Marika Franceschi, Partner at MacRoberts LLP and Accredited Specialist in Family Law, explains how working in her parents' chip shop growing up helped her stand out in her legal career.
I am from an Italian/Scottish background and grew up in a chip shop in the west coast of Scotland - the wooden stool I used to stand on to see over the counter still holds the vinegar barrel to this day!
What was your motivation for becoming a solicitor?
I wanted to make my parents proud of me. Initially, that was the sole motivator as neither of my parents had had the benefit of further education. My father could not read or write having grown up during the second world war in a remote village in Northern Italy where education was seen as a luxury. The legal profession was something they both recognised and respected.
What challenges did you encounter?
At home, I had the benefit of very loving and supportive parents. One of them pushed us to aspire and the other made us know that they would be there for us regardless of what we managed to achieve. My challenges came outside the home. I was mocked for being from a chip shop and I once had to sit a school test twice as some class mates were convinced I must have cheated as I couldn’t possibly have got the highest mark in the class as I was “from the chip shop”! The teacher and I agreed I would sit another test just to prove them wrong. I faced snobbery and derisory remarks about my background even after I became a qualified solicitor. Comments such as “this is bit of a step up for you, is it not?” or, when I was a junior solicitor and attending a very formal dinner, a partner leaning over to me and saying “what will you have? There won’t be any fish and chips or bangers and mash on this menu”. Thankfully, these comments just fuelled my determination to prove them wrong. I always had my dad’s voice in my head “don’t ever look down your nose at anyone and don’t let anyone look down their nose at you”.
How did you overcome these?
Essentially, by proving them wrong! I used my background to my firm’s advantage (starting quite early on in my career while at a different firm). I used my Italian language skills and my knowledge of running a family business (and the challenges that brings) to build rapport with clients and to identify areas where we could assist. I got to use my Italian and honour my heritage while assisting clients and making more money for my firm in the process.
Did you have a role model and, if you did, who was it?
I didn’t know any lawyers growing up and there isn’t another lawyer in my family. My older sister always did well academically so I suppose she was my first inspiration as she made me realise that was a realistic option for me too. My parents wanted us (I am one of four girls) to have financial independence and to have a better work/life balance so they inspired me too.
Have you any advice for anyone considering a career in law?
Regardless of whether you go on to become a lawyer, the degree itself teaches you to think and analyse in a certain way which is invaluable to lots of different businesses. As a practising lawyer, I would say the job is demanding and can be quite stressful at times but it is never boring and often very rewarding.
MacRoberts is a member of PRIME which is an innovative initiative by the UK’s leading law firms to improve social mobility and inspire greater diversity within the legal profession.