Navigating Commercial Law: An Insightful Conversation with Employment Lawyer Gillian Boateng

Navigating Commercial Law: An Insightful Conversation with Employment Lawyer Gillian Boateng

We recently had the privilege of speaking with Gillian Boateng, an accomplished employment lawyer who trained and qualified at a magic circle law firm, and most recently served as an associate at an elite US law firm. In this engaging conversation, Gillian candidly shared her journey into the world of commercial law and provided valuable insights into her experiences and perspectives.

Gillian Boateng’s YouTube channel:

Q1: Could you give us a brief overview of your journey into commercial law, starting from university?

Gillian's path into commercial law began at the University of Oxford, where she studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). Although she didn't initially focus on law or a legal career during her studies, she gained valuable work experience in a number of industries outside of law including banking, consulting and technology. Her trajectory ultimately culminated in a graduate role offer from an international bank, as well as a period of work with SEO London, a social mobility organisation. However, Gillian’s dynamic journey would eventually see her transition from her brief career in banking to secure a Training Contract at a magic circle law firm.

Q2: What was the biggest challenge you faced when breaking into the industry?

Reflecting on her transition from banking to law, Gillian noted that her most significant challenge was navigating a highly competitive field with a background in a different industry. The key for her was to demonstrate a genuine interest in a career in law, as well as the key skills she had acquired from her previous experiences which could be transferred to a career in the legal industry.

Q3: What was it like navigating commercial law as a non-law student?

Gillian emphasised that being a non-law student was not an impediment. She highlighted that many successful lawyers do not study law at university, and the study of law does not inherently confer a significant advantage.

Q4: How did you find your training contract, and why did you end up choosing to qualify into employment?

Gillian shared that, due to some personal events such as a period of maternity leave, her journey to qualifying as a solicitor was not conventional. However, during her training, she discovered her passion for employment law. The variety of work in the employment team, which included transactional, advisory, and contentious matters, resonated with her. Importantly, the work also aligned with her commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts.

Q5: You’re open about your identity as a British-Ghanaian lawyer and your commitment to fostering D&I. How do you think your background has shaped your advocacy and perspective in the profession?

As a black woman in the legal profession, Gillian noted that her identity has given her a unique perspective on issues affecting various groups. Her background has also fuelled her passion for D&I advocacy, shaping her commitment to addressing these issues within the profession.

Gillian emphasised that underrepresentation remains a challenge, both with regard to the recruitment of, for example, black lawyers, but also their retention at more senior levels. Organisations like SEO London play a pivotal role in addressing the recruitment challenge, whilst other organisations such as extense are doing important work to help address the challenges relating to retention.

Q7: What’s the best and worst part about being a lawyer?

Gillian highlighted the rewarding aspect of helping people and addressing intriguing legal challenges. However, she also acknowledged that juggling the demanding nature of the profession alongside the demands of parenting can be stressful at points, but exciting nevertheless!

Q8: If you could go back to your first year of university, would you do anything differently?

Gillian expressed that she wouldn't necessarily change her journey - she is content with how her career has evolved so far and she has taken the opportunity to learn from various events in the process.

Q9: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received that you could share with aspiring lawyers?

Gillian explained that she has received plenty of great advice, including treating colleagues with the same quality of service as clients, and adopting a proactive approach to get work.

Q10: What strategies have you employed to maintain your well-being and a healthy work-life balance in an industry as demanding as commercial law?

Gillian stressed the importance of defining priorities, and recognising that what “work-life balance” means for different people will vary. Currently on a career break, Gillian is taking time to spend time with her family and friends, before starting her next role.

Q11: Something a lot of applicants struggle with when applying to firms is making their applications stand out. Do you have any tips?

Gillian advised applicants to network actively, and collaborate with organisations like SEO London, Rare Recruitment, Aspiring Solicitors and others to enhance their applications. Networking can take many forms – it could be with your peers, law professors, lawyers, future lawyers, and recruiters.

Q12: What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

Gillian considers building a platform and network on LinkedIn, where she shares insights and connects with aspiring solicitors and other professionals within and outside of the legal industry, as a career highlight. More generally, she speaks about how building a career where she can work with others and discuss issues, she is passionate about to be an overarching career highlight.

This insightful conversation with Gillian Boateng sheds light on the journey of a prominent employment lawyer and provides valuable advice for aspiring lawyers navigating the competitive landscape of commercial law.

Gillian also recently launched her own YouTube channel – link below – where she discusses her experiences in commercial law, tips on navigating the industry, and a host of other insightful content. A great channel for aspiring lawyers!

Gillian Boateng’s YouTube channel: