‘So, what do you do?’ ‘Um, I’m a lawyer, kind of?’ I’ve always dreaded that question and am never sure how to answer it. I mean, yes, I am a lawyer, but I’ve never been totally sure that that is what I am or (more accurately) what I want to be. I’ve struggled with trying to figure out this question of what I am and what I want to do for years now and seem to have bounced all over the place. After starting in private practice working mainly in international tax, I then flirted with academia for a while, teaching at my old university in Cape Town, before moving to the UK to do my masters. Then, into an in-house role at a large construction consultancy for several years. Then back to academia, to do a PhD in criminal law at Oxford, researching counter-terrorism legislation, followed by time at a research consultancy working on projects related to privacy and data security.
And after all of that, I was struggling more than ever with knowing what I should be doing. I had just received a job offer for a lectureship in criminal law, which should’ve been the dream after finishing the PhD, but I was struggling with the idea of accepting it. Moaning and feeling confused over brunch one morning with my friend David, I half-jokingly said, and feeling a little embarrassed: ‘All I want is a job that I can go to, do the work and not feel completely stressed out and work ridiculous hours, get paid a decent amount, be able to travel often, and not get bored after 6 months’. To which he replied, ‘but that’s my job’.
David had been with LOD for years and I remember being very envious of his life of assignments interspersed with regular periods of travel. Yet, for some reason, it didn’t occur to me that I could also do this. I think having had such a strange career path up to then, and having been out of the ordinary world of lawyering for so long, I had just assumed LOD wouldn’t be interested. But the more I thought about it and the possibilities for working in a different way, the more I thought why not? I had been engaged in legal research, writing and work of some sort since completing my law degree. Add to that, all the moving around had given me a pretty broad range of experience, and, I now realise, the adaptability to be able to go into different roles at different companies and not find that a terrifying prospect.
From the moment I met Carly (LOD HQ) I thought ‘this feels different’. For the first time in an interview setting I felt I could be honest. I said things that you are told never to say – that I get bored in the same role, that a law career isn’t my great passion and I don’t have ambitions to move up in a firm or get involved in caring about a company, that I secretly wish I could be a jeweller… It was a relief to be so frank. And more of a relief when Carly said she enjoyed a challenge and agreed that they would take me on.
Within a week, I had my first interview for a position at American Express. With no experience working in payment services, I was nervous, but they were open to taking on someone with an unusual CV and I ended up staying with them for a year. My first assignment, and experience of life as a commercial lawyer again after so long, was fantastic. It all happened so seamlessly, it took me a while to realise that I was actually working in the way that I had jokingly said would be my ideal. Even better, I was working four days a week, which meant that I finally got to try the jewellery making dream. I did a one-year jewellery and silversmithing course. I went to my classes every Monday and this completely transformed my week. But, I’m still the person who gets bored, so after a year I spoke with Carly and Nadia and said I thought it was time for a change. I had also been thinking about working remotely so that I could travel and work at the same time. This is the ultimate goal really, to be free to work from anywhere. Again, I wasn’t sure it would happen and again it did! I’m now on assignment with a global transport business and am typing this from Spain. I work and walk in the mountains and at lunchtime I stroll through olive groves and lemon trees, I swim, I explore, and I have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t holiday, this is my life.