Elaine McLaine-Wood juggled working and studying alongside looking after her two children, but didn’t let that stop her from becoming managing partner of Punch Robson Solicitors.
Where do you call home?
I grew up in Darlington and live in a small village on the outskirts of Darlington.
Tell us about your role?
I am the managing partner of Punch Robson solicitors. I also head up the commercial department where I act for business clients in respect of buying and selling businesses, buying and selling commercial property, as well as dealing with commercial contracts and non-contentious employment matters.
How did you get to where you are today?
I completed a non-law degree. I had my daughter shortly afterwards but studied part-time to complete the diploma in law and legal practice course which, in turn, would allow me to commence a training contract to qualify as a solicitor. Although I lived in Darlington, I commuted to Newcastle as a paralegal working for the then Dickinson Dees. This gave me excellent grounding and training to then apply for a training contract. On qualification, I qualified in Teesside and have remained working here. I have progressed ultimately from a trainee, solicitor, associate solicitor and as a salaried partner to then a full equity partner.
What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way?
I have already mentioned that I had a young daughter when I commenced work in my early 20s. At this time, I studied through a distance learning course over a four-year period and worked full-time, which was very challenging. I also had my son at the age of 28 when I completed all my studies. When I was working in Newcastle, I would be up at 6am every day, leaving at 7am to drop my children off at nursery and collecting them on the way home and not returning home until after 7pm. I certainly did long days. I would be in bed by 9pm every work evening. While it was challenging and some could say I missed out on the children being smaller, I always ensured we had quality time on weekends and over holiday periods. I would always make sure that I would be at the end-of-term assembly or production and support my children in their extra-curricular activities.
One of the main challenges is knowing where your heart is and knowing if you want to continue your career with the firm you’re working for. As a partner in any business, I consider you need to trust and respect your fellow partners and this needs to be reciprocated. It is not a stepping stone to progress your career to jump from firm to firm. I would not remain partner or even become partner if I did not feel that that was where I would be for the duration of my career. I have had to be true to myself. There is a lot to be said about being loyal and having integrity.
Describe the moment you first got a feel for success?
I do not necessarily view myself as being successful. I know I am a good solicitor and all I do is work to the best of my ability looking after our clients and ensuring they get the best advice and support which is mirrored within my firm.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young females?
Work hard, do not complain, keep your head down, remain humble and work with a mentor who can provide support. The rest will follow. Try to pick out one person in the business community or the profession you wish to go into and model yourself on some of their good attributes. Also identify bad attributes to consider ways in which not to portray yourself. Try to be around positive people who are supportive of you.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Enjoy the journey more. Since I had my young children, I very much chased up the career path and put a lot of pressure on myself unnecessarily. I would also tell myself not to worry too much and smile more.
What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?
Commitment, confidence, determination.
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