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Lawyer stories:
Juggling life with law

From cabin crew to lawyer to parent of two, LOD’s Jane Stark tells us about her journey into the legal sector and beyond – becoming a university student at 32, working for top London law firms, and finding the perfect balance between working life and motherhood.

My story starts back in the early 90s. I’d always wanted to be cabin crew, so I joined a commercial charter airline in 1992. Whilst this role was far from the legal world, I can still recall a time when two crew members (not me I hasten to add!) became involved with a disciplinary hearing. I remember watching as the employment lawyers representing the two crew members managed to negotiate a deal with the company to leave both parties happy. I found it fascinating to watch a mutually agreed settlement come out of a seemingly impossible situation, but I thought nothing more of it for several years.

Then, in 1999, following the takeover of the airline, I decided to hang up my wings and do something else. With a mortgage to pay, I took the first job I got and went to work for Elizabeth Arden in my local John Lewis store. Six months later, and spectacularly bored, I sought help from a local college careers officer who quite simply changed my life. She asked why, if I had O and A levels, hadn’t I gone to university at 18 (at this point, I was 32). I told her that, at that age, I’d had no idea what I wanted to study. To this, she responded “Well, what’s stopping you going now?” – and, finally, I had my “eureka!” moment! I wanted to study law. Without a shred of hesitation, I decided I would sell up, quit everything and go to university to study for a law degree. There and then, I filled in all the necessary university forms and, on my way home, I called into a local estate agent and put my house on the market. I was 100% sure this was my path.

I was right. A few weeks later, a letter arrived from the council granting me full funding (it was available then, they were simpler times!). Then, the law faculty at Sheffield University called and offered me a place as a full-time law student. I was on my way!

Over the next few months, I got myself ready. I sold my house, my car and all of my furniture and possessions via friends, old colleagues and car boot sales. Then, in September 2000, I travelled over the Pennines to Sheffield to start my new life as a student. And, from day one, I absolutely loved it.

Four weeks later, in the student union bar after a mature student group night out, I met the man who I would marry two years later and who is now my husband of thirteen years.

As my studies continued, I knew absolutely that I wanted to be a lawyer and I also knew that I wanted to do it in London, with the best, at the top. With that in mind, I made over 60 applications for training contracts with some of the top firms in London but, predictably (me not being the most ‘normal’ of students!), I received few replies. One firm who did reply, however, was Freshfields and after a great interview, they offered me a training contract. I instantly loved my real estate seat, and qualified into Freshfields’ real estate team in August 2006.

In December 2007, after almost fourteen months as a qualified lawyer, I left Freshfields to join US firm Latham & Watkins. I had ruthlessly chased the big salary, but also relished being part of a team of two as it meant no hiding place as a lawyer. It also meant a much bigger role on transactions, much more responsibility and a proper say in the running of things. This was the role that made me the lawyer I am today. I absolutely loved my five years with Latham. It was exciting, nerve-racking, exhausting and great, great fun.

However, in November 2011, aged 43 and a couple of rounds of IVF down, I gave birth to our son Hugo and life was never quite the same again! City lawyering had lost its appeal for both myself and my husband David (who was also a lawyer). We wanted a simpler life in a quieter place. We both took a deep breath, stepped off the treadmill and re-located back north to a small village on Saddleworth moor to live near friends and family, surrounded by rolling hills.

David found an in-house role, and I looked at my own options. By this time, we had two children under the age of 3. Scarlett, our second, was born in October 2013. I’d heard about Lawyers On Demand (LOD) from a friend and thought it would be perfect for me and my situation. I got in touch with the team and was then interviewed, before being taken on as a real estate consultant. I can genuinely say that I haven’t looked back since. The work is great, the people are lovely and LOD has enabled me to rekindle my love of the law. I have completed numerous different assignments with varying leading law firms, working on transactions, drafting and reviewing certificates of title – all from the comfort of my own home in rural bliss!

I am now in a position where I can do the job I love, earn money and, at the same time, be there for my children. I’m not sure it gets any better.

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