Dawn Brathwaite

From healthcare lawyer to partner, to diversity, inclusion & wellbeing strategic lead and lots of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in between; Dawn’s had a busy time at Mills & Reeve over the years.

Can you tell us about any important lessons you’ve learned over your career?

Being someone who has had to change jurisdictions, I had to be strategic and flexible about my route to gaining a job as a solicitor. Securing my first legal role was immensely difficult and I started out in a small high street practice and gradually moved up to larger firms. Having come to England with a non-UK university degree, I was continually questioned about this during interviews. To counteract this, I pursued post graduate studies as early as I could, to get a degree from a UK university on my CV. I also had the benefit of a great mentor whose support I could count on during my early settling in years. Before I joined Mills & Reeve, as I became more senior with responsibilities to manage junior lawyers and teams, I pursued an MBA in Law Firm Management to give me the skills to step into these more senior management roles. These days, most firms provide appropriate training and development for career progression which makes a real difference.

Looking back, do you have any advice that you’d give your younger self?

In about 2013/2014, I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and subsequently got to meet her. Sheryl advocates for women to pursue their ambitions and not count themselves out. I always wish that this advice had been re-enforced earlier in my career, as it probably would have helped with things like imposter syndrome and general insecurities. Much of the advice in this book is just as relevant today, so I often encourage new female lawyers to read it.

Can you tell us a bit about your work outside of everyday legal advice?

Giving back to the community has always been one of my priorities and I would encourage everyone to consider what ‘giving back’ looks like for them. This could be pro-bono work, CSR involvement, mentoring, working with school initiatives, our internship programme, etc. I started mentoring in 1994! I led the CSR for the firm’s Birmingham office for many years, and am involved in the West Midlands Combined Authority’s ‘Change into Action’ initiative – a programme which provides help for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness in the city.

What are your ambitions for diversity, inclusion and wellbeing (DIW) at Mills & Reeve?

As the firm’s Strategic Lead for DIW, I want to see a more diverse workforce in all our offices. I want us to continue to build on the work we’ve done with our networks, with our 10,000 Black interns programmes, our Reach into Schools and our Respect at Work initiatives (to name a few). We work hard to create an environment where everyone feels valued and able to bring their whole selves to work, regardless of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background or disability.

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