Happy International Women’s Day from everyone at Teacher Stern! Stay tuned for our IWD blog posts which will be shared throughout the month of March featuring some of the many inspiring women at the firm.
Up first, meet our first year trainee, Valeriya Zinchenko:
1. Why did you want to pursue a career in law?
Honest answer? My dad said I should be a doctor or a lawyer (he is very old school). I was terrified of blood, so lawyer it was! On a more serious note, he always encouraged me to study, so I grow into an intelligent but, most of all, independent young woman. He would tell me that with the knowledge of the law, nobody can trick or mess with you. So, I started researching careers in law in the first year of my A-levels, went to open days at universities, and spoke to professors and students. I have always preferred analytical subjects, where I could use my creativity to solve problems. It was a perfect fit. After the first year of my undergraduate LLB programme, quite a few students dropped out, realising it wasn’t for them. On the other side of the spectrum, I couldn’t wait for the next year when I could choose my electives.
2. Which women have influenced you and why (this can be someone famous through to a family member)?
My mum also encouraged my decision to pursue a career in law, but in a slightly different way. She grew up in the Soviet Union during the communist regime. She used to tell me how freedom of choice was not available for young women during Soviet times and that I should not take it for granted. When she was at school, she excelled in mathematics and aspired to go abroad to study. Unfortunately, her dreams were shattered quickly, as you were not allowed to leave the borders of the Soviet Union. My mother's vision for my future was different - she encouraged me to travel, study, grow intellectually and follow my passions. So, thank you, mum (and dad).
I will, of course, also mention Lady Hale. She is a total Rockstar for making history as the first female Supreme Court Judge, advocating for greater gender representation in the Supreme Court and the legal profession, and devoting her career to law reform on children's welfare and divorce law legislation. She was my hero during my academic studies.
3. What is the most memorable moment in your career so far ?
When I was getting ready to walk down the aisle, a client called and asked me whether I was busy… I said a little, as I was getting married, but he thought I was joking and continued talking. We had a good laugh about this the next time we spoke on the phone.
4. If you could be any heroine for a day (from film, TV, books or otherwise), who would it be?
I would be Olena Zelenska for a day. She is a modern portrait of bravery.
5. On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women starting out in their careers?
Pursue your passions, be strong, know your self-worth and don’t be afraid to take risks to create the future that YOU want.