For International Women’s Day, Business Leader spoke to Marti Burgess, Corporate Lawyer and Partner at Bevan Brittan, about her career and plans for the future.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you and what female leaders inspire you?
I see International Women’s Day as a time to celebrate and reflect on the achievement and contribution of women everywhere. It’s also a time to say thanks to the women you know who work really hard, often doing the ‘unsung’ but impactful work, that make our lives and communities better.
I know so many women who inspire me so it’s hard to single out any one female.
As a female corporate lawyer at Bevan Brittan, what things do you feel make the biggest impact for Women in the workplace?
At Bevan Brittan 41% of our partners are women, and in our last round of promotions, 60% of all promotions at all levels were for female employees. I would say our culture feels quite different as a result. There is a huge emphasis on collaboration and respect.
Something which has been hugely helpful to me throughout my law career has been the mentors who have provided me with the support and guidance when needed and respected me as an ambitious professional female.
What attracted you to law and what has been the biggest challenges you’ve faced throughout the pandemic?
When I was really young, I had an unhealthy fascination with a daytime programme called Crown Court. In fact I remember pretending to be ill so I could stay at home and watch it! I think I first said I wanted to be a lawyer about seven years old and my fascination with law-based TV programmes and books continued throughout my teens.
I never really changed my mind on my career ambitions from this point.
The biggest challenge during the pandemic has been working from home and not just being able to turn to a colleague to discuss a complex problem or a point of law. As lawyers we generally crave discussion and debate and so I have missed that more than anything.
Working remotely also means that it is harder to train and mentor the more junior lawyers in the team as they are also not so easily able to shadow or work alongside those of us with more experience.
MBO’s play a big part in cases you’re involved with, how has deal flow been for you over the last 12 months?
In the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, we saw some of our deals we were working on initially fall away as buyers became nervous. Equally, we found other deals actively on the go were taking much longer to complete than normal.
Nonetheless, momentum started to pick around deal flow over the latter part of 2020. Although this latest lockdown initially saw a slight slowdown, interestingly the recovery has been much quicker which has created a nice steady flow of deals from the start of 2021.
In fact, a couple of MBO’s that stalled in March 2020 are now starting to proceed again which shows that buyers who initially felt anxious because of the uncertainty are now confident to progress these deals through to completion.
You’re heavily involved in many steering groups in Bristol, tell us about how you’re supporting young black professionals in the city?
When I was a young professional starting on my career journey I often went to corporate networking events where I was one of a few women, and often the only black person in the room. It felt very alien to most other aspects of my life as my social network is very mixed and full of people from all different cultural backgrounds.
I became, along with others, determined to change this in Bristol and have been involved in the creation of networks for black professionals and entrepreneurs. The BAME lawyers group, for example, will make a real difference to someone starting out in their legal career as will the Black Professional Network which was launched in 2019 and has been hugely successful.
You co-own Lakota nightclub in Bristol, quite a different role from your day to day job. How do you combine the two and what are the benefits?
I try to keep the two separate. However, I am sure my experience from being involved in a business like Lakota from the start makes me understand the commercial problems faced by clients and come up with solutions for them. By combining my commercial awareness and understanding of business, this is helping to seek legal solutions in their business operations.