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job in big law after years of self employment

(24 Posts)
reawakeningambition Thu 06-Apr-17 09:03:20

Hi there,

I've been self employed for a very long time and over the last year have reached the post-little-kids stage of being willing and able to scale up.
I've teamed up with a small firm with a great client base and that's pretty good, with potential.

A job has come up in one of the international law firms. These are rare in my area in my field becaue most of the firms doing my work are London or south east esp Cam/Ox (that's where I used to be).

Just wondering if anyone has gone into one of the giant law firms later in their career after doing something different. I'm worried that I'm too quirky and individualistic to fit in there. I've got a small following and it would be a big risk to hand it over if things didn't work out.

EssentialHummus Thu 06-Apr-17 09:15:10

Have you been offered the job?

For me it would depend on the firm. I went self-employed after going from a very supportive, inclusive law firm, to one which was the polar opposite. I'd only return to a firm that I reliably thought was inclusive etc - but of course judging that from the outside is most of the problem.

senua Thu 06-Apr-17 09:32:50

What do you want from life?

Were you actively seeking this sort of job or are you only thinking about it because it's there.
I'm self-employed too and it has been brilliant for working round the DC. They can need you more as they get older, not less.
It can be difficult going back to being an employee after being your own boss.

Can you take it step-by-step because there are lots of parts to this: application, short-listing, interview, second interview, offer, haggling over T&C, acceptance. You could give it a go, and then withdraw from the process at any stage if you find it's not what you hoped (unless you think that word might get out and ruin your current standing).
What have you got to lose by trying?smile

Fozzleyplum Thu 06-Apr-17 09:37:06

Can't add anything, but I'm watching with interest. I work in the same way as you do, OP, after years as a partner in private practice. Whilst my work is going well and suits my life (DC'S and DH who has a ""full on" legal job), I've sometimes wondered how I'd fit back into a conventional legal set up.

Fozzleyplum Thu 06-Apr-17 09:38:37

I would add that I get approached quite regularly, usually via LinkenIN, by firms and agents.

reawakeningambition Thu 06-Apr-17 10:20:53

I really appreciate these posts.

It's a giant giant firm so you can probably all guess which one I mean but please don't mention the name. So its reputation isn't great (lots of peers have worked in the local one and have felt used up and spat out) but it's so big that I think it would depend completely on the team.

Hummus - it's very early stages.

I really like the idea of taking it step by step. thanks Senua.

I've just about hit my £50k self-made target for my mini pratice this year which is not bad for being in your pyjamas doing fun stuff and going for a walk in the middle of the day if you feel like it.

God only knows what the targets would be at giant firm .....

I have a few regrets about my life one of which is not yet being where I should be in my career due to the DSs, mum stuff and leaving the south for DH's job (which he is super happy in).

One plus - DH has got a three-year sabbatical (!) which means he's going to be home to see the kids when they get home from school. He's also better than I am at helping with secondary school homework. Who wants a pedantic lawyer scrutinising their work?!?

Frustrations of current setup:
1. earning below my level (but maybe everyone is nowadays - my employment lawyer boss was charging £250/hr in 1995 - I doubt that happens any more....)
2. Seeing men I trained flourishing doing the work I should be doing.
3. No funding for things like mediator training, post-doc courses, etc.
4. No pension

Good things about current setup

1. nice people.
2. scope to become head of department so get some status back.
3. Am slowly getting better at marketing.
4 can keep own following but get work from firm too.
5. Did I say nice people who don't bully or keep you awake at night?

I'm a little embarrassed by my clear levels of status anxiety..... but if you can't admit it on an anonymous forum where can you admit it....

heron98 Thu 06-Apr-17 11:40:06

Wow, if you're earning 50k with a nice home set up I would stick with that. No brainer!

senua Thu 06-Apr-17 12:24:41

Is that £50k of turnover or profit? - there's quite a difference.

OP you said that the target was 'self-made' so you were quite happy with where you are until this job came along. Is it just a case of wanting what you haven't got?

reawakeningambition Thu 06-Apr-17 12:53:16

Thanks for replies.

The 50K included tedious negotiations with a procurement department but I guess you just have to cross your fingers that every year will bring a cash cow and no illness.....

It's turnover senua but my tax-deductible overheads are currently only £5k (travel, office purchases a bit of web stuff). There are the hidden savings of not buying suits/shoes/railcards and the hidden costs of being vulnerable to illness/no employer contributions to pension.

I suspect my £50K is probably about £45K salary once you factor that stuff in and out?

I guess you have to just ignore London when you think about pay....

senua Thu 06-Apr-17 13:02:30

tax-deductible overheads are currently only £5k

Is that all! No PII, no practising certificate?

reawakeningambition Thu 06-Apr-17 13:46:43

I'm consulting so they do the PI which is a big help.

practising certificate as in individual is only £322 so quite inexpensive.

reawakeningambition Thu 06-Apr-17 13:46:59

as an individual sorry

MondayTuesdayWednesday Thu 06-Apr-17 13:57:56

It sounds like you have a good set up at the moment.

Have you considered if you move to the large firm:

-Very long hours with no say in those hours
-While you would be paid more than you currently earn you will probably be at the same level as people much younger than you who have trained and continued to work in the large firms
-Pressure of very large budgets that you will need to meet. Depending on your salary level and seniority level then you are talking at the least £500k. Bonuses are given based on hours worked as well as fees billed plus pro bono work/corporate responsibility work in the large firms.
-the constant competition between people on the same level in large firms

From your posts it doesn't sound like you are ready for all of that?

reawakeningambition Thu 06-Apr-17 14:10:21

Thanks Monday.

Hmm, some common themes in these responses.

My biggest worry is actually tiredness. I qualified in 1997 and can do long hours but can I do long hours plus commute without the kind of exhaustion that kills productivity?

I've taken it a little further and it seems like my technical skills are exactly what they lack in this geographic area.

I'd be called upon as the guru in this area and bring on a younger team/upskill them. I'd be the number 2 in the team so the director level role. Hmmm, I seem to remember the gurus at firms struggled to bill enough sometimes (thinking about practice areas like tax and data protection where they don't always own the file).

EssentialHummus Thu 06-Apr-17 14:21:27

If you are seriously considering it and are in demand (which it sounds like) and in practice could take or leave the job, then I'd be negotiating quite hard re things like WFH x days a week, billing targets and similar.

Allthebestnamesareused Thu 06-Apr-17 14:22:29

When you mention your employment lawyer boss was charging £250 per hour - doubt that happens anymore. Do you mean it won't be that low or do you think that is high?

Employment partners at my DH's firm (regional - 4 offices over region) charge £350-400 per hour.

Newly qualified salary is £42K - Top equity £350K per year. Does that fit in with what the firm you may be joining would pay?

reawakeningambition Thu 06-Apr-17 14:44:47

thanks Hummus. I take that on board.

reawakeningambition Thu 06-Apr-17 14:47:59


my bosses were charging £250/hour in Cambridge in the mid 1990s
£350-400 is interesting. It's more, but it's not that much more for twenty years is it?

I think most regional firms would be charging less for employment now.

Certainly my own chargeout rate (not employment) hasn't gone up for years. But I think you reach a natural ceiling as a one-man band.

reawakeningambition Thu 06-Apr-17 14:50:44

Hummus, when I moved here in 2000 all the biggest firms did my practice - I was spoilt for choice.

Somehow all those collapsed in the intervening years. Now it's very niche. People claim to do it but they are just using precedents IYSWIM.

There is no doubt though that if you don't have my skillset within a firm (or office in this case) it is going to affect quality.

it's really good to get this feedback, I do appreciate it. Hope I can reciprocate some time.

Fozzleyplum Thu 06-Apr-17 14:54:34

I am in exactly the same position as you. I'm a self employed consultant working through a niche commercial firm, practising employment law. I've been working like this for nearly 7 years and my DCs are in their early teens.

Whilst the approaches I get make me review my arrangements from time to time, I have always come back to the conclusion that I'm far better off working as I do. The main reasons are:

- lack of politics
- flexibility
- satisfaction of seeing my work translate directly into earnings
-not having to be involved in HR/admin/partnership work which distracts me from my legal work (I rely on Mumsnet for that!)
- no commuting/presenteesim
-freedom to develop my work in directions that interest me.

I am aware that I have sidestepped the traditional career path, and that I could step back onto it, but I really don't want to. The DCs need me around, and when they've gone off to uni, I will either develop the practice further or find other ways to use the time that is freed up.

reawakeningambition Thu 06-Apr-17 15:04:05

We are basically mumsnet colleagues Fozzleyplum smile

I started in 2004 (well, I walked out of nastybigfirm in tears and my former colleagues from my first niceCambridgefirm team kindly went out of their way to put me back on my feet).

At that time what I was doing was pretty radical (plus there was a boom in my sector). Now it seems a bit more commoditised. I got approached by bigLondonfirm a few years ago to set up a lawyers-on-demand type firm and felt exploited even before the too-lunch was finished.....

It's all changed a lot....

reawakeningambition Thu 06-Apr-17 15:04:40


before the too-expensive-lunch was finished.

Fozzleyplum Thu 06-Apr-17 15:11:29

OP, clearly we need to talk! Feel free to PM me.

reawakeningambition Thu 06-Apr-17 15:21:52


will do


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