Career choice: City firm to freelance consultant lawyer

Name: Andrew Freeman

Level of PQE: 16 years
Current position: Consultant lawyer

Why did you go into the law in the first place?

I enjoyed the problem-solving and challenge in explaining complex legal matters in clear and simple ways, and wanted to carry on this as a career.

What was your first job as a qualified solicitor?

I moved on qualification from Wilde Sapte (now Dentons) to a German firm, Haarmann Hemmelrath, which had just set up in London. This was an exciting and interesting move, and as the firm was a small one, I had to deal with many issues on deals and for clients that perhaps I might not have been exposed to in a bigger firm.

What was your reason(s) for choosing your career path?

In all honesty, it has been a mixture of taking opportunities as they arose, and not being worried about making the ‘right’ decision, rather than any deliberate career path. I have, to a greater or lesser extent, tried to do things that I want, rather than what might be expected. In recent times, this has led to me becoming a freelance consultant lawyer. This means that I work on assignments in legal departments, which, in my case, are the offices of London banks. I also act as a consultant counsel for a boutique law firm, Theobald Associates.

What steps did you take to make that move a reality?

The internet was a big help in suggesting there was an alternative approach to being a lawyer. Some of the best sites I found were Escape the City (the people behind the site have also published a book, The Escape Manifest), and Lawyers on Demand, as well as some more lifestyle sites, such as Free Range Humans.

But it was more important to meet people who had set out on independent lines, and also talk to people who knew me well.

How easy or difficult did you find the move?

The move itself did not feel difficult, as I took things one step at a time and so limited the risks. However, what was and still is more challenging is dealing with the occasional nagging doubts that suggest that it cannot last. However, the more experience I gain of being independent, the less these doubts arise.

What do you consider to have been the key factor in enabling you to make that successful move?

A willingness to be authentic in respect of what I want to achieve, and not to follow external definitions of success.

What do you most enjoy about your current role?

I love being my own boss. I also enjoy the variety, and feel blessed that I have been able to build a business that enables me to encompass the best bits of my previous roles, such as dealing with people, writing and public speaking.

How did you find the transition after you made the move?

Generally, as I am doing similar work to before, there is really no big difference. However, it was good to feel more in control of my career.

One thing I found was that it was necessary to find a succinct way of explaining my differing role when other lawyers asked, and also to be able to explain the reasons behind the move to being a freelance consultant lawyer.

What do you most enjoy about your current role?

I enjoy knowing that I am able to decide which clients to take on and what type of work to handle (assuming the bills are paid, of course).

What did you learn about how to make change effectively and what would you have done differently?

So far, there is nothing that I would have done differently. Though I am looking forward to trying different things in the future, and will enjoy learning from them.

What are your three tips for a successful change in career direction?

  • Spend time thinking about how you define success; it’s not going to be the same as anyone else’s definition.
  • Talk to people about the changes they have made.
  • Try to save a little money to cover your expenses in case your plans don’t get off the ground immediately, it will help give you confidence.

Credits to: Andrew Freeman

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