Jane Littlejohn (LHS 1978) has recently retired from her role as Partner and Head of Estates at Boodle Hatfield. She had an incredible and long career with Boodle Hatfield; after starting there during her training, she realised how much she enjoyed the firm, and so she spent the entirety of her career with them.
Since retiring, Jane has been enjoying her interests in gardening and ballet.
Read more about her career, her career advice, her time at LHS and what has inspired her in this questionnaire.
Do you have any standout memories from your time at LHS?
It was a time of change, with brand new buildings, and the introduction of an updated uniform. Here are a few snapshots which immediately spring to mind:
When we were taken to Stratford upon Avon to see our O Level play, Henry V, we had a rare chance to wear our own clothes, and about half the class decided to go wearing the striped knee socks which were ‘of the moment’. I am sure that the staff must have been amused that we had chosen to wear a uniform, albeit not the LHS regulation one!
Chemistry practicals and the fun that came with bunsen burners, iron filings, and the squeezy water bottles!
Mr Hammond’s witty school reports.
Going with Mr Mercer to see the vast computer at Loughborough University, and learning how programs were written many years before computers appeared in the office or at home.
The annual Carol Service and featuring in the tableaux in my final year.
How did your time at LHS help you personally and with your career?
LHS helped me develop the skills for problem solving, and delivering a structured and supported argument without padding which helped me to analyse problems for my clients and give clear concise advice through my career.
Was there a particular teacher that inspired you?
I was fortunate to be taught by a number of inspiring people during my time at LHS, but I would particularly mention Mr. Hammond for his wonderful dry sense of humour, and unbelievably wide vocabulary, and Miss Thomas who was the catalyst to my interest in History.
What did you do after LHS e.g. University, gap year or apprenticeship?
After LHS, I went straight up to Cambridge to read Law, and then on to the College of Law in Guildford for a year to complete the professional exams, before completing my training as a solicitor with 2 years as a trainee solicitor.
How did LHS support you with your above decision?
The LHS staff were supportive of my chosen course and career, and gave up spare time to give me extra tuition and extension work to prepare me for the Cambridge entrance exams which I took in the Upper 6th.
Can you explain your career path – how did you get to where you are today?
I was extremely lucky that the firm where I trained was one where I was happy to spend my entire career. I put this down to the quality of work available and the people I worked with, both as colleagues and clients. I have always been interested in property and qualified into that specialism, despite my initial thoughts that I might be suited to tax law. I was almost knocked off course by a deep recession following a property market crash, and my partnership prospects were held up by a number of years during which I had my 2 children. Eventually the situation improved, I was made a partner, and was privileged to go on to grow and manage a significant team for the firm.
What are your career highlights?
Two things spring to mind:
First, engendering sufficient confidence in my colleagues that I was able to achieve flexible working at a time when such arrangements were very rare, especially for transactional lawyers, and being offered partnership on the same part time basis was quite an achievement at that time.
I have been fortunate to advise a number of household names during my career, and I was extremely proud when a major client rated me as a ‘trusted advisor’, rather than simply a lawyer.
What have you done outside of your career that you are most proud of?
Apart from bringing up 2 children, I would say winning my ‘oar’ when my college crew at Cambridge went ‘head of the river’ must be right up there, because I am really not a sporty person, and was the one always on the sidelines at LHS since I have absolutely no aptitude for ball sports.
What is something that you would want your younger LHS student self to know?
Just because someone uses a lot of long words it does not mean that they are more intelligent, or in any way better, than you!
What is your top career advice?
A career can last a lifetime, so you have to enjoy doing what you do.
No-one can know everything. There is no substitute for experience, and the more you learn, the more you realise there is yet to learn. Don’t be frightened to ask if there is something you don’t know, the skill is in knowing how to find the answer to a wider range of questions.
Keeping things simple is an art and not a weakness. Unnecessary complexities just increase the risk of errors on implementation or in subsequent dealings.
Do you have any life advice or wisdom to share?
Be kind to others. You never know when it will be your turn to need support.
Don’t lose sight of your sense of humour. When things get tough it is invaluable.
Do not send in any electronic form anything which you are not happy to share with the whole world! Even when malice is absent things can get out of hand at the unthinking touch of a finger.
Is there anything that you would have done differently?
I would have learned to delegate more!
Finally, who is your woman of the week – who inspires you?
I have been privileged to know many inspiring women who do not have a public profile, but who are intelligent, witty, compassionate, and have great inner strength. Turning to women in the public domain, I am especially inspired by those women who have been touched by great tragedy or suffering and who have reacted with dignity courage strength and persistence to fight for a greater good. I think particularly of Baroness Doreen Lawrence and her struggle for justice for not only her murdered son, but the wider community, and also Betty Williams, Mairead Corrigan and women of Northern Ireland who courageously broke out of the sectarian mould and sowed the seeds of peace in Northern Ireland.