14 – that was the age I set myself on the path to becoming a lawyer, a path from which I did not waver. Battling a life threatening illness, having to restart my degree and dealing with the ultra-competitive training contract market were all challenges, but none of them deterred me from my aim. The latter, however, did provide me with a bit of a detour, one that ultimately led me to LOD, and I haven’t looked back since.
My detour started post-LPC. I started working for an international property consultancy, before moving to Central Government in the Lord Chancellor’s Department (as the Ministry of Justice was known back then). Then, my now husband and I relocated to the Midlands for a career move on his side, and my dream of becoming a lawyer became a reality. I started as a paralegal, before accompanying one of the firm’s partners when he set up a new niche law firm. I qualified in that firm and, in time, I moved on to develop my expertise in I.P.
However, following a 6 month secondment to BP, I realised that becoming part of the business that I was advising was far more interesting to me than sending advice into the ether (which is what private practice felt like to me). With this realisation, I set myself a new goal; I wanted to move in-house. Therefore, I understandably jumped at the chance to join the in-house team at The NEC Group, which operates venues including the National Exhibition Centre and the Barclaycard Arena, as well as running an award winning catering division and a national ticketing agency. As you can imagine, this was a pretty exciting business to work in and the variety of commercial legal work more than matched. I was even part of the team who won and delivered catering services to the Olympic Park in 2012.
Yet, in all my focus to become a lawyer, I hadn’t considered much beyond qualification. I thought simply “being a lawyer” would mean everything fell into place. No surprises then that, less than 10 years after reaching my goal, I found myself questioning it. Illness has taught me that nothing is as important as your health, and I could never imagine giving everything to my job to the detriment of home life, but law can often leave you with little option. With law you are either in or out, right? Flexible working was only for those with family commitments, wasn’t it? I decided that I was never going to come up with a “Plan B” while I was working flat out, so I took a deep breath and, with the support of my amazing husband, jacked in my job and (so I thought at the time) the law.
Exploring new options was daunting at first, but this thinking process brought me to the wonderful world of…fashion! I realised that, when work left little room for the imagination, putting together new outfits and revamping my wardrobe had always been my creative outlet. Friends and colleagues often asked me about my clothes, and some of my key working relationships had actually been forged bonding over outfit choices! In the “fabulous” footsteps of Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn’t help but wonder was there a way of turning this skill into a career? So it was that Shape Your Wardrobe, my personal styling and shopping company, was born.
However, I didn’t feel ready to take the plunge into becoming a full-time stylist with no back up (those lawyerly traits run deep, not naturally known for being big risk takers!). Honestly, I also hadn’t quite fully let go of the law (all that training, all that cash – it couldn’t all be for naught!). Someone mentioned LOD to me and, with a little more research my side, I was sold on its refreshing vision of bringing flexibility and autonomy into the legal sector. The big question was, could I sell myself to them? I fired off my C.V., and was thrilled to be invited to submit to (and ultimately succeed in) the process of becoming an altogether different type of lawyer.
My first assignment for LOD was at Xoserve (a subsidiary of National Grid). Xoserve is just one of the many organisations that benefit from this different way of resourcing its legal requirements, and one of the permanent lawyers in the team actually started off as an LOD lawyer. That first assignment has since turned into my second and my third, due to numerous babies being born in the company! As maternity cover, I work at Xoserve’s offices as part of the team, which has given me the opportunity to get to know and work with the lawyers that I am covering. The role is part-time, which means that I can spend the rest of my time working on and building my fashion business. I am delighted to say that Shape Your Wardrobe is starting to pick up clients and I also now work as the stylist for my local shopping centre.
People often think that being a lawyer and being a stylist are wildly different career choices. Of course, they are in many aspects – for one, there’s not much chance to go shopping as “work” when you are a lawyer. Yet, a stylist is still an advisor, just in a different industry. Consequently, I have found that the skills I have honed as a lawyer in listening to and offering advice to clients are just as essential in my new role as a stylist. Understanding I.P. and how this works is also valuable in the fashion arena.
My future plan is to become a full -time stylist, but until I am ready to take this next step, I will continue to combine law with fashion – I truly love the mix, and am grateful to LOD for giving me the opportunity to do both.
(Image courtesy of Sally Evans Photography)