Milana Katz

'Do not let anyone discourage you'

As a banking solicitor, I often get automatically dismissed or ignored by the opposing side, merely because I am a female in a relatively junior position — despite the fact that I have much experience and knowledge in managing multi-million-pound real estate investment and development deals.

Just this year alone, I completed on deals with a total loan value of £15m (and more in the pipeline). Given the high value and complexity of my clients’ deals, many of my transactions necessitate negotiating and liaising with more senior male solicitors (but sometimes women) representing either the lender or borrower.

On numerous occasions, opposing counsel have tried to bully me into situations (for example to accept their commercial and/or legal view as the only possible alternative) merely by relying on their seniority, sex and status. Other partners at top UK law firms have tried to force me to do their job for them — whether to make amendments to an intercreditor deed because they were too busy to do it themselves (even though it was for their client’s benefit) or arrange for their clients to come into my office to execute finance documents as this was seen as an easier alternative to make sure it gets done correctly.

Thanks to the male directors at my firm, who have taught and supported me along the way, I have never been shy to stand up for myself. This doesn’t mean, however, that I counterargue every single point made by a male partner or senior associate acting on the other side (sometimes they make valid points or present positions that I can otherwise sympathise with). What it does mean is that I actively try and represent the best interests of my clients and negotiate the best deal for them. That means I stand my ground when it is necessary to do so.

To succeed, you need to be confident in your skills and rely on your knowledge and experience. Do not let anyone discourage you. Play to your strengths and work on your weaknesses. In every deal, there is always something new to learn.

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