Carole Mehigan is a shining example of how passion and dedication can help catapult you into a dream opportunity, even without formal training. As the Responsible Business Manager EMEA at Reed Smith LLP, Carole started her career as a secretary in an unrelated field. She honed her administrative skills and never shied away from often being, the only Black person or woman in the room.
Carole’s willingness to explore different industries led her to her first position within the legal industry, where she’s spent the past 25 years. Reed Smith offered something she had never come across before – a diversity, equity and inclusion programme, and different social backgrounds and mobility within the organisation.
Fourteen years later, she shines as an adept Responsible Business Manager. Read more to learn about her journey and how believing in yourself and going for what you want can lead to a fulfilling role you can be proud of.
BYP: How did you get into your role and what were the skills you had to acquire?
Carole: My story goes back quite a while. My first choice of career was way back in the 70s. I loved reading and writing. I wanted to be a secretary, a “magician.” I wanted to create words on paper. No one in my family had a business background, so I had to learn.
My journey to becoming a Responsible Business Manager started with a lot of volunteering. I decided to help on one of the community outreach projects shortly after my predecessor left the firm. It was the encouragement of a couple of my colleagues, my enthusiasm and my ambition that got me the role.
BYP: What advice would you give our members who are considering career changes?
Carole: First and foremost, I would say go for it! Don’t put yourself on the back burner. Passion, drive and determination are some of the qualities you need to take on a new role.
BYP: What do corporations need to do in order to retain Black talent?
Carole: They need to speak to the Black talent that they already have. When they are losing Black talent, they also need to get the true story in exit interviews. Because there is still an unconscious bias, especially in the legal industry, we need to encourage Black people to look at the legal industry as a good career path. Encourage Black employees to speak and to get them to champion more Black people to get into the industry.
BYP: Why Reed Smith? What is it you love most there?
Carole: It’s the people and the culture. I have worked in various law firms and historically, I only stayed up to 5 years before looking for a new challenge within the next firm. Reed Smith was the first place to show me diversity. I saw people of different backgrounds and other ethnicities. The people are amazing, so encouraging and supportive of each other. During the pandemic, I saw a different side to the firm. There was a much bigger internal focus on mental health which has been amazing, given my own mental health illnesses.
BYP: What sort of legacy do you want to leave behind?
Carole: My legacy so far is my two wonderful children. They will be turning 24 and 28 this year and they are amazing people. The other part of my legacy would be “your background doesn’t define who you are. You are the owner of your own destiny.” Also that the firm, with the help of our fantastic volunteers and programmes focussed on young people, continues to assist and support the future generations of young people to choose a career within the legal industry.
To learn more about Reed Smith or to apply for their available opportunities please visit their BYP jobs board here.