At Crafty Counsel, we regularly focus on getting to know more about members of our in-house legal community. This week, we spoke with Mia Mawdsley (Commercial Contracts Counsel at Charles Taylor) who’s a member of Crafty Starters — our Crafty Counsel Community group for in-house legal professionals under four years’ qualified.

Resilient and curious with entrepreneurial spirit, Mia’s career is a testament to the power of self-discovery and facing fears. After leaving school early, she ran a business for 15 years to pursue her passion for helping others, and impressively transformed her less privileged background into a valuable asset in the legal profession.

From humble beginnings to entrepreneurship

Mia revealed she wasn’t a fan of school and grew up with a fear of the academic world and authority. But she embarked on an entrepreneurial journey by starting her own business at just 19 years old. Her mission was to help entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds overcome behavioural challenges like stress, anxiety, and resolving conflicts. With a challenging background herself, Mia’s personal experiences shaped her expertise in working with human behaviour. 

“I grew up in a single parent, alcoholic household and had to grow up very fast,” Mia explains.

“I moved past my own issues with addiction, which helped me learn how to work with behaviour, and then turn that into a business skill set. My business was super successful, and I loved working with people to move through their personal challenges.”

Overcoming obstacles: a unique path to law

Mia’s journey took an unexpected turn when she decided to face her fear of academia and pursue a degree in law.

After 10 years running her business, she found herself working with a lot of clients who were going through legal issues. She picked up on problems with communication between the individual and their solicitor or the other party involved in the case. It was the desire to help her clients save money, and feel represented by someone they trust, that motivated her to go into law.

“I represented myself in court aged 19 and won my case. But even that didn’t make me feel like, ‘I should be a lawyer, this is what I’ve always wanted’. My business and clients are what made me study law. I thought I’d go and learn about why solicitors ask certain questions, how people can be helped, and then bring it into my business. I just wanted a deeper understanding because I’m super curious,” says Mia.

Persistence pays off

Mia began a graduate entry course at the University of Edinburgh, which wasn’t without its challenges — especially as she hadn’t studied in 5 years. When she graduated after a lot of “cramming in” information, Mia realised law was something she really wanted to pursue. 

She then moved to London to get stuck in and qualify. As an entrepreneur going into law later in life, she felt she didn’t fit the mould and it was difficult to secure a training contract. But she didn’t let that hold her back. Mia explored alternative routes to qualification, eventually documenting years of experience and responsibility at a micro firm and securing the support of five solicitors to vouch for her capabilities.

“I’ll never forget one family law lecture back in Edinburgh. I was presented with stats to show how unlikely it is for people from a single parent home to be successful. We supposedly end up in trouble or in a very disadvantaged economic position. I instantly thought that’s just not accurate in my view,” Mia remembers. She beat the odds, proving that your background should never limit your potential for success.

Bridging the communication gap

One of Mia’s strengths as an in-house lawyer is her ability to balance commercial and legal perspectives. Her commercial mindset from years in her business allows her to consider business needs and goals while also ensuring legal compliance and protection.

A true people person, Mia loves to break down barriers to law through relationship building. Her approachable and supportive nature has led to her becoming a go-to person for advice, and she takes compliment in the fact that people come to her willingly rather than seeing legal involvement as a last resort. 

“When people come to me I feel I’ve opened the door — there’s nothing to fear and there’s nothing we can’t overcome,” Mia says.

“As a lawyer you’re there to support your colleagues, and I especially enjoy that in teams when there’s a little more tradition and hierarchy. It’s all about relationship building.”

Plenty to be proud of

Alongside working full-time as a lawyer, Mia’s business is still flourishing after many years, having made it through the 2008 recession and Covid-19 pandemic. Her Mum is her business partner and they have an incredible relationship — despite all the challenges they’ve built great success and travelled around the world.

Another of Mia’s huge achievements is the personal growth it took to qualify as a lawyer and beat societal expectations. She explains that although her qualification is just a piece of paper, it represents that anyone from any background can achieve something great. 

“I truly believe that you can do absolutely anything,” Mia says. “It may not always be easy, but there’s a way. Based on how I started out in life, my outcome could have been very different. And had I not addressed the problems I was going through, I wouldn’t be here. If I could give advice to myself back then, I’d tell myself to be more patient, and enjoy and appreciate the journey. When it’s good, when it’s bad, try to take it in. The journey is the best part.”