When Katherine Pretswell-Walker, an associate solicitor with Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors, was asked to speak about her career journey with a recently formed Carlisle Career Women group, she jumped at the chance to help encourage other women to take control of their career progression.
Katherine graduated from the University of Exeter with a BA (Hons) in Law and Society before completing the Legal Practice Course at Bristol Law School. She joined Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors as a trainee solicitor in 2006, qualifying as a solicitor in 2008.
Katherine was asked to share her experience and advice at the latest meeting of the Carlisle Career Women group, which celebrates its first anniversary in March after being founded by Carlisle businesswomen Emma Sherlock and Shelley Hayward.
Katherine told the group: “You have to manage your own career progression. It’s your career, and it’s up to you to keep a look-out and identify opportunities.
“Don’t just sit back and expect something to magically happen for you. Take responsibility for it yourself.”
When Katherine returned to work after having her two children, she had felt her career had drifted off track, far from feeling that she was picking up where she had left off.
“Having time off to have children knocked my confidence and where once I had a clear strategy for my career progression, balancing my new role as a parent against my profession left me feeling unfocused. I knew that I no longer had a clear career path.
Struggling with her confidence in her career, Katherine decided to take her concerns to her management.
“When I discussed my concerns with the company I work for, they understood my position and my conflicting commitments and were able to carve out a role that really suited my particular skills. I just wish I had had more confidence in my skills, prioritised my career progression, and had the conversation sooner.”
As a result, Katherine has developed to be highlighted as a rising star in Cartmell Shepherd’s agricultural team, which is officially ranked one of the two best in the North of England in a worldwide legal listing – gaining a ‘top tier’ ranking in the Legal 500.
Katherine handles all aspects of agricultural law, including agricultural and estate conveyancing, advising on mineral and sporting rights, and options for renewable energy projects. Katherine also deals with all aspects of residential conveyancing.
When it comes to having difficult conversations with clients or customers, again, Katherine’s advice is not to delay.
She advises to return a call immediately – don’t put it off.
“If it’s going to be a difficult call, it’s going to be a difficult call. That’s the worst-case scenario.
“And in fact when you do make the call, 90% of the time it’s never as bad as you think it is going to be, so don’t put it off.”
Secondly, if the call does end up being really challenging Katherine employs a surprisingly effective and disarming tactic of her own, the sound of…silence.
“You’d be surprised how effective silence can be.
“If someone is aggressive or unreasonable, you don’t have to say anything. Just be silent. Again, it’s about having the confidence to take control,” said Katherine.
Katherine continues to share her experience and advice with women who are struggling in their careers, encouraging them to speak out to regain confidence and control of their career progression.