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Nikki Alderson

Specialist Coach, Speaker and Author and former Criminal Barrister

Class of 1992

What is your most memorable moment as a student at Sheffield Girls'?

At Junior School, going to Miss Cymbal’s house to watch the film of Midsummer Night’s Dream which we were studying – the image of her entire class squeezed into her front room to watch the black and white movie as her German Shepherd looked on bemused was something to behold!

At Senior School, as a member of Mr. Crosland’s outdoor pursuits club, it’s hard to pick just one stand-out moment, given how many there were on the trips he organised. Highlights include:

  • Climbing my first Scottish Munro, Buachaille Etive Mor, at Glencoe.
  • Conquering the National 3 Peaks in less than 24 hours and being featured with my clubmates in the Sheffield Star.
  • Seeing the fluorescent night plankton in the Scottish waters whilst on a sailing trip.

Why did you decide to take the career path you did?

I loved English at school and had an interest in Journalism, but after a week’s work placement shadowing the court reporter at the Sheffield Star, who told me he favourite cases concerned bus vandalism, I was rather put off!! I decided I’d rather be presenting the cases in court as opposed to reporting them.

Having studied law at Balliol College, Oxford, initially with the idea that it would keep options open should I wish to think again about journalism, I soon realised the foundations were very much set for being a lawyer, albeit I’d not yet decided with any certainty whether solicitor or barrister.

In second year at Uni, there was a big recruitment drive for city solicitor training contracts which didn’t float my boat. I was more interested in being the voice of the underdog rather than working to make the rich richer, so by default I fell into being a barrister. Having said that, after 19 years at the criminal bar, and several stints working abroad in Jamaica supporting attorneys who represented those on Death Row, I re-evaluated where I wanted to be.

What are you doing now?

The Jamaican work had been intense and a career highlight, albeit voluntary, and returning to my usual practise after that, something felt off. I had some coaching at the time, to help me get my head back in the game, which it did for a further successful decade. Appreciating the part the power of coaching played in retaining me within the legal profession, and how much it could likely help other Bar colleagues too, I began my coaching qualifications whilst still full time at the Bar. I studied and practised in my spare time on weekends and week nights where time allowed.

After 3 children, working full time throughout, it was only on extended maternity leave with my 3rd that I had a “now or never” moment and decided to start my current business – as a specialist coach and speaker supporting law firms/ barristers’ chambers attract/ retain/ elevate female talent and empowering female lawyers to achieve career ambition.

It's through this work that I’ve also written the Amazon bestseller, Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching.

What have been the biggest challenges in your career? And the most rewarding parts of your job?

Without doubt, one of the biggest challenges I faced was navigating a busy criminal practice whilst also being a mother of 3 young children.

Most rewarding were:

  • Being an integral part of a Defence team ultimately saving a man wrongly convicted from the Death penalty.
  • Writing a book and doing a TEDx talk about the experiences.
  • Successfully transitioning from the bar into business as a coach and speaker.

What advice would you give your younger self?

  • What you “become” career-wise may not be something you can immediately see – I had no idea about coaching at school.
  • The friends you meet at school will likely be friends for life – I’m still in touch with and close to friends I’ve had from school and known from age 4 – I’m now aged (nearly!) 50!!!
  • Back yourself, even if it takes you down a road less travelled. Don’t fear standing out from a crowd - Sheffield Girls' taught me that, for example doing Russian GCSE.

A Levels: English, Geography, Religious Education and General Studies

University: Jurisprudence - Balliol College, Oxford


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