International Women’s Day – Miller Samuel Hill Brown

Celebrating the influential women across convenience

Audrey Junner, partner and head of licensing at Hill Brown Licensing Solicitors.

This post was written in collaboration with Miller Samuel Hill Brown.

Audrey Junner, partner and head of licensing at Hill Brown Licensing Solicitors

How is diversity & inclusion a key foundation at your own organisation?

It’s a core value of our firm. 2019 was the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which paved the way for women to become lawyers for the first time. In the legal profession, Madge Easton Anderson forged a path for future generations of women in the law: she was the first woman law graduate at Glasgow and the first to be admitted to practise as a solicitor in Scotland.

Following in her footsteps, we proudly appointed Marie Macdonald – the first woman to chair Miller Samuel Hill Brown in its 250 years of history – 5 years ago. Perhaps somewhat unusually for a law firm, we are women led and 75% of our leadership team are female.

The firm always strives to work within legislative requirements and promote best practice. The principal of non-discrimination and equality of opportunity applies across the board in the firm from employees to clients, visitors and suppliers.

Do you feel a positive culture being in place helps you cement business relationships?

Absolutely. I think other professionals we deal with can see this and respect us as a practice as a result. This leads to really strong working relationships.

As a specialist licensing firm we receive a lot of business via referrals from other solicitors so cultivating those relationships is really important. Also, our clients get the benefit of it as the team are motivated which follows through in the work they do.

In licensing practice relationships are everything, whether that’s those that we have with the Licensing Board and their advisors, the police, council departments, fellow solicitors or clients. The whole team value the importance of these.

Those relationships are what allows us to get the job done for clients and that’s ultimately what matters the most. The legal world is small and the licensing world is even smaller and it helps to remember that.

Tell us about your own success story, positive experiences etc?

I graduated from Strathclyde University at 21 with little idea of what area of law l wanted to specialise in or where my path might take me. Soon after l landed a legal traineeship with R & J M Hill Brown & Co I quickly realised l liked licensing law and not only that, l am, fortunately, also good at it.

Prior to this my licensing knowledge was limited to when the student union closed. It was the perfect place to hone my craft. I was part of a specialist team, being mentored by Jack Cummins, one of Scotland’s most respected licensing specialists. I progressed through the ranks quickly and by the age of 25, was appointed as a partner in the Licensing Team.

At the time l was the youngest partner in a law firm in Scotland. In 2016 our firm merged with Miller Samuel to form Miller Samuel Hill Brown LLP and l assumed the role as head of the Licensing Team. My introduction to the licensing world coincided with the introduction of the new legislation and the conversion period.

This was a stroke of luck as it meant that everyone was learning at the same time. So while l didn’t necessarily have the knowledge and experiences of the ‘old way’ l was able to become an expert in the new ways along with my peers. I am now an accredited specialist in Licensing Law and continue to head up the Team at Hill Brown Licensing.

My 6 year old daughter asked me the other day if my job was boring as l am just sitting in front of the computer all day. Thankfully there is a lot more to it than that. Some of my most rewarding experiences have been getting licences across the line at the last minute for clients, including multimillion pound developments.

There is nothing like a bit of pressure to get the adrenaline flowing or representing clients at hearings where they have found themselves in difficult situations and, therefore, playing my part in helping them keep their livelihoods. The most positive experiences l have are always about the people.

Meeting them, helping them and hopefully making a difference. The licensed trade in Scotland has some of the most genuine, passionate and hardworking people l have ever met. Acting as an independent judge for the Scottish Grocer awards and touring the best retail outlets in the country always hammers this home for me.

What opportunities are there for career evolution within your company?

As we are a law firm careers tend to progress rather than evolve and there is lots of scope for that. We have a solid mentorship program for our trainees and young solicitors to ensure they have support from peers.

We also have a promotion pathway which aims to ensure opportunities for all employees to progress within the firm. To support this advancement we made changes within our organisation to ensure that women, amongst others, have the flexibility to stay within the profession and hold senior positions.

Our flexible working policy provides for flexi-time and agile working, as well as remote working. In lots of ways the pandemic forced law firms to evolve and working from home is now a standard part of how we operate. Our employees are our asset, so it’s important that we acknowledge that and develop policies and practices which allow them to thrive.

What has your experience been like as a woman working in your field?  

Overall it has been really positive. With a couple of notable exceptions the area l specialise in has always been very male dominated, although that tide does appear to be turning. When l was younger this could be very intimidating but as l established myself l became more comfortable.

I have been lucky enough to learn from and work alongside some inspiring individuals over the years and the support of other licensing lawyers has definitely seen me through on more than one occasion.

What challenges have you overcome in the past in this regard? 

At the start of my career l did get some pushback from clients but l think that was potentially down to my age rather than the fact l was female. I do remember once being referred to as a “wee girl” which, in hindsight, was fairly insulting but let’s put that down to my youthful looks at the time.

There is no doubt that in law you do need to prove yourself and that is no different in the licensing arena. My male colleagues and mentors have always treated me exactly the same way as male employees and for that reason l consider myself really fortunate. As a mother l have taken two periods of maternity leave.

When l had my first daughter 6 years ago l very much felt the pressure to return to work quickly. Having just returned after my second daughter that pressure was slightly less intense second time round. There is no doubt however that taking a break from the workforce for an extended period of time can be daunting.

Shared parental leave has played a huge part in supporting my transition back to work but the balancing act of work life v home life can be intense especially for woman. A male professor of mine once said that running a law firm is like spinning plates. I personally think as a woman it can sometimes feel like spinning plates while riding a unicycle on a trampoline.


Click here to read more about the inspiring and influential women working across the convenience retail sector.