International Women’s Day 2020: Sarah Burton

Sarah Burton is a Partner in Litigation in our Doncaster office and the firm's Training Principal, in charge of the management and recruitment of all Trainee Solicitors:

“My birthday is 1st September so I should have been the oldest in my year but my Mum persuaded my Junior School to let me skip a year at some point so I ended up being the youngest in my year.

I decided to study something I was passionate about (Geography) and had no idea what lay ahead, other than I would like to travel and I quite liked the look of a legal career. Having lived with a few law students at King’s College London, I knew that law was hard work. I went to the college of law in York to do the gruelling conversion course followed by the legal practice course. I knew by the end of this that I had found my career and I couldn’t wait to get started.

I followed a friend to the Isle of Man and became an Advocate, which means that you do the work of a solicitor and barrister. There was lots of work and very high-profile clients. I was immediately working on cases that I would never get near in a city firm. We were full service, which meant that I had to be able to provide a broad range of legal services, from conveyancing to commercial litigation. I needed to research quickly and think on my feet. It was the exception to be able to instruct a barrister to conduct the advocacy, so court became a second home.

I had two children and took around four months maternity for each (but conducted a 5-day trial within 4 weeks of having my second child.) I was lucky that I had family support and the break did not make any difference to my career, as I went back full time after each.

I had a six-month sabbatical when the family moved to England and this helped to re-charge the batteries and to decide where and for what kind of firm I wanted to work. The most important thing for me was the reputation of the firm, the quality of the work and the ability for me to be able to make a difference. As well as a partner in our litigation team, I now look after the trainee solicitors and am involved in their recruitment, training and development. I also help to manage our Doncaster office and really enjoy raising our profile in that location as it is a wonderful town with lots of opportunities.

It is sometimes very hard to juggle the work/life balance but with age, it becomes easier at work to be able to identify what is truly important enough to sacrifice time with the family. Having a support structure in place with friends and family is obviously a huge bonus. Probably as important though is working for the right employer who understands the challenges that life can bring and support you through this.”

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