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Lawyer stories:
Combining law with a case of the travel bug

David Wides tells us about his journey from growing up in the suburbs of Cape Town, moving to London, island-hopping in Thailand and, finally, learning how to have his cake and eat it!

Growing up in the suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa, I always felt like I was missing out on something. Sure, I was surrounded by great friends and family, as well as wonderful weather, but I yearned to see other places too. South Africa seemed a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of London, New York and Paris…and hustle and bustle was what I was after. I spent my years at university either in lectures, learning the intricacies of South African law, or outside dreaming of how one day I would travel the great cities of the world.

After completing my training contract, and a year post-qualification at Africa’s largest law firm, I was lucky enough to be offered a role at a Magic Circle law firm in their Corporate team. I jumped at the opportunity! I’d be moving to London, and would have the chance to broaden my horizons as I’d always dreamed.

However, while I gained some great experience, I soon realised that the hours demanded of a City Corporate lawyer left little time for exploring the world’s great cities. I packed my desk up and decided to move in-house. I started a short-term role at Gap and Banana Republic, which soon turned into a permanent role and four years of exciting learning and new experiences. Finally, I had the time to enjoy my weekends and holidays travelling! I also gained exposure to some great international work, which made me feel like I was, if not in other countries, learning bits and pieces about them while I worked. This role was followed by two exciting years with TJX, the US-founded multi-national that operates TK Maxx, Homesense and various other off-price retailers.

Yet, after six years of solid in-house retail experience, I decided it was time for a break. I wanted to rethink how I balanced my life, both inside and outside of the office. As lawyers, we tend to be highly driven and ambitious – I had to remind myself that I needed to decide what I wanted from my life, not just blindly climb the corporate ladder. A break is also a perfect excuse for a bit of travelling…so I pondered what sort of balance I wanted while island-hopping in Thailand, exploring Moscow’s Red Square, eating sushi in Tokyo and swimming with dolphins in Mexico.

After all that pondering (and having a lot of fun!), I decided I wanted to have my cake and eat it. I wanted to be a top-class lawyer with exposure to great quality work and high profile clients, but I also wanted to explore the world and pop back to Cape Town when a skype call with my family just wouldn’t cut it. It was then that I approached LOD. From the moment I stepped through their doors for my first interview, I felt at ease. They got me. They got what I wanted. And best of all, they didn’t think I was crazy for wanting it.

Ever since then, it has been a match made in heaven. I have complete control over how often I work, but have not sacrificed the kind of clients I get to work for or the type of work I get to do. I often get to work part-time and enjoy city breaks here and there. When the travelling bug demands I go further afield, I take breaks between assignments , and I can also use this time to get in-person hugs from my niece and nephew in Cape Town. I finally feel like I am close to achieving that work-life balance we all look for – and I feel like neither my professional nor my personal life has suffered in order to do it.

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