The Heart of Bucks ‘Inspiring Buckinghamshire’ series gives local people from a range of sectors a chance to share their knowledge and insights to help inspire others.
Here we are speaking with I. Stephanie Boyce, President at the Law Society
Tell us about yourself and your connection to Buckinghamshire
I began my life journey in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire at the Royal Buckinghamshire hospital in 1972.
I attended St Mary’s Church of England school and went on to Bearbrook before going on to the Grange School all of which are situated in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.
After living in Aylesbury for a number of years, at the age of 12 I went to live in America with my family.
In 1991, I returned to the UK to live and study. I attended Aylesbury College where I completed the Access to Higher Qualification certificate which enabled me in February 1996 to enrol at London Guildhall university as a part-time student, whilst working part-time at British Rail, by September of that year I had enrolled full time leaving behind my life in Aylesbury and all things familiar, packing up my worldly goods in my car and heading to Mile End, but how I longed for home, the familiarity of that old market town, the parish church of St Mary, the canal, the views of the town and beyond.
I later returned to Aylesbury, the “spiritual cradle of the Paralympics”, the place where my dream had started all those years ago as a young child with a dream. I would commence my training contract, my two year training period in the historic part of Aylesbury, Temple Street, with Horwood and James LLP (H&J), a stone’s throw from the base of Bucks County Museum in Church Street.
I qualified as a solicitor with H&J in 2002.
Buckinghamshire remains my home.
What personal achievements are you most proud of?
I am the 177th, the sixth female, the first black office holder and the first person of colour to become president of the Law Society of England and Wales in the society’s 196 year history and the only second in house solicitor in almost 50 years to hold the position of president.
The Law Society is the representative body for over 200,000 solicitors in England and Wales.
I have been appointed to the HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) commissioned – an independent task force boosting socio-economic diversity at senior levels in UK financial and professional services.
In 2020 I was voted on to the Governance Hot 100-Board Influencer and made the Power List 100 most influential Black people in the UK in 2021 and 2022.
What are some of the challenges you have faced, and how have you overcome them?
I come from a single parent, working-class background, a British-born daughter of Caribbean immigrants. I went to a comprehensive school having failed the selective exam and worked in a variety of jobs, including as a postwoman, before embarking on my law degree. Time and time again I was told that because of my low socio-economic status I would never have a career in law, but it is amazing what you can achieve when you are determined and resilient.
My story is one of resilience and determination, a burning desire to stand by my dream until it was realised, a definite purpose and one I was prepared to stand by until it was achieved.
“Four times”, it took me four attempts before I was successfully elected as deputy Vice President of the Law Society of England and Wales. Once you are elected as Deputy Vice President it is then an automatic trajectory to becoming president as I did in March 2021.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
That we must lift as we climb and to network.
What is your greatest hope for the future for Buckinghamshire?
The pandemic has presented us with an opportune moment to consider how we can ensure our county is as inclusive as possible, that all residents feel equal and receive equal treatment regardless of where they live or their background or where they come from.
It is a responsibility that lies with all of us and there are steps we can all take to build an inclusive, diverse and equal county.