Tam Brittan, Head of Legal at Pacific Life Re, chats to myGwork about her journey into law, forming their LGBTQ+ network and why we need more visible role models
BY MYGWORK, IMAGE VIA MYGWORK/TAM BRITTAN
Tam Brittan never thought she would be a lawyer. “It kind of happened by accident,” the 35-year-old says. “I don’t have any family connections with the law or any other city professions. My dad was an English teacher and my mum was a nurse for half her career and a gardener for the remainder. There was nothing corporate about the environment in which I grew up.”
It was only after she attended a careers fair at university, where she was studying English Literature, that law became a possible career path. “I hadn’t really thought about it before, but actually there is quite a lot of cross-over between English Literature and Law,” Tam says. “It’s all about written and verbal communication, understanding your audience and textual analysis. A lot of law in practice is about relationship-building, reading and communicating complex concepts into an easy-to-understand language for a wide range of people who need that advice.”
Upon finishing her degree, Tam began investigating various internships and training schemes. “I took the approach that if I could secure a legal training scheme (known as a training contract in the legal world) and get funding, I would go to law school,” she explains. Training to become a lawyer otherwise would have been prohibitively expensive. “I couldn’t pay for it off my own back. So I tried my luck and managed to secure a training contract.”
Tam’s training contract was with Clifford Chance, a law firm she was drawn to because of its emphasis on Diversity and Inclusion. “They really emphasised the importance of recruiting from a diverse pool of individuals, which appealed to me, and this was something that I could actually see when I attended an open day,” she recalls. “I could see it in the trainee intake and the qualified lawyers who were working there. I could see myself being a part of the organisation, even though the corporate world still felt very alien to me, because I could see people of different ethnicities and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Another practical reason was because they were a big firm, they offered sponsorship to people like me who would have not otherwise been able to pay for the fees to complete the necessary legal training.”
While undertaking her training contract – an experience she describes as “a two-year job interview” – she was rotated through different departments, spending the first 18-months in London and the final 6-months in the firm’s Amsterdam office. The first department happened to be corporate insurance and reinsurance. “I had never even heard of reinsurance before,” Tam laughs. “But actually, I found the people in that space to be varied, interesting and really smart. That’s how I ended up falling into that sector. I like that the life insurance market is quite tech-y and intellectually challenging. I found the sector to have a personal feel to it and the people within the market to be friendly. ”
That career path led Tam to another city law firm (CMS) where she spent a few years gaining additional experience in the longevity space alongside an incredibly supportive team. It has since led Tam to Pacific Life Re, where earlier this year she was made Head of Legal for the company’s European business unit. “We’re quite a small team; there are currently three of us, there will be four at the beginning of next year” she says. “I manage the other lawyers in our team, doing my best to support them from both a work and a well-being perspective. There are a wide range of issues which come to our legal team from across the Europe business. There’s a lot of reviewing fairly complex and often lengthy documents. There’s a lot of providing advice to people from across the business, often on sensitive matters. In our European legal team, we also get heavily involved with reinsurance transactions, negotiating contracts alongside our business leads, who are all really lovely.”
The legal world, Tam admits, could, like a lot of sectors, do more to improve its Diversity and Inclusion. But since she has been in the field, she has seen an increase in the number of initiatives and sectoral networks that have been set up. “There is Link, which is a LGBTQ+ insurance network that our company is a member of. Link puts on plenty of regular events and talks, and hosts monthly networking events for members,” she says.
Pacific Life Re also has its own internal LGBTQ+ and allies network, Pacific Pride, which is co-chaired by Tam’s colleagues Charles King and Christian Gettermann. Tam is quick to acknowledge that Pacific Pride has been a team effort involving volunteer committee members from across the company. “There was no LGBTQ+ committee when I joined the company in 2019,” she says. “But its formation has been a really exciting journey to be a part of. It’s definitely a firm feature of PL Re now, which is a fantastic achievement in a relatively short space of time.”
Along with organising social events like Drag Queen Bingo to celebrate the end of 2022 Pride month and fundraising for LGBTQ+ organisations and charities, one of the main focuses of Pacific Pride is promoting and developing allyship. “We previously collaborated with Stonewall to run allyship training, which was focused mainly on increasing awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and encouraging more visible, active allyship,” Tam says. “A lot of people are well-meaning, but don’t want to offend or perhaps don’t even know the terminology to use in certain conversations. It involved equipping people with the right vocabulary and understanding to have open, meaningful conversations. That training was really successful and well-attended.”
Educating allies and being visible are two ways that Tam believes the sector can become more inclusive and diverse. While Tam says that she has been lucky in her career to date and has felt able to be open about her sexuality and the fact that she has a wife (and a rescue cat called Batta), she still sees the lack of visible LGBTQ+ people in senior positions across the industry as a problem. “There is so much Diversity, in all respects, in our society that it would be great to see that better reflected at a senior level,” she says. “Even if an organisation’s environment is supportive, it would be amazing to actually see more LGBTQ+ leaders in the insurance and reinsurance sector.”
Given she is now in a senior position herself, Tam hopes to lead the charge. “I want to be a positive role model for others in the company and the industry,” she explains. “Myself and another colleague from Pacific Life Re, Charles King, who is a founding member of Pacific Pride, put together some comms for Pride month a couple of years ago and sent this around all of our staff in London. We talked openly about ourselves and why Pride was important to us; Charles shared a picture of him and his partner from a previous Pride event and I shared a picture of my wife and I on our wedding day. It was incredibly touching how well our message was received and amazing to hear the positive impact our message had on a whole range of people from across the business. That’s definitely one of my proudest moments since being at the company.”
For Tam, being able to bring your authentic self to work is essential. “It’s so important for LGBTQ+ people – of course, all people – to be happy, comfortable and to feel safe,” she says. “It’s important for us all to have the environment in which to flourish. When you don’t feel able to be your whole self, you’re never going to be the best version of yourself.”
Not only does this help LGBTQ+ individuals and their mental health, but it’s beneficial for the rest of society, too.
“We come in all different forms and it’s good for all individuals to mix with people who are not like themselves; to open your eyes to different worlds and have your biases, preconceptions and beliefs challenged,” Tam says. “It makes you a more open-minded and empathetic person and that’s key to having genuine relationships with others.”
DIVA magazine celebrates 28 years in print in 2022. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQI media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable.