When Erica Turner didn’t get the A level results she desired to go to university, she found that staying on Teesside was actually what she really wanted, building her successful career in the company she started at part time in an administrative role.
Where do you call home?
I’m Teesside born and bred! I live in Skelton with my husband and my two dogs.
Tell us about your role?
I’m a partner and head of the commercial property team at Jacksons Law Firm.
How did you get to where you are today?
I attended Laurence Jackson secondary school in Guisborough and went on to study economics, English language and French at Prior Pursglove College in Guisborough. I undertook a law degree at Teesside University between 2003 and 2006. I applied to a number of law firms for work experience during my summer break at university. Jacksons responded to me to indicate they didn’t have a work experience placement, but they did have paid administration work they could offer me. This is really where my journey began.
I picked up lots of experience in my administration role and formed a basic understanding of the operation of a law firm and the functions of each department. I continued working for Jacksons on a part-time basis throughout university and in the following two years while studying for the legal practice course at York. I gained valuable experience at Jacksons and got a feel for the type of firm it was, while also receiving an income which assisted to fund my continuing studies.
I won an award in legal practice at university, but didn’t happen to mention this to Jacksons! It just so happened that one of the partners at Jacksons was a guest at the graduation ceremony, presenting an award to another one of the winners. He happened to see me wander across the stage to collect my award and subsequently approached me in the office and asked why I hadn’t thought to mention my success or pester for a training contract! This was really the turning point in my career as from this point onwards, I began to focus on driving myself forward and the firm did all it could to invest in me.
I was subsequently offered a training contract with Jacksons in 2008 and qualified as a solicitor in 2010. I have remained with the firm ever since and was promoted to partner in April 2016, became head of the commercial property team in 2019 and, in October 2020, became an equity partner in the firm.
What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way?
I was always very academic and took great pride in achieving great results in my academic studies.
I began to focus a little less on studies once I moved to college and I was taken in by the social side of life as the move from secondary school to college was very contrasting. Looking back, I realise I became a little complacent and my priorities shifted. I applied for a place to study English at Newcastle University. My A level results came through and I didn’t receive the results I was expecting and while they were still good, they were not good enough to get me into Newcastle University. I then had a little panic. I’ll never forget this day. I wondered what I was going to do and thought that my whole career was ruined in light of one set of exam results. This was an incredibly difficult day as I was surrounded by friends celebrating but I felt a little lost. I took the rest of the day to consider my options and came to the conclusion that I didn’t actually want to move away from home as I wasn’t ready for that change – nor did I particularly want to study English!
At that point I made a call to Teesside University to see if, by chance, there were any places left on their law degree. It took a lot for me to acknowledge that I’d been following a different path to the rest of my peers, who were looking to move away from the area, but I realised I needed to do what felt right for me. Thankfully, Teesside University was able to offer me a place and the rest, as they say, is history!
Describe the moment you first got a feel for success?
I started work at Jacksons when I was 18. I was, at that time, the youngest member of staff. My lightbulb moment came when, after qualification, other members of my team were approaching me and asking me for advice and support in relation to matters they were dealing with. I realised this was something I did previously with other senior members of the firm, but it was now my turn to pass on the knowledge and experience I had. I really enjoy the feeling of being able to help others as I know how it feels to be in that position. The less positive side to this, however, is seeing applications coming into the firm for apprenticeships and their dates of birth in 2000s! I’m starting to feel old before my time.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young females?
You don’t have to be wealthy to succeed. I am from a working-class background and very few of my family attended university. Be prepared to work hard – it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what your background is, if you put the work in you will get there. Your journey might not be straightforward and there may be times when you think it’s all over, but a few bumps along the way will make you stronger and hungrier to succeed.
Believe in yourself. I’ve learnt that I’m stronger than I previously thought possible but sometimes during difficult periods, it’s hard to remember this. I joined Jacksons as a quiet girl who undoubtedly fell under the radar. I’ve also learnt that no-one else will blow your trumpet for you and you need to have the confidence to do that for yourself. There’s no denying that now, more than ever, it is difficult to obtain a training contract, but the key to success is to not give up.
Once you’ve got onto your career path, it will be apparent that each day brings with it a new challenge, your career will not be straightforward and the route to achieving it isn’t likely to be either, but go with it – you’ll acquire the tools you need which will be used in later life.
There is a difference between confidence and arrogance. There is a general stigma around women in particular publicising their achievements or successes. It is often considered that this is “bragging”. It isn’t. It’s extremely unlikely a man would feel the same way about publicising his accolades, so why should women be left feeling this way? Shout about your successes!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Everything happens for a reason and there are some things you cannot control. I received my A levels, which were not what I had expected. I thought my dreams of a successful career were over based purely upon a number of letters written on a certificate. Looking back, I can now see that what occurred on that day happened for a reason. I can see I wasn’t ready to move away from home, nor had I picked the correct course to study. I was meant to stay at home and study law at Teesside. As a result of the events of that particular day in 2003, I’ve ended up where I am today and I wouldn’t change a single thing.
What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?
You’ve got this!
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