, and that was supported by Wilkin Chapman – a firm that doesn’t hold a perception that things should be done in the ‘traditional way’, a trailblazer in that respect,” she suggests.
Latest data from the Solicitors Regulation Authority shows how gender diversity within the UK legal sector is strong – in 2019 women made up 49 per cent of lawyers in law firms, up by one per cent since 2017.
However, says Rachael, perhaps the one area of law that has remained a little more traditional in the UK has been the commercial property sector, especially at the more senior Partner and Departmental Head level.
Again though, not so at Wilkin Chapman where Rachael was mentored by her predecessor Ruth Brewin along with colleague Teresa Thomas who is a Partner, Divisional Head and leads the firm’s Employment team. As Rachael rose, from Senior solicitor to Partner and department head, she admired the management skills of her mentors and their ability to achieve career success.
“I was so fortunate that people like Ruth and Teresa were there to support my progression as inspirational mentors with the best management skills, personalities and influences.”
Reflecting on her progression and, when it is suggested that she should be rightly proud of her achievements so far, Rachael answers: “Yes, I am proud of what I have achieved, but it is important to know that it hasn’t defined me. I am doing what I want to do, and I am equally as proud of the people around me whose support has given me that freedom of choice.”