July 24 2020
Why didn't I do this years ago?
Probably like a lot of people, for years I dreamed of giving up the rat race and travelling the world with no career or home ties to hold me back, and just adventure to look forward to. Also like most people, I was guilty of years of serious procrastination, led partly by fear of the unknown, and to some extent fear of failure.
I am an insolvency solicitor, and for most of my 20+ year career I have worked for two entities. A traditional law firm where I was a partner and head of team, and the second, Lexis Nexis, heading up a team of insolvency lawyers writing guidance for insolvency lawyers.
However, a combination of having a husband who likes to live in the moment and worry about tomorrow another day (not always a good idea, but it can work sometimes!), and a nagging feeling that there must to be more life than this, led me to make a huge change in both my career and in my personal life, and to where I am today. While I am loath to give them any credit, I probably have Southern Rail and their random strikes to thank for finally tipping me over the edge by causing my daily commute to London to be so awful that I was willing to take a risk and jump into the unknown!
I left Lexis last year, and having sold our house (retaining a small house we rent out) we took to the road in Europe with our slightly stroppy cocker spaniel Sidney! My husband took a long sabbatical from work and spends most of his free time skydiving where he can. I set up a consultancy company, working on an ad hoc basis for insolvency contacts requiring help with overflow insolvency work, and I continue to write occasionally for Lexis. This year I joined the very enthusiastic, professional, and friendly team at F-LEX to help with their flexible insolvency offering.
So far, it has worked out better than I ever envisaged! In the past year my ‘office’ has been varied, and has included writing from my desk in the Dordogne; working from our rented house with a large orange grove outside Seville carrying out a series of pre pack sales; and sitting at my desk overlooking a marina by the Pyrenees while working on various insolvency projects. Nothing else that I can think of can give me the wonderful mix of working and keeping up to date with my skills and improving my knowledge, while still allowing me to step away from the desk when I want to, to take a walk along the beach with the dog or enjoy lunch overlooking the harbour!
One of the great advantages of being able to choose when and what type of work you do is that you have greater choice over when to do it (keeping in mind deadlines). There is no need to battle the train to get to the office for office hours, (and no unexplained random platform changes at East Croydon just as you are positioned to avoid the next 45 minutes under someone’s armpit on the train home!) You can fit it in around your other priorities, whatever they may be and can look forward to the work that you do, rather than feeling obligated to sit in an office.
Working for a variety of firms means that I have benefitted from learning from some amazing insolvency and other lawyers that I wouldn’t have otherwise worked with (at least not on the same side!). I have experienced different case management systems and protocols, which I would not usually be exposed to. All of which have improved my own best practice.
From the clients’ point of view there are advantages of engaging a flexible worker. In these difficult times when covid has meant a lot of firms are unsure if they can retain all the staff they need long term, or when firms may not have been fully prepared for their staff to work from home, F-LEX workers are already fully equipped to work from home or in the office, so can hit the ground running. They don’t need to be set up on payroll or go through the HR processes that often cause stressful delays for fee earners who just want some urgent help on a time critical project. A desire to make things work coupled with good communication on both sides has meant that, so far, I have not experienced any problems working remotely and using different systems.
In all, I have to say that even with covid disrupting our travel plans a little this year, I remain very grateful that I took the plunge and have the privilege of working flexibly, being supported both by the fantastic team at F-LEX and by the clients who are keen to make things work and are so generous with their experience and knowledge.
My particular leap of faith to head off into the unknown may not be possible for everyone, but I can highly recommend taking a chance on flexible working as a lawyer. The benefits are many for the flexible worker, and for clients needing some extra help without having to take on an employee and all that this brings in terms of extra costs and legal responsibility, using the highly professional team at F-LEX brings many advantages too.