Interview Series: Female Managing Partners / Chairs in Dublin on Their Career Journeys & Lessons Learned
Interview with Gayle Bowen
Partner and Head of Pinsent Masons Dublin office
Career Journey & Lessons Learned
” I also feel that it is very important as a leader to be seen to lead by example. People are more likely to follow leaders that inspire them and show them the way and not those that simply tell them what to do, as though the rules don’t apply to them.”
1. WHERE DOES THE STORY START? COULD YOU PLEASE TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
Born and raised in Dublin, family of 4. Both my brother and I loved sports, played as many as we could when we were young. I even tried, unsuccessfully aged 10, to set up a girls under 11 team in my local club, as I was the only girl there and had to play on the women’s team, but no-one turned up. Nowadays clubs are much more focused on girls in sport and there are plenty of underage girls’ teams, which is great to see.
I studied French and Politics in UCD and received an MPHIL in European Politics, Law and Society from Oxford University, before qualifying as a solicitor.
I decided to move to France during my last maternity leave (about 5 years ago) with my 3 children and my husband. It was a unique opportunity that we could facilitate as my husband could work remotely and I was on leave, which I really enjoyed and would love to do again at some stage in the future. It was difficult moving with 2 children and a 4 week old baby, but my husband had to do most of the organising and it all worked out in the end. We had a great time.
2. WHY DID YOU BECOME A LAWYER?
I recall wanting to be a solicitor from a young age, although at university I wrote for the college papers and edited a political magazine, which I really enjoyed and did toy with the idea of being a journalist instead. I have always been technical and liked working out legal problems, and while that stood to me initially, I very quickly learned that this alone was not sufficient to become a great lawyer and that you need to be commercially savvy too. I left William Fry, where I had trained, to take an in-house role in Pioneer Investments. In there I worked with a mix of operations, sales, risk, traders, accountants and other staff. You get a great insight into the workings of your clients’ business and how they operate and it helped me to understand the issues that my clients’ face and provide pragmatic and practical solutions.
I recall working in Pioneer Investments just after the Lehman bankruptcy and found it incredibly interesting seeing first hand the results of the terms that we had negotiated into their agreements come to fruition, for instance, legal would always insist on reciprocal bankruptcy provisions, whereas the managers would think, this is Lehman’s we are talking about, they are not going to go bankrupt, whereas post 2008, the managers themselves were insisting on these clauses before they even got to legal for review.
I left Pioneer about 9 years ago, to help establish the Dublin Office of Walkers Global, an offshore international law firm. This was an incredible experience, especially as it first opened back in 2010, which was a completely different environment to opening Pinsent Masons’ Dublin office in 2017 and gave me a great insight into how law firms operate and was therefore a very useful background when setting up Pinsent Masons’ Dublin office.
My background is therefore very diverse, I have worked in a Big 5 domestic law firm, in an in-house role, for an offshore international law firm setting up in Ireland and now for a UK headquartered law firm setting up in Dublin. Working with a UK headquartered firm is particularly interesting at the moment with Brexit looming, as we have both the UK and Irish perspectives, as well as that of our international offices.
3. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE WORK YOU DO?
I am an investment funds lawyer, so I advise asset managers on setting up regulated fund structures in Ireland which are sold to investors both in Ireland and globally and are used to acquire assets. I also advise on the regulation of Irish fund service providers regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. We also have a dedicated team that specializes in advising our clients on how to register their funds for sale across the EU and globally.
4. YOU ARE THE HEAD OF PINSENT MASONS DUBLIN OFFICE, WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT PEOPLE FROM LEADING AN ORGANISATION?
Since we started our business in Dublin 3 years ago, we have grown significantly from 3 partners and 11 staff to 9 partners and over 60 staff and are now a full service offering in the Irish market. That makes us one of the fastest growing law firms in Ireland. That has been a very interesting dynamic for me to deal with as office head but does not come without its challenges, especially with new partners coming from different law firms, with different cultures and approaches.
What I have learned is that diversity of approach is not something to be dealt with, it is to be welcomed. I have in the past been convinced of my approach and would have decided on a course of action, but now I take the time to first discuss matters with the other partners and hear their different perspectives, as it really does influence my end decision and allows me to factor in different considerations and implications that may not always be apparent. Even if I decide to proceed, it allows me to consider how to address these potential issues before they arise. My leadership style, as a result, is to be very transparent and honest with the other partners and where possible seek their input. While they may not always agree with the final decision, they know that they were consulted and had an opportunity to contribute to the decision making process and as a result, they are better able to support the decisions, even if they do not agree with them. This helps achieve buy-in and consensus which I feel has really contributed to our fast growth in the Irish market. I really enjoy when we work collaboratively as a team to achieve our goals, even where we have differences of opinion. I have received great support from all of the Dublin partners, as well as Pinsent Masons globally, which has greatly assisted me in performing this role.
I also feel that it is very important as a leader to be seen to lead by example. People are more likely to follow leaders that inspire them and show them the way and not those that simply tell them what to do, as though the rules don’t apply to them. In Pinsent Masons, we try to live by this mantra and our policies and procedures apply to partners and non-partners equally. Great care has gone into this aspect, for instance, we are all open plan and partners do not have their own offices or larger desks, even our global managing partner sits open plan in the same desk as everyone else. I know that this can sound strange to old school lawyers, who feel having their own office is important, but these are not the types of lawyers that we are looking to attract. I live by the rule, do not ask someone to do something you are not willing to do yourself and I try to ensure that everything I do is consistent with this philosophy.
5. IF YOU WERE NOT AN INVESTMENT FUNDS LAWYER, WHAT MIGHT YOU BE DOING NOW?
I think that I would have enjoyed a career in journalism or within one of the European Union political institutions, such as the European Commission.
6. IF YOUR CLIENT ONLY REMEMBERS ONE THING AFTER WORKING WITH YOU, WHAT DO YOU WANT IT TO BE?
I would like my clients to consider me like their in-house counsel, who can give them commercial and pragmatic advice, as well as a technically correct answer. Solving my clients problems is important, but considering the long term implications and not just short term results, in my mind is crucial to their success and I feel it is my job to highlight this to them and not just address a specific query.
7. FAVOURITE PLACE YOU HAVE BEEN TO / FAVOURITE HOLIDAY?
I went to Japan for the Rugby World Cup and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I had been to Japan before, about 15 years ago, but it really had changed so much. The food was amazing and the people were great which more than made up for the rugby! Will definitely look to go there again and now that I am unlikely to travel again for a while, I am so glad we went.
8. IS THERE ANYWHERE ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET LIST?
Would love to go to Japan again and also to Argentina. Although it will be a couple of years I think before I will be able to go anywhere with all the travel restrictions.
9. WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
I used to love concerts, but don’t think I will be going to one any time soon. Jigsaws have become an addiction since we went into lockdown. I have also taken up gardening recently and have managed to successfully grow my own peas, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, cucumber, to name but a few of the vegetables that we have grown out the back garden.
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