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I’m a TCK and I’m an Attorney

Clarissa Beeson poses with former senior partner Peter Woodroffe

Although her lawyer parents tried to discourage her from following in their footsteps, Clarissa Beeson now spends her days as a property lawyer at Woodroffes Solicitors in London. She grew up bilingual in French and English, and graduated from the French International School in Hong Kong although neither of her parents is French. Beeson, 32, also taught English at local primary schools in Hong Kong.

1. Where did you grow up?
I was born in New Zealand, but grew up in Hong Kong where I went to a French school. My mother is a New Zealander and it’s because of her that I have my Kiwi twang. My father is British, and worked for the British Government Legal Service for six years before coming out to Hong Kong in the early ’80s to join the Hong Kong Department of Justice.

My parents never intended for me to do my whole education in the French system. I was asked when I started secondary school whether I wanted to move to an English school, but by that time I had a point to prove and wanted to go all the way to the Bac [Baccalauréat].

2. Where do you consider to be your home?
Hong Kong will forever be in my blood and will always be home. Those who grew up there know only too well what that feeling is.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a lawyer?
Both of my parents are lawyers, so the apple did not fall far from the tree. If anything, they tried to discourage me from doing law. My school used to ask each year what we wanted to do when we graduated and I always said, ‘Lawyer, journalist or actress.’

4. How did you get to where you are now?
I did my bachelor’s in English and French Law at the University of Canterbury in Kent. I then did my master’s in Criminal Justice at the University of Southampton. I enjoyed property law and decided that was what I wanted to practice when I qualified. I was offered a job at Woodroffes, a firm in London’s Belgravia neighborhood where I have been since 2007.

5. What is your typical day like?
I’m in the somewhat unusual position of dealing with both residential and commercial properties – most lawyers tend to do one or the other. At any time I can be selling a flat in London, drafting a commercial lease for a shop unit in Cornwall or selling a pub in Buckinghamshire. On a daily basis I deal with clients, lawyers, estate agents, surveyors and banks, which adds variety to the day.

6. How did growing up globally benefit your career?
Being a TCK, you’re used to meeting people from all walks of life. Not being fazed by differences in cultures and customs certainly is good for your profession, and if nothing else, it is always a good ice-breaker.

7. Is there anything about being a TCK that held you back in your career?
I can’t think of a time where being a TCK has in any way been detrimental to my career. I remember when I started university, I went to an international student event and found that everybody had naturally formed groups according to their nationality. I remember not knowing which group I should join. A school friend once described us as citizens of the world. I think that is rather apt. We are made up of so many different parts that together form a whole.

8. Who is the most interesting person you’ve met through your work?
I was writing my master’s thesis on Children’s Evidence and my tutor suggested I attend a conference in Manchester that she was arranging. While I was there, I met Allan Levy, a barrister and children’s rights advocate who had been asked to speak. I ended up sitting next to him at dinner and we bonded over travel, food, books and theatre. At the end of the conference he offered to let me tour the House of Lords. It was very exciting. I was always very grateful to him for taking the time to advise and encourage me. Sadly he passed away a few years ago, but he left an indelible impression.

9. Was there any other career path that you seriously considered other than being a lawyer?
My two years of teaching in Hong Kong were without question the most rewarding. The impact that you can have on your students’ lives is huge. My funniest experience was teaching a group of students who reminded me of my own class at school. I often think that I will go back to teaching at some point.

10. What advice would you give to TCKs who want to pursue a career in your field?
In hindsight, I would have given more thought to whether the area of law I had chosen would allow me to work in different countries. As a TCK, I took that aspect for granted. Some people have career paths mapped out before they have even worked out what it is they actually want to do. Never be afraid of being unsure and trying different things first. Life has a way of working out in the end.

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