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Marie-Louise Bozonet: One to Watch

In a series of interviews with talented professionals, Northern Insight talks to Marie-Louise Bozonet, a senior associate corporate lawyer at Square One Law, who was a finalist in last year’s Insider Dealmakers “Young Corporate Lawyer of the Year.

“I remember being asked as an 11 year old by my form tutor what I wanted to be and confidently answering, a lawyer” recalls Marie-Louise, “Even at that young age, I had a notion that I would be helping people and it looked like an interesting career.

Marie-Louise would go on to excel at languages and when going to university chose to study both Law and French Law at Sheffield Hallam.

“At the time it looked like the perfect opportunity to combine my passions. However, it soon became clear that the course wasn’t working and after the first year, I transferred to study law at Northumbria University which is where I found an interest in corporate law.

Following graduation Marie-Louise was offered work as a paralegal for four months before deciding to take the opportunity to go travelling for a year to South East Asia and Australia.

“While I was in Australia I managed to get work as a paralegal for city firm Freehills (now Herbert Smith Freehills) for 12 weeks – as long as I could on a travel visa – . It was a fantastic opportunity. There I was a backpacker, working in one of the biggest law firms in the Asia Pacific. It definitely set me apart from other trainee applicants and I credit it as being my stepping stone.”

On arriving back in the North East, Marie-Louise joined Watson Burton as a paralegal and two years later started her training contract with them. She qualified in 2007, and then moved to the corporate team at international firm, Eversheds, where she met corporate partners Alan Fletcher and later, Ian Gilthorpe.

“Moving to Eversheds was the start of a steep learning curve for me and my time there has definitely shaped my career. The structure of the team and the secondments of its more senior members meant that I had the support of Ian Gilthorpe and I was able to work on larger transactions and had more responsibility than most newly qualified solicitors would have.”

“The last project I worked on at Eversheds was with Ian on the sale of the Mills Group of stores to One Stop, a Tesco division. I worked very closely with Nigel Mills, now chairman of The Entrepreneurs’ Forum, and saw first hand the emotional journey that clients go through when they sell the business they have put so much passion into developing.

“When Ian and Alan left Eversheds to set up Square One Law, I was delighted to be one of the first lawyers they asked to join them. Even at such an early stage of the firm’s existence I knew that I had the opportunity to be part of something different and I could see a much stronger career path ahead of me.

“It was a huge risk to leave a relatively stable job in a well known firm to join a start-up business, but I had absolute faith that Ian and Alan would make it a success and thankfully, it is proving to be the right decision.”

As a senior associate, Marie-Louise advises shareholders and businesses on all corporate and commercial aspects; from structuring new ventures, collaborative working, setting up companies, sourcing finance and company sales.

“I really enjoy the relationship aspect of my role. What I love is getting to know the clients and their businesses as well as helping them to complete their projects.

“On a corporate sale you are often dealing with a person’s life’s work and it can be an incredibly stressful and emotional time for them. Helping them through the process and making it easier for them is what motivates me and to me that is as important as the legal aspects.

“What I find most refreshing about Square One Law is the ability to actually advise clients on what I would do if in their shoes. It’s not about giving them a list of options; it’s about being a part of their team and helping them to make decisions.

As part of her management role, Marie-Louise assists with the development of the firm’s trainees and is heavily involved in the firm’s graduate recruitment process alongside training partner, Mark Lazenby.

She explains: “I really enjoy this part of my role as it is so different to the law. I can empathise and relate to the graduates and remember how daunting it was at the beginning. We have recruited some very talented trainees over the last few years and we are currently in the process of selecting our 2015 candidates.

Looking to the future Marie-Louise said: “As a firm we are no longer a start up and the challenge is now to grow into a mature business and continue providing an excellent service to our clients and win more work in specialist sectors.

“As well as corporate law, I also specialise in the education sector and work closely with corporate partners Ian Gilthorpe and James Bryce, both of whom have given me more responsibility for client relationship management with some of our key clients. Every day is different and brings fresh challenges and that is what I like.”

When it comes to longer term career goals Marie-Louise said: “Ultimately partner is the end goal and the Square One Law ethos focuses on senior advice for clients so I definitely see a partner role for myself in the future.”

We asked Marie-Louise to offer some advice to her younger self, embarking on her law career, “I would tell myself two things – first, keep up the languages and secondly to have more self belief. I have always been comfortable working in a male dominated environment, but in the words of Sheryl Sandberg I would most definitely be telling my younger self to ‘lean in’.

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