It often feels difficult to find out about the options for careers beyond large
corporate firms at Oxford. This means that it was particularly fascinating to hear
from the founder of A City Law Firm, Karen Holden, in the most recent instalment
of the Inspirational Women series. She founded the firm in 2009 with £5,000, a
suitcase of files, and no idea how to run a business. Since then, she has
successfully and organically grown it into a thriving business with a host of
awards, including being named Leading Firm by the Legal 500. Karen herself was
awarded Freedom of the City for her work on equality.
In an honest and engaging talk, Karen spoke about how she wanted more of a
work-life balance and like-minded colleagues after working for two larger law
firms. Particularly interesting was the discussion about cultural differences in
corporate law, in which Karen expressed a desire to maintain a small and nimble
firm, instead of a commercial law empire with hundreds of employees.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Karen’s career is her work on cutting-
edge areas of law while navigating law with little precedent. She spoke
engagingly about dealing with challenging cases, noting the difficulty of effective
due diligence on cryptocurrency firms and the intersection of technology and law.
Most recently, A City Law Firm worked on a pioneering law case about a
surrogacy arrangement case; it was fascinating to hear about the nuances of the
law at the cutting edge of LGBT issues.
Karen finished by painting an optimistic picture of the future of law, with changes
in the make-up of the judiciary reflecting a younger, more diverse generation
with a greater range of views. Despite this, she felt that women are still very
underrepresented in law. However, she has no doubt inspired some of the
audience to consider pursuing a career in law, and as such contributed to
addressing this imbalance.