Penny Heighway

Inspiring Professional Women

Consultant at Chadwick Nott Legal Recruitment

I was drawn to the law at the age of 14, following a week shadowing a criminal solicitor in Totnes in Devon where I grew up. However, it did take me rather a long time to reach qualification, after deciding upon a Politics degree, undertaking a law conversion course and managing to wangle three years “off” before starting my legal training contract. After that though my career moved at a speedier pace and I was made up to Partner relatively quickly and, pretty unusually in those days, whilst I was pregnant with my first child. I have always recognised that my career development was not only down to my hard work but also the mentoring, support and championing of me by others. During this important early phase, I was fortunate enough to work alongside two very supportive women Partners in particular, who enabled me to follow in their wake in terms of managing and developing a career alongside my family life.

With hindsight I probably chose the wrong area of law to qualify into, if I was going to last the course. As a natural worrier and finding confrontation quite stressful, Insurance Litigation was an interesting choice! Like most of my life decisions, I was led by my heart rather that any strategic plan. So it was probably inevitable that I would decide 4 years ago that I was done with sleepless nights and worrying about missing Court deadlines, and set about finding an alternative. An old colleague of mine suggested recruitment, which I first thought an odd suggestion, particularly as I had had a bad experience with a recruiter previously. However, after many conversations and many more sleepless nights, I made the move and have not regretted it at all.

What I love about my job is helping lawyers who may be facing similar challenges. I particularly enjoy working with returners whose confidence might be low, having been out of the professional sphere for a little while, and also solicitors coming up to qualification who are unsure about which practice area to go into.

I certainly have no regrets about my career “decisions” and firmly believe that everything does happen for a reason, even if it is not entirely clear at the time!

Reflect: There is no better place than in the garden – preferably alone whilst digging.

Connect: Humour can be a great connector whatever the situation, breaking down barriers and bringing people together whatever their language, culture or background.

Perfect: I am naturally very interested in people. However, I have recently been enlightened to find that I am an “introvert”. This revelation has been quite liberating for me and armed with this knowledge, I am working to better manage my approach to my work. For example, after a big work event or intense meeting, I need to recharge my batteries with a good period of quiet time – if possible, in the garden armed with a spade!


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