As part of our life at Irwin Mitchell campaign, we sat down with Associate legal executive, Sally Sargesson, from our cost management team and senior associate, Hayley Hill, from our workplace illness team.
They discussed their day-to-day roles and how they got involved with the networking group, IM Powered. They also share their successes and their experience of co-chairing the group.
How long have you worked at Irwin Mitchell and what different roles have you had?
Sally Sargesson (SS): I’ve been here since 1999. I started as a trainee in the uninsured loss recovery department dealing with personal injury claims arising from road traffic accidents, qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive in July 2005. I joined the cost management team in 2014 where I’ve been ever since. I was promoted to an associate in 2020.
Hayley Hill (HH): I joined in 2004 and I’ve always worked in the workplace illness team. I joined the team shortly after I qualified as a solicitor and was promoted to an associate in 2009 and to a senior associate in February 2018.
How would you describe your job to someone who didn’t know anything about the legal industry?
SS: I am co-team leader of the cost budgeting team, the team is fast paced, works entirely on litigated cases and services all areas of the business. My team is responsible for estimating the future costs required to bring a case to conclusion. We speculate the work involved, what expenses need to be considered, and what experts and barristers we need to involve. Once the documents have been prepared, our team negotiate with the other side and also advocate at court to persuade the Judge as to the reasonableness and proportionality of our costs.
HH: I look after people who are unwell due to coming into contact with asbestos. Most of my clients are very poorly, so I work with them and their families to understand their hopes and wishes. Most of our clients are concerned about providing for their families in the future. Our clients are wonderful, humble, and warm, and I find it very rewarding to support their journeys.
What is IM Powered?
HH: IM Powered is our diversity group focusing on gender-related issues. We focus on the challenges that people face in the workplace, whether that’s returning to work after having children, or balancing work with caring responsibilities. We’re looking to break down barriers and act against discrimination to allow our colleagues to thrive in an inclusive work environment.
How long have you been involved with IM Powered?
SS: My IM Powered journey started in 2008 when I attended an inspiring talk from Alison Eddy in the Sheffield office. Since then, I’ve worked collaboratively with great people and since February 2022 I’ve been national co-chair with Hayley.
HH: Diversity is very important to Irwin Mitchell and to me personally. It’s about helping ourselves and our colleagues be the best version of themselves. I joined IM Powered in 2009 and I’ve really enjoyed being involved with the group. Since February 2022, I’ve been national co-chair with Sally, and it’s been great to sit on the diversity and inclusion board.
How important are the networking groups to Irwin Mitchell?
SS: I feel really lucky to work in a diverse firm with such innovative thinking, because diversity and inclusion should be part of everyday life. Everything should be equal because we’re all the same, and I want to make sure that message is passed across society. Our networking groups are a safe space for colleagues. We tackle some difficult issues and it’s important to support people when they’re going through a hard time. IM Powered gives different groups of society a voice to innovate, to make a difference and to make a change. We don't rest on our laurels; we always want to challenge where we are.
HH: The networking groups at Irwin Mitchell are really important. Diversity should be at the heart of everything we do, and we work together so our colleagues can work in an environment where they can be themselves.
IM Powered was set up solely to support women. Can you tell us how that’s changed?
SS: The role of IM Powered has evolved from where we started in 2008. We’ve pushed the boundaries, we’re looking for allyship across the different genders and different diversity networks. We’re always looking to innovate and move forwards with how we approach the challenges we and our colleagues face.
HH: IM Powered was set up to focus on gender-related issues in the workplace for female colleagues. We’re now working with our male colleagues to allow us to support each other. We recently ran a programme focusing on men’s mental wellbeing, and support our male colleagues in dealing with workplace challenges. It’s become an important part of what IM Powered represents now.
Can you talk about some of the successes you’ve had?
SS: On a national level, there have been a lot of projects, for example the menopause project and the colleague safety project which the network have been steering. There have also been smaller projects, for example in the Sheffield office we’ve established links with a local domestic violence project and we’ve done some fundraising for that charity, which is important to me.
HH: IM Powered has focused on career progression for female colleagues and tackling the barriers and the challenges they’ve faced. We’re proud to have been listed in a recent Legal Week survey, where we ranked first for the ratio of female to male partners and ranked second for the ratio of female to male equity partners. It’s important to show the outcome of the good work we’re doing.
SS: We’ve done a lot of work towards tackling the taboo of menopause. As an employer of women, it’s important that women are supported through the menopause and the symptoms it can bring. IM Powered, the wellbeing team and IM Generations have worked hard to bring together a partnership with the Balance App, founded by menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson. We invited her to discuss the menopause and tell us how the app can benefit women. We’re ranked as one of the best firms in the UK for women to work, which shows the hard work we’ve put into these projects, and how invested we are in challenging the stigmas that people face.
Can you talk about your relationship as co-chairs?
SS: Hayley is just amazing. She’s made the transition from head of the Birmingham IM Powered group to co-chair of the National Group so easily. We have such a lovely relationship. We bounce ideas off each other and she has great ideas. Hayley’s just a joy and pleasure to work with.
HH: Being able to work together in the national co-chair has been brilliant. We have a great relationship. We share lots of ideas and support each other with the new role. We talk too much but we share that trait, so it’s been amazing working with Sally – she’s so enthusiastic and passionate, and that really exudes from everything that she does.
Read Hayley's professional profile
Read Sally's professional profile
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