Women Lawyers Division

An interview with Nilema Bhakta-Jones, legal director of Ascential

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Nilema shares with us the best advice she’s been given and some tips on how to get to where she is today. 

If you could go back and give your younger self one piece of professional advice, what would it be?


  • Have more fun, work less.
  • Ask for help.
  • Always stay true to your passion and core values.

Did you have a mentor in your career? What’s the best piece of advice they gave you?

No formal mentor, but great senior and peer mentors. Key advice be brave and experiment ie. don’t be afraid to try new things, or put yourself forward for challenges outside of your comfort zone. Advice I received at the Bar at my first advocacy class - don’t specialise too early.

Tell us about one of your role models?

These quotes from women and men, past and present have helped to shape my thoughts and actions and who I am today. In many ways, the quotes remind me of what’s important and how one should live life. What I admire is the bravery and foremost desire to further mankind and making a positive difference to the lives of others. My parents pioneering spirit and lives are an inspiration.

Madeleine Albright – ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.’

Mahatma Gandhi – ‘Be the change you want to see.’

Michelle Obama – ‘Success is not about how much money you make, but the difference you make in people’s lives’.

J K Rowling - ‘It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.’

Angela Merkel - ‘Nobody in Europe will be abandoned. Nobody in Europe will be excluded. Europe only succeeds if we work together.’

What do you see as the main challenge women face when building their career in the legal profession?

Two key factors (1) outdated views of what constitutes good leadership (ie. diversity of views, experience and opinions are vital) and what it takes to succeed. (2) in part, our own fears and lack of self-belief holds us back.

What are you most proud of in your professional career?

Being called to the Bar in 1994, working on some ground breaking cases whilst at Simmons & Simmons and amongst other things at Emap & Ascential including a £2.2bn transaction as sole in house legal counsel at a time when I was on a temporary mat leave cover with limited experience of UK M&A and listed entity rules.

I am also proud of my team’s progression, lawyers I have mentored and my two professional accolades: The Lawyer’s Hot 100 (2013) and Legal Business’s GC Powerlist (2016) neither of which I applied for.

What do you think has been your greatest success?

Longevity. This is a tough profession: intellectually challenging, long hours and hard work. After 24 years I am privileged to be still practising, working for a great company, in a job l am passionate about and with talented people I really enjoy working with! I continue to learn new things every day and that gives me greatest satisfaction.

After a busy day, how do you relax, ready for the next day?

Spending time with my two children, yoga and occasionally (if I have ‘me time’) listening to the soul biographies by Nic Askew.

You can hear more from Nilema at the Law Society’s International Women’s Day Celebrations on 7 March 2017. Find out more and book your place.

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About the Women Lawyers Division

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The Law Society’s Women Lawyers Division supports and advise all women solicitors and aspiring women solicitors, from trainees to retirees, no matter their area of practice.

Find out more about the Women Lawyers Division