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Please could you life-coach me? (ex-solicitor) I promise to reciprocate if you start your own thread

(27 Posts)
reawakeningambition Wed 06-Mar-13 17:03:09

Is anyone else feeling their old ambitious self waking up again? I am, and wondered if I could talk online and get thoughts about career direction.

Can't work out if I should
- get out and network with other professionals more
- get into legal teaching/training as a side job to main role
- consult for a solicitors' firm so they pay to renew my practising certificate
- or just count myself unbelievably bloody lucky (which is what my hairdresser says).

I want to be working more with others again but I don't want to be an employ in someone's law firm, and I don't want to rip off clients.

Solicitor in specialist field of intellectual property so can do both disputes and good contracts. Very good first 5 years in late '90s - v. good experience. Second job was great firm but crap team - but you still learn. Went back full time after 1st baby - disastrous! so left in 2004 with 6/7 years PQE.

Set up own business from home immediately as "consultant" doing similar work. Went from "freelancer" to "have got a good business here" fairly quickly. Undercharged deliberately. All has gone smoothly for 8 and a half years (wow!). Earned £42K last year working approx. 2 days a week. School hours, work on own terms, major retailer has been known to apologise for bothering me during half term, etc. Clients do my marketing for me. One client says my gift is taking things people thought were hard, explaining them simply and leaving them able to do it better next time.

Client base is Cambridge tech. houses, famous illustrator, one high street retailer - the businesses that every middle-size firm wants to get to do IP work for but never does. Love the fact that they can afford my bills. Feel trusted and liked. Have never had a bill unpaid in 8.6 years except once when I had to "sack" a client after they disclosed illegal activity to me. Wish I was more central a part of their exciting stories ....though better than being thought of as a "parasite" lawyer!

Kids now 10 and 7, younger child's SN settled nicely so can think more about work. Have also been running intensely creative project at kids' school (musical) which is the most creative thing I've done in my life and attracts external funding because of outreach to vulnerable children. This project has made me realise how much I miss group creativity, leading a team, being "out there" having to make decisions's kind of like the old days doing litigation except here everyone wins whereas there everyone lost!

Strengths and Weaknesses/Profile
Good academics, ability to do detail and ability to do strategy
Jealous of friend who's just become a QC and has more money and status and a proper job title (is that a strength or a weakness?)
Get very bored of routine tasks, poor with paperwork, used to be hopeless at timekeeping; the less work there is to do, the less I do. Never happens with the music project because of that sense of responsibility to people you see face to face
A bit lonely dealing with clients online.
Can be lazy: once I've done one productive bit of work a day, I feel like that's enough. Only being in a team drives me to work harder.
Not motivated much by money - much more by status and quality of life.
A bit sorry not to have more of a scholarly achievement at my age.
Don't want to travel/commute much - suits are good for once in a while.
Professionally isolated - trusted old boss has been rude enough to die- no-one to talk to about work at all now.

reawakeningambition Wed 06-Mar-13 17:06:40

one more weakness - a bit scruffy - had some alopaecia eriata unfortunately which means that it can be quite hard to keep my hair looking smart. I find it quite hard work to present myself professionally (lawyer style) day after day.

Oh, and sometimes leave clients waiting for things - have seen exchanges copied to me by mistake saying "shall we use someone local or wait for reawakeningambition to get back to us". An adrenalin person with peaks and troughs rather than a steady worker.

noodleone Wed 06-Mar-13 19:16:18

Sounds like you have done really well in makin your career fit round the kids, I'm jealous of the two days a week. I'm not in the right field to advise what type of role would fit. What draws your to being a QC? Is that something you could do?

So not an employee, but something dealing more closely with a team and more people face to face. Hmmm

In all seriousness, I need to make sure my career is sorted before my mentor retires!

SimLondon Wed 06-Mar-13 20:41:58

Do you want to 'practise' again? (Referring to the certificate thing) or do you want to teach/academic route? if its the latta then I think the OU have a few practising and former solicitors / barristers teaching their LLB courses.

thekingfisher Wed 06-Mar-13 20:51:57

It strikes me that you enjoy what you are doing, it fits with your life its pretty reqrading, however need to jazz it up a little so you meet those other needs which seem to be more to do with being part of a joint venture or goal and I wonder whether the networking thing would be good for you. In that context it may be about setting something up as a new business venture or just a complimentary group of similar minded people to bounce ideas of etc

You get to develop some good peer support as well as potential clients ( if you want them) and maybe start off something new and interesting....

alternatively could you use the musical project and roll it out to other charities/groups/locations.... can you package it and market it to other lea's or other charities. You could use this as an adjunct to your 'working' life which scratches that creative itch but with a more 'commercial' twist?

I often think we hark back to the time before kids when we were working with a slight rose tintedness, we forget about the office politics shit, the mundane commuting, the suits, looking great/smart ALL the time and working for yourself virtually allows you to be in your jeans/pj's/onesie/whatever and still do good work...

just some thoughts...

thekingfisher Wed 06-Mar-13 20:57:27

first line should say 'rewarding'

reawakeningambition Thu 07-Mar-13 11:15:31

noodleone, thank you. Yes, you don't appreciate how important it is to have a mentor who cares about your career until you lose them. I really miss being able to ring him up. The QC thing is a sort of indicator of my status-seeking nature... which some people would think is a bit crap but I think is realistic. But no, you have to be a barrister to be a QC so that ship has sailed.

reawakeningambition Thu 07-Mar-13 11:19:18

SimLondon - that's an idea about the OU - I hadn't thought of that thank you.

I think I would like to keep up the client work but also do something that involved being in a team more. I wasn't very good at office politics generally but I excelled at training the trainee solicitors ... what I'm good at is looking at hard stuff and making it simple (so the corporate team loved me because I would give them clear answers but my own boss didn't like me because I didn't bill enough - I settled disputes too quickly).

I would also like to do some tutoring of undergrads. in IP. I don't think law is quite interesting enough as a subject to want to be an academic lawyer though - the interaction with people/business is what makes it worthwhile IYSWIM.

reawakeningambition Thu 07-Mar-13 11:23:37

Kingfisher that's such a helpful post, I really appreciate it - you should be a life coach if you aren't one already!

I think you've absolutely hit the nail on the head. I want to "jazz up" my current role. I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

A thought: what about offering a package training up trainees in IP practice? I would target firms who have a decent corporate department but no IP team. What do you think? I don't know what the going rate is but, true to form, I'd undercut it.

I remember that as a trainee we would go on some fairly random courses, some of which cost hundred if not thousands of pounds......

The only trouble is, again though, that a one-off training day wouldn't build relationships in the same way as tutoring over a term.

Does anyone have any idea of the market in this area?

thekingfisher Thu 07-Mar-13 11:53:01

Thanks for your comments, not a life coach but freelance HR type person...with similar challenges as yourself!

I think the training thing sounds really good, however just extending what you are doing rather than meeting those 'teamy' needs you have.

I do wonder whether it is realistic for us to get the best of both worlds.

The training element though is a nice role as the imparting of information in an interesting way and actually helping and developing people is very rewarding in itself.

I am very familiar with the under selling element as its what I do/have done chronically. It wasn't until I ended up getting referred for some work with a really big company that I charged anywhere near going rate and I only did that so I would 'appear' credible ( think I need my own life coach!)

However giving value for money and not being greedy mean that if I am a bit slack (not v often at all) I don't feel tooooo bad.

As a trainer in soft skills/difficult situations etc and as a freelance trainer I would be paid £400 for a days work. I know the person who retained me to do it ( a consultant herself) charged client in excess of £1000 plus materials etc.

For something more 'technical' I would imagine you could easily charge this.

I love training and find it exhausting but incredibly rewarding.

reawakeningambition Thu 07-Mar-13 18:59:53

right - think I'll look into that.

I really like the idea of being in a law firm but not "in" it IYSWIM.

And really, who else would offer this?

buildingmycorestrength Thu 07-Mar-13 20:35:11

Maybe you could look to offer a training package with someone else? Start a little business doing that. The other person could be someone who offer complementary skills. So you could offer workshops where you do a morning session on IP and your friend does an afternoon on ... whatever....

There might be a market for that with various types of clients.

You just need to do one a month or so to feel more 'alive' in the work you do, I would guess?

stickthekettleon Wed 13-Mar-13 19:57:53

Hi reawakening
Just read your post with interest.
I work in the city 3 days a week as an employment lawyer (went back part-time after DCs) but, whilst I recognise how fortunate I am to have this kind of flexibility in that sort of environment, my career seems to be going nowhere - a lot of my work and clients have gone to a colleague and feel quite sidelined. What you have built up sounds great, I have been kicking around sole practice as an idea for some time but worry about the practicability of going it alone whilst on the brink of a triple dip recession - how much work would I get, how would I build up network of other lawyer contacts to refer/brainstorm with, how much would the PI be, how burdensome is the regulatory/compliance stuff etc etc?
Also love training, and when I go out to clients to train, that's easily the part of my role I enjoy the best as, as well as the training itself, I enjoy feeling part of their business/org - something I never feel or feel proud of in respect of my own firm. have thought about going in-house, even full-time, but do think I have an entrepreneurial streak in me that wants to create something for myself. Just need to take a leap but want to do so in a safe-ish way, if that's not a contradiction in terms!
Just wanted to put my thoughts out there I guess and see where you got to after your post......

reawakeningambition Wed 20-Mar-13 21:18:33

Hi there stickthekettleon, are you still around?

have just come back from a name change and spotted your post.

well, I told my husband that I'd had a very useful session with a freelance HR consultant.... meaning the kingfisher.... then I contacted the local University and I have a meeting for after Easter, so wish me luck.

As for you, you are screaming out "try in-house" to me! You already know what it means to a company to have decent people doing the employment law side of things....

thekingfisher Thu 21-Mar-13 12:28:04

Reawakening - well-done, i am sure you feel really positive from just doing that!

Stick the kettle on....would you like to have a chat... I am often in the need of brainstorming Hr Situations that occur and would need to refer on to a lawyer in some cases....

you can pm me or reply on here...

reawakeningambition Thu 21-Mar-13 13:05:55

it was very funny explaining to DH that I'd had guidance from an anonymous person who may or not exist and was planning to act on it smile

I feel nervous - I know I could teach/tutor well but it's aligning myself to the Uni's needs.

Oh, and having to bother to create a CV which I haven't done for 6 years.... blush

Anyway, talked things through with a family friend this weekend. I could seriously confuse the uni because I do three different things really:
1. like a practising lawyers, I work for high-tech companies doing IP licensing, etc.
2. like a teacher, I want to teach the fundamentals of my aspect of law (though with a twist to make them more commercially relevant)
3. like an academic, I've got a particular interest in a particular aspect of copyright.
What I don't want them to end up thinking is that I'm a source of budget advice to students on "who owns the copyright in this paper I wrote/this song my band wrote and how do I collect my royalties" type stuff. There are websites for those questions!

thekingfisher Thu 21-Mar-13 13:44:53

Then go with a clear plan/pitch about where you think you could add value rather than presenting them with a shopping list of things you 'could' do.

the teaching/training element is the key for you ( as i understand it) so focus on that.

This is going to be a dialogue..who are you meeting at the Uni - are they law tutors or general staff?

Talk about where you see a fit - which you detailed very succinctly further up the thread. Talk about what you can bring - how you are able to make it very commercially relevant - see what they are interested in - they may have suggestions/recommendations of where they see a fit. What I wouldnt do is tell them 'everything' you are capable of have an interest in unless relevant to demonstrate your skills/abilities or identifying areas of association i.e. you interest in further developing your academic interest in Copyright.

Your CV should give them the full overview you need to isolate down the key areas.


reawakeningambition Thu 21-Mar-13 16:25:46

yes it does, thank you.

I'm actually aiming to work with MBA students (or equiv. undergrads) rather than be in the law dept. My experience is in training/helping commercial directors, finance directors, technical directors understand and use IP, and my interests is in how they turn in from something they get told about into a business tool.

They "do study IP" I've been told.... just wish I knew more about how and what and to what depth.

buildingmycorestrength Sat 23-Mar-13 08:02:11

I work in a specialist field doing lots of desk based research, and decided last year I wanted to get out more!

I talked informally to a couple of friends who work with n grad education and developed a workshop outline for grad students.

I've been to speak to someone who works in a similar field to me at the local uni, and we are putting on a joint event as a sort of trial run. I'll be able to refine my approach after this and maybe put on workshops privately but advertise through the uni.

I also went to speak at a local sixth form college, and I'm signed up as a tutor at a local adult ed place for a weekend workshop. I'm doing this stuff on the cheap as a sideline at the moment, as a way of dipping my toe in the water, building up my confidence and seeing what works best for me.

I don't really know yet if I have a viable business doing this, because I don't have a track record and I don't know enough about the market and funding for this stuff. But I'll enjoy finding out.

reawakeningambition Sun 24-Mar-13 16:38:08

Interesting - is it making you feel more "alive" as you put it?

buildingmycorestrength Sun 24-Mar-13 18:01:57

Yes. Bit stressful developing workshop materials as they are labour intensive. But am looking forward to it. Talk at sixth form was just lovely to do.

Chunderella Tue 09-Apr-13 12:53:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

buildingmycorestrength Mon 29-Apr-13 14:28:42

Just did a freelance workshop for my local university, met some great people, gained experience, etc. Invigorating! Really enjoyed it. Possibility of more work on the back of it. Hurrah!

reawakeningambition Mon 29-Apr-13 18:19:29

well done building!
I've got an interview next week. Am just hoping that 99% of solicitors in my field with an interest in academia are also the ones who don't really like the business side of law.....

reawakeningambition Mon 29-Apr-13 18:23:44

Chunderella, thank you for that post. Do you know, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I should transfer to the bar instead as general firms of solicitors tend to outsource specialist work, and, as with what I do at the moment, you just work for yourself. I looked up the transfer requirement and essentially you just need a reference. Now, that's a problem as my mentor has died of cancer... really only my own clients know what I've done for the last 10 years... but I could change that.

Another interesting thought. I don't have a practising certificate at present. But there are consultancy posts going with virtual firms where, I presume, they take care of that for you. That would get me back into "full lawyerdom".

Also, a nice former colleague got in touch and we met largely to discuss her current issues. She said she thinks of me as a mentor. It was so nice to hear someone say something colleagial about me - it's been so long!

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