When someone asks me what I do, I usually start with; “Well, I’m a lawyer…but I don’t work like a lawyer”. Why is this the first thing I say? Well, working freelance is key to my professional identity now. I’m not just a commercial lawyer. I’m a freelance commercial lawyer who works from home in a rather remote location. In my world there is a huge difference.
How it all began…
I trained and worked as a commercial lawyer at the international law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) for six years. I left BLP once I’d gained a taste of the in-house life after completing a secondment at Tesco, which I absolutely loved. After leaving BLP I took on the role of Group Solicitor at Dairy Crest until I left to move to the Wilshire/Dorset border in 2009 to chase the good life and pursue my love of the outdoors and animals.
At the time I thought that there was little or no chance that I might continue lawyering, especially at the level I had been used to, from the middle of the countryside. The moment I heard about LOD’s On Call model, I was hugely excited and wondered whether it could work for me. It seemed too good to be true. Had I really found a way of continuing to stimulate my brain and do interesting work whilst living a different sort of life in the countryside, over 100 miles away from the City rat race?
The answer. Yes I had.
I now get the best of all worlds. I still work very much as an in-house lawyer, but from home, entirely remotely and with the backing of an excellent private practice. My office looks onto green fields and my coffee breaks may not have the normal natter around the coffee machine but more often than not involve something a little more physical, like filling a hay net for one of my horses!
Close relationships, remote location…
Most clients find my life charming, if not intriguing. As most of my roles are in-house ones, which would traditionally mean working in a head office, some clients find it difficult to understand how it might work. But once we have got started they soon realise it works perfectly, because even if I were sitting in a head office the likelihood is that I would be chatting to clients in offices all over the country.
Whilst I get a lot of pleasure from being with my animals, (originally I wanted to be a vet before I decided on law…) I still get a kick from client interaction, even though I am working remotely. I usually work for one or two companies at a time and so the day rarely ends without numerous calls and sometimes meetings. In fact I don’t think I get much less human interaction than I would if I were in an office. I just swap the small talk and the water cooler office gossip for hanging out in the stables.
Making it work…
Being an On Call lawyer for LOD means that my work is very varied. This variety is stimulating as I’m continually learning about new businesses and their commercial and legal issues. My clients also keep me motivated in much the same way as they would in private practice. The difference is however that I have far more autonomy over when I do my work, which has made me a happier and healthier person. I will often be at my desk working by 7am, which means I can go and do animal stuff by the time it’s 4pm. Most of my clients know that if they call me at around 5pm the sound of feed buckets and clanging hooves may well be heard in the background, but I still try to make them feel they are my absolute priority.
I never tell clients that I only work certain hours, but I will manage their expectations so that I get time to meet all their needs whilst being able to also live the life I want to lead. I will work whatever hours a client needs me to, but fitting them around my life. I think you can do this much more easily by working from home, as there are many more hours in the day.
When I was a BLP associate all those years ago I would never have believed that my legal career in 2014 would be run from the countryside surrounded by my animals. I am truly living the good life!
Caroline has been with Lawyers On Demand (LOD) since 2009 and lives on the Wiltshire/Dorset border with her husband, two dogs and horse.