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Diversity Matters Social Mobility: Catherine Woodward

Ahead of our Diversity Matters: Social Mobility event on 22nd July, we speak to commercial disputes solicitor Catherine Woodward about the importance of social mobility within the legal profession.

By Cara Fielder. Published 14 July 2021. Last updated 19 August 2022.

I am originally from Wakefield and went to a Catholic state school before going to a state sixth form in Huddersfield for A-levels. I attended the University of Manchester to study law before taking my LPC.

I am a commercial disputes solicitor at Gordons, based in their Leeds office. I deal with a wide variety of cases, including partnership disputes, intellectual property issues, professional negligence, corporate disagreements, breach of contract and insolvency matters.

My job is different every day, and I engage with a broad spectrum of clients, from owner-managed businesses to PLCs.  I also spend a lot of time dealing with barristers, accountants and expert advisors.

In addition to this, I am vice president at Leeds Law Society, the representative body for solicitors and lawyers in Leeds.

I wanted to be involved with Diversity Matters: Social Mobility because it is important to support people seeking a career in law. I want to make sure they are aware of all the opportunities available and how to best position themselves to secure the career they want.

This is particularly important where someone is from a ‘non-traditional’ background and perhaps does not know any solicitors or barristers who can help with understanding the processes and key skills that recruiters are looking for.

Events like this help people understand what a career in law entails, what some of the challenges could be and what support is available.

I work in litigation and one issue with my chosen area of law is diversity at the upper levels – both in terms of partnership and the judiciary. It takes time for people to make it to those positions, particularly the senior ones, but junior lawyers need to see themselves represented and know those positions are attainable. With the judiciary, clients must be confident that the best people possible are in those roles and that those people understand a wide variety of issues. Increased diversity makes this more likely.

I’m not sure I would describe myself as a speaker or advocate. However, I welcome the opportunity to discuss my experiences within the legal profession and offer support to others. I hope my experiences and advice can help others reach their goals.

To show their support of diversity, students should treat everyone equally and do not discount the experiences and opinions of others.

Every generation faces new issues that need improvement and new problems that need taking forward. We should be optimistic that, overall, things seem to be improving in terms of diversity. Maintaining progress and continuing to strive for improvement where necessary is essential.

It's important to understand other people's experiences and that no two people experience life in the same way. With this knowledge and a better understanding of the challenges others face, hopefully, you can improve opportunities for others and improve the way you relate to others, which is essential in the legal profession.

I’m looking forward to hearing the experiences of other people and their suggestions with regard to the future of the legal profession and how we can ensure that all feel welcome and valued within the profession.


Join us for Diversity Matters: Social Mobility on 22nd July 2021. For further information and to register your attendance for this free-of-charge event, please keep an eye on your student email.