04:24, March 07 107 0

2018-03-07 04:24:05
Life after law: Ex-Slaughters partner on why more women should be NEDs

Former Slaughter and May partner Miranda Leung retired in November 2016 after 26 years at the firm, 16 of them as a partner. Still only 50, these days her life is very different from what it was while at Slaughters.

“I love waking up every day and setting my own agenda and doing things that very much energise me,” says Leung, who adds that she is keen to talk not only about life after Slaughters but also about issues relating to women in the City. “I don’t think women put themselves forward enough and I’d like to see if there is a way to help buck the trend,” she adds.

Certainly, Leung has wasted no time in building up a portfolio of new roles following her retirement. Indeed, even while still at Slaughters she was able to begin securing what is now an extensive roster of external roles and commitments.

Leung is the chair of the Lion Academy Trust, which specialises in turning around under-performing schools, having become a governor while still a partner at Slaughters, and is part-way through a two-year interior design diploma course at KLC School of Design in Chelsea Harbour. Leung also secured a NED role with a former client [a subsidiary of tech company Tencent] while in her final year at the firm.

Leung knew several years before retiring from Slaughters that she wanted to carry on working, just not as a lawyer.

“While it’s a very enjoyable and exciting job, it does take up loads of time, and I’d always wondered what life like would be like on the other side,” she says. “I felt I should give myself the opportunity to pursue things I hadn’t had the chance to do, although there was of course no guarantee that I’d like it. I thought I’d want to do non-profit type of work so had already become a governor of the Lion Academy Trust [which has four schools in east London and two in Essex and is in the process of acquiring three more] while still a partner.”

Leung concedes that while still working full-time as a lawyer it was hard to dig much deeper into her role at the trust than attending board meetings. Since retiring however she has become its chair and has helped one school, the Barclay Primary School, move from being in the bottom 10 per cent in the UK to the top 5 per cent and one of the best in the area.

The transferable skills Leung’s career as a lawyer has given her are not necessarily legal skills but those she has learned as a lawyer working on big deals. They include knowledge of governance issues, notably how to run a board meeting, but her corporate skills could also come into play if the Lion Trust expands to include other struggling schools in the UK.

As for NEDs roles, Leung says they can be hugely interesting and a great way of staying in touch with the commercial world and commercial issues, highlighting her experience of working with a client following her retirement.

“One of [Tencent’s] senior management team asked me if I’d consider being a non-exec director for one of its subsidiaries, China Literature Ltd, the largest e-book business in China which just listed,” says Leung. “I was just lucky.”

Leung attends four board meetings a year, is chair of China Literature’s remuneration committee and is also on the audit committee.

“I find it hugely interesting,” she adds. “It’s a great way of staying in touch with the commercial world and commercial issues.”

Leung notes that in terms of the City and her previous life, “the further up you get there are just fewer women”, adding that, “naively, women don’t network enough among themselves, by which I mean actively working with and for each other”.

Leung believes that too many women fear that their reputation will take a hit if something they try, including external appointment such as non-executive directorships (NEDs), doesn’t work out.

“They can be shyer of doing this than they ought to be,” she insists.