This interview series features inspiring female entrepreneurs who have launched and run successful businesses. Through our peers’ experiences, we can learn practical lessons and insights to empower us on our entrepreneurial paths. Crucially, storytelling de-risks entrepreneurship so we believe it is an essential pillar in closing the opportunity gap for female founders.
A few years ago I thought I was the least entrepreneurial solicitor on the planet. With over 20 years experience in financial and contractual dispute resolution, my naturally risk adverse personality meant I was not one to make bold life changing career moves. Or so I thought.
However, working in a traditional law firm with a rigid view to flexible working at the same time as being a single mother to a young daughter made life quite challenging. The two just didn’t really work alongside each other. I had achieved partner status in a private practice and therefore was expected to put in the hours, meet the deadlines and lead by example. I was more than happy to do the work, and loved achieving the best result for my clients, which of course I still do. But I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t do the work at a time that suited me. I was sure the client wouldn’t mind whether I was doing the work in the evening after I had picked my daughter up from nursery and put her to bed or if it was at my desk in the office. As long as the work was done to the highest standard, what did it matter what time of day I was doing it.
As a single parent I couldn’t afford not to work full time. This meant the hours were long and I felt guilty being away from my daughter all day, 5 days a week, relying heavily on before and after school clubs. But then the guilt would shift if god forbid, I had to take an unexpected day off to look after my sick child or I pleaded to leave early not to miss a school assembly or sports day.
Something had to give. I wanted to be the best solicitor I could be and I didn’t want my career to take a back seat, but I also wanted to be around more for my daughter. Take her to school and have her friends’ round for tea. Plus, I wanted to take some time for me. Go to the gym and catch up with friends. In short, I wanted to cut myself some slack, without compromising my career.
I thought I couldn’t be the only solicitor who felt this pulled from pillar to post. There must be hundreds of us in the same boat, striving to meet the pressure of the traditional law firm rigidity whilst trying to maintain a happy healthy family life.
And so it was, after being approached by a former client to set up a law firm and putting on some serious big girl pants I grasped the nettle and took the plunge into setting up a consultancy law firm.
We opened our doors in September 2014, offering solicitors a new way of working by changing the way legal services are delivered. Our business structure allows solicitors to be their own boss; and manage their own time, their clients and their workload. It means everyone can manage their own working lives in a way that suits their lives. If they work best at the crack of dawn then that’s fine or if they’re a night owl and get most of their work done during the small hours then, that’s fine to. The point is, it gives ambitious solicitors with a passion for the legal industry the chance to reclaim their lives and manage their work life balance to suit them best. Wouldn’t all work be of the highest quality if the worker did it at a time most suited and most productive to them?!
Of course, like any new business there have been challenges from the start and along the way. When Stuart Gillespie first approached me to work with him in setting up a law firm, all I could see were the downsides. I was concerned about not having a guaranteed income and feared removing the comfort blanket of my existing role. Questions about where I would get my work from, who would instruct me, and could I build a sufficient client base to earn a living, also immediately sprung to mind.
The first step is the hardest. Not knowing whether it would work, instead putting my faith in my strong personal belief that this was the way forward. It’s also very hard work! For me it was a case of having to trust my instinct, putting my head down, and going for it.
It’s not all been plain sailing and I have probably never worked so hard. But now the difference is that I work when, where and how I like. I can choose whether to work from home because I have a delivery due, or whether to go to office. All our solicitors join us because the flexible structure of our organisation appeals to, and works for, them and their families. They have all said in many conversations since joining that it’s been the best decision they’ve ever made.
We are now in our sixth year and do I regret my decision to start a consultancy law firm? Absolutely not. I love what I do and the way I have chosen to do it. My advice to anyone wanting more flexibility in their career would be to have a detailed strategy so you know what work you want to do and how you want to do it. Then go for it!
– Lucy Tarrant
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About your author
Leah Williams is the Blog Editor for Found & Flourish, working with Founder Lara Sheldrake to ensure every piece of published content is empowering, inspiring and well presented, just like the women we work with.
I’m Samantha Jameson, the Founder of British hand, bath and body care brand, Soapsmith.
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