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Breaking Barriers and Achieving Success: A Journey of Resilience and Determination

A photo of Judith Wheeler
by Judith Wheeler 8th March 2024

As the world celebrates International Women's Day, it's an opportune moment to reflect on the journeys of women who have carved paths of success in their respective fields. Today, we chat with Judith Wheeler, a Family Lawyer and Director at TFS whose journey embodies resilience, determination, and commitment to her career.

Judith began her legal career in 1994 during a recession which made securing a training contract challenging. After completing her LPC, she undertook voluntary work at a law centre, shortly after which she joined a firm of solicitors as a clerk. Judith recalls how the firm already had a male trainee solicitor and owing to the Law Society minimum salary, there was no room for two trainees. The Law Society introduced the ability for trainees to agree to waive the minimum salary and so, whilst she was undertaking the same tasks as a trainee, she was paid less than half of what her male counterpart received. Despite this, her determination to qualify as a solicitor remained steadfast.

Following qualification in 1997, her journey took her to another law firm where she practised as the only female solicitor in a two-partner practice before becoming a partner there herself before the age of 30. Whilst having aspired to achieve partnership, the trade-off for self-employed status and accompanying responsibility meant truncated maternity leave and a return to work full-time when her son was only 6 months old. Following the merger of her former practice and TFS in 2015, Judith joined TFS as a Director and has practised from the firm’s Leamington office since.

For Judith, International Women's Day serves as a reminder of the progress made to date, but also the work that lies ahead concluding "There shouldn't have to be an International Women's Day", where women’s contributions are celebrated on a designated single day of the year. Women deserve to be valued for their contributions and recognised for their achievements, without the constraints of gender stereotypes.

She hopes that one day Riana Duncan’s cartoon, which has struck a chord for her and doubtless many other women, and which featured in Punch in 1988 “That’s an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it” will no longer have relevance to women in the workplace.

She believes that there is the need for continued support and empowerment for women in the workplace. "Flexible working and an acknowledgement of alternative work hours from other professionals and clients are crucial,", advocating for an environment where women can achieve success in both their careers and without sacrifice in their personal lives. Meritocracy should prevail over gender biases, "A job should always be awarded based on merit", she asserts, emphasising the importance of equal opportunities for all.

Looking ahead, she prioritises improving her own work-life balance and self-regulation, emphasising the importance of personal well-being amidst professional success.