As I announced on my Instagram, I recently quit my job, thus saying goodbye to the unrelenting hours of a corporate lawyer working in private practice* and hello to the life of a legal consultant! I specialise in working with technology and media companies, and since starting up on my own, I have landed two clients.
It’s quite a big move as a junior lawyer to leave the comfortable world of private practice and a permanent job! Therefore, most lawyers I have talked to have been curious to know the same thing: what is life like as a consultant?
Disclaimer: I’m new to this, so I might very well be in the honeymoon stage and unashamedly biased in my review – generally, I think consulting is brilliant. Below are five pros and 2 cons to life as a legal consultant!
1. The control and flexibility – I have so much more control over my life. I decide when I work, how I work, where I work, and who I work with.
2. The creativity and innovation – I own my own company, which means I have to be business-minded in my approach to growing it. Similarly, I work with world-leading technology clients who require me to think creatively and keep innovating. Being a part of the commercial buzz of the business is probably my favourite part of being a consultant.
3. The responsibility – I have been allowed to take on as much responsibility as I am capable of and show appetite for. Landing the Microsoft contract was a bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment because of the nature and calibre of work I’ll be doing with them, particularly in the artificial intelligence space, and I cannot wait.
4. The money – one of my concerns when leaving a US law firm was the potential pay cut. US law firms are known for paying world-leading salaries and moving in-house* as a permanent employee, rather than consulting through my own company, would have almost certainly meant losing a few pounds. However, as a consultant I have greater freedom to negotiate my fees and I benefit from working through a limited company, therefore, somewhat surprisingly, my income has actually increased.
5. The variety – on becoming a consultant, I switched from advising on corporate legal matters to commercial ones. Whilst they are similar practice areas, there is a lot of scope to go into different areas of law and no requirement to specialise early on in your career.
The Cons (remember I’m new to this, so the rose-tinted glasses are still firmly in place…):
1. The uncertainty – whilst I haven’t experienced this myself, a lot of lawyers are reluctant to go solo because of the lack of security that comes with it. Consulting means that work, and therefore payment, is no longer guaranteed. My strategy so far has been planning ahead in order to avoid unwanted periods of no work.
2. The admin! Ohhh the admin – owning a limited company comes with a heck of a lot of admin. This includes incorporating, filing, getting accountants and setting up your tax structure and payroll, sorting out your company pension and organising insurance. This decreases over time when everything is set up, but in the initial stages of getting your company in order are SUCH a pain. I strongly advise getting someone to alleviate you of the administrative burden (I’m happy to make recommendations if you wish!).
So there you have it. My experience of consulting thus far. If you’d like to know some of the details around starting a business or becoming a consultant, be sure to check out this video:
*Private Practice – working in a law firm
*In-house – working in a company in their legal department