Sandra Davis

I can’t see myself ever fully giving up what I do. I will always want to give back in some way.

I grew up in North West London and studied law with French and European Studies at Sussex University, as it was the only place where I could spend a year abroad as part of my course. I went to Aix-en-Provence and did my dissertation on drug-trafficking in the South of France (without any front-line research, I should add!). It’s fair to say it wasn’t what my tutors had been expecting. At one point, I worked for an American tour company, as a tour-guide throughout Europe. I had never visited Europe before, so I used to get up early, read the guidebook and talk the tour group through what I had just read. It gave me confidence and resilience and was an excellent introduction to the skill of performing when faced with limited time to prepare, but it was not a model that I would recommend in my legal career, where an in-depth understanding of the law is a pre-requisite.

I initially wanted to be a barrister, I suspect due to the influence of too much Perry Mason as a child, with all the courtroom drama that promised. But in those days, as now, junior barristers often struggled to make ends meet, so pragmatism took over and I decided to pursue a career as a solicitor instead. I joined what was then a small firm of solicitors headed up by Victor Mishcon and worked between Mishcon and Clinton Davis & Co under Stanley Clinton-Davis as his articled clerk. We were allowed to wear jeans at Clinton Davis & Co which seemed very cool at the time. I was given an enormous amount of freedom – my first hearing was a three-week trial in Leeds, where I sat behind counsel and had to manage the entire family with a whole raft of files. There was nowhere near the level of supervision that there is these days. At the end of my first year at Mishcon, my mentor told me that they wanted me to stay with them full time. I was reluctant to stop working at Clinton Davis & Co and so she locked me in her room until I changed my mind! From there, the pace never slowed – the person who ran the divorce department (as it was then) became ill and left at the same time as I qualified and so I ended up taking over the department as a newly qualified solicitor. I became a salaried partner within two years and an equity partner within three.

Family law always appealed to me as I wanted to make a difference to real people going through one of the most challenging transitions of their lives. It’s one of the few areas of the law that focuses on children, so the outcome is absolutely crucial. Relationship breakdown can bring out the worst in people, and I’ve seen some put their own needs before those of their children. I ask my clients to show me a picture of their children, and put that on the table, so that their focus remains where it should be. A client’s relationship with their family lawyer is unique, and they will have conversations with me that they would never dream of having elsewhere. It can often be part strategising, part firefighting and part confessional. It’s important to care, particularly where extremely intimate matters may need to be dealt with, but it’s also essential to be professional and maintain boundaries. I tend to remain in touch with clients after their case has ended – I’m invested in their future and like to know what has happened after the dust has settled on their separation. It’s inspiring to see the wonderful things that many of them go on to achieve.

Mishcon is now considerably larger than it was, with over 200 partners as opposed to the seven there were when I joined. That said, it’s still recognisable as the same firm. We’re always on the drawing board, always creative, always willing to try new things, always energising. My role has evolved too – while I still do client work and continue to operate at the cutting edge of the law, I now focus also on mentoring others and creating business relationships throughout the private client sector, helping individuals and families access the right support for their different life-stages.

I hope that my legacy will be to help others in my area of law build their careers, be responsible lawyers, and manage a sustainable and long-lasting practice. That said, I’m continually learning too – the world changes and we have to adapt to that. Artificial intelligence, new procedures and new ways of working are changing legal practice in ways we could have hardly imagined even 10 years ago. But I find grasping (and hopefully mastering) new skills energising – it keeps me young.

My work has given me a great deal of insight into what people need to rebuild themselves, and looking forward, I want to share my experience, knowledge and wisdom with those who might benefit most from it. I intend to do more writing, more speaking and more mentoring, as well as creating a holistic wrap-around service to enable women, in particular, to extract themselves in a positive way from the devastation that divorce can bring.

I’m delighted to be chairing a panel event with Circle Square on Thursday 25th April, called ‘Just do it! Women Inspiring Change’, where I’ll be speaking with some inspirational women who have gone through significant changes and come through them stronger and wiser than ever.

Circle Square Member Q&A

What 3 words best describe you? Driven, passionate, creative.

If you could offer your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be? Never be backward in coming forward. Back yourself: you’re more capable than you know.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? My two delightful sons.

Which person (dead or alive) would you most like to invite to dinner? Iris Apfel.

How has age strengthened your advantage? I’ve learned to take a different approach to negotiation, and to tell a client to take a deep breath, to hold on, that this may not be the moment. I know when it’s commercially right for a client to settle a case. There’s a sense of timing that comes with experience.

What inspired you to join Circle Square? Circle Square has curated a group of people with an enormous range of talent, energy and enthusiasm, I’m keen to be part of this community and make the most of the opportunities that it brings.

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