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Denise Jagger - Postgraduate qualification in EU Law

Denise Jagger recently retired from her role as Client Development Partner at international law firm Eversheds Sutherland and now concentrates on her portfolio of non-executive roles in the private, public and not for profit sectors.

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Denise Jagger recently retired from her role as Client Development Partner at international law firm Eversheds Sutherland and now concentrates on her portfolio of non-executive roles in the private, public and not for profit sectors.

Having studied her undergraduate law degree at Warwick University, Denise wanted the opportunity to travel, undertake further study and enhance her job prospects before embarking on professional training at Law School

She explains: “I had already determined to become a solicitor at this stage and therefore sought an opportunity to enhance my skills in this area.

“Leeds Polytechnic, as it then was, offered a postgraduate qualification in EU Law, a short two-month programme of teaching followed with an exam and dissertation. Rather cleverly it was marketed in conjunction with a programme of post graduate study at the European Institute at the University of Nice.

“Taught in French this covered all EU aspects not just law and so placed the programme at Leeds in its wider context. This had enormous appeal providing as it did a specialism in law in my mother tongue with the opportunity of travel and broader learning in French. I spent September to mid-November in Leeds and mid-November to July in Nice.

“I was fortunate to be given a scholarship to study on the combined programme which, together with a grant, made the study possible. At the time I thought I may specialise in EU law and the programme at Leeds would give me an additional qualification.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my study and my dissertation subject was based on the Abuse of a Dominant Position in EU Competition Law. I participated in a round interviews for my law firm training contract (then known as articled clerkship) during my time at Leeds and I am certain that my participation in the programme helped differentiate my CV and it was of real interest and talking point in my interviews.

“I was offered a training contract at leading law firm Slaughter and May having been interviewed by their head of the eu competition law practice whose book on competition law was one of my staple textbooks at Leeds.

“Ultimately I ended up becoming a corporate finance lawyer rather than a competition lawyer but without doubt that interest and qualification helped me secure a valuable training contract and gave me a grounding in a subject and importantly a second language that I have use throughout my career.”

Before embarking on her in-house career with Eversheds, Denise trained and worked as a corporate finance lawyer in London. Later, she was sole in-house lawyer for a UK and US listed conglomerate and later became Company Secretary and General Counsel at Asda during its rapid growth period.

She remained in this role when the supermarket chain became part of the international retailer, Walmart, and was responsible for a number of central functions such as pensions, shares schemes and corporate and public affairs.

Denise has established and led many programmes to champion women in business and law throughout her career, perhaps most notable is the Carrie network at Eversheds, a networking forum in several of the firm's international offices for female in-house lawyers.

She was also instrumental in setting up the firm's first Diversity Committee and was an active member of the 30% Club and took a leading role in promoting senior women in law firms.

Denise explains: “It fills me with pride when I look back at the two organisations in which I’ve worked for the largest part of my career, knowing that I helped to lay the foundations for what they’ve become today - well known and celebrated for the opportunities offered to women.

“At Asda Group, in the pre-Walmart days as a plc, I initiated the focus on improving the environment for women, starting at store level which was where the vast majority of women worked on hourly paid contracts.

“After ensuring their needs were listened to particularly around flexible working and improving basic benefits such as maternity leave, I was keen to build realistic paths into supervisor and junior management roles. Achieving progress at store level - the engine room of the business was key to gaining broad acceptance and capturing the clear business benefits.

“When I joined law firm Eversheds, we had a different issue - a very good intake level of well qualified and capable junior lawyers but unacceptably low female partner representation. I focused therefore on the senior end understanding the barriers to women reaching partnership level and then introducing programmes and changing the environment to level the playing field and allow the talent to flourish and progress.

“The most successful businesses worked out some time ago that attracting and retaining the right talent is the key to success and that has to mean accessing the entire workforce in any search and building diverse teams. To those companies it is strikingly obvious. However I am still shocked when I read things such as the latest Hampton Alexander Report that some companies just don’t realise diversity leads to better business on so may dimensions - it isn’t a ’nice to have’ or a box ticking exercise nor is it difficult to find talented women and attract women to traditionally male dominated sectors if only they set their minds to it.”

Denise’s support for women is not confined to the boardroom. She holds a number of non-executive directorships and charitable roles. The one most relevant to her interest in developing women is through St Giles Trust, a Leeds-based charity which helps vulnerable people back into education, training and work, of which she is Chair.

She says: “Very often the people St Giles assists have spent time in prison, and I am concerned that the system - usually unintentionally - is harsher on female offenders.

“I would hope to use the knowledge, contacts and access I have by virtue of my role to undertake some research into this area.”

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