"Flexibility, family, finance and freedom": balancing family life as a legal consultant

Becoming a mum led Simone Ritchie to seek more flexibility as a legal consultant. From late nights in large firms, to seven weeks working remotely from Bali last summer, Simone talks about prioritising time as a family and chartering her own path as a hybrid digital nomad lawyer.
Simone Ritchie and her husband and son, wearing scooter helmets and sunglasses, with a tropical greenery behind them on holiday in Bali
Simone Ritchie and her family spent summer 2023 in Bali, while she was working as a hybrid digital nomad

Before becoming a parent, I was a proper career female – big law firms, long hours. Having my first child was the trigger to become a legal consultant. When I went on maternity leave, I planned to go back. But you've got no idea what's going to happen when you have your first child. Subconsciously, I grieved for my identity and how I worked, because I knew things were going to change. I had to let go to start a new life.

Being an employee just could not fit with my new life. When my husband got his first job as a headteacher, the hours were intense. We moved from Poole to the Cotswolds. I couldn't get a job at a local firm because I couldn't get my son into a nursery. He was six months old. We had no local support network, so I had to be the primary caregiver. I thought, if this isn't a time to be brave and try something different, I don't know what is.

Flexibility, family, finance and freedom. For me, these 4 Fs are the most important things in life. They're fluid and have different priorities at different times. A lot of women become consultants because it offers that freedom and flexibility while trying to balance the two hats of being a mum and a lawyer.

When I became a legal consultant, I was scared nobody would instruct me or hire me. But it was the reverse; people find you. LinkedIn is amazing for that. This is all against the backdrop of my partner having a good job so I wasn't panicking about money or the mortgage, I recognise that. It gave me the breathing space and freedom to explore.

You eat what you kill. It was far more lucrative to become a consultant, with cheaper childcare because I didn’t need to pay as much in nursery fees . Most consultants will be part of an SRA-regulated firm, you have their insurance, their PI cover, client account, office account and so on. The easiest way to think about it is like barristers and a chambers set. I started at Woodstock law, a hybrid law firm with an all-female leadership team. Everyone looks out for each other.

My digital nomad experience is as a working parent with young kids. My husband works away during the week, so family time is precious. Travelling allows us to share brilliant life experiences and quality time as a family. I can carry on my work and it keeps the money coming in – in a way that works for me and our family. Last year, we spent the whole summer holidays in Bali. It’s a place we love, we got engaged there, we’ve gone out in the past for three or four weeks, and this year we thought, why not two months?

From Bali, I dealt with court hearings, and issued, settled and advised on claims. In terms of work, it didn't make any impact at all. We're in a slightly unique position because my husband's in education, so he's also off in the summer. Though having a 6-year-old and a 13-month-old was next level in terms of organisation and logistics!

To do this job, all you need is a laptop and Wi-Fi. After lockdown, I spent three weeks camping in Cornwall, dealing with four applications and three hearings on a camp stool with a laptop! As long as you're clear with your clients about what is happening and boundaries and expectations, it's not a problem.

My clients were fully engaged in the process. About a month before the trip, I'd put the dates I would be away on my email banner and that I’d be contactable by email only. Support from the team made a huge difference too, knowing that if any post came in, they’d scan it and email it to me. I'm thankful that in my area of litigation, most bundles are electronic.

I haven't had a physical file in six years. I don't need one. We have a paperless office. Post gets scanned in, emailed and put on your files. Now I'm a hybrid digital nomad. We basically do the school holidays so it’s not been long enough to trigger tax complications. I’m still working for a UK company, for the same clients. The only real difference is where my laptop is.

My husband’s a keen surfer. We’d tag-team our day so I'd have the kids for breakfast while my husband did the dawn surf. Then I'd go out to a co-working space where I could have privacy to catch up on work. In the afternoon, we’d go down to the beach as a family. When we got home, I hop on my emails for half an hour, while he gets the kids washed and ready for tea.

My job as a parent is to lead by example, to show that you've set your own boundaries, know your own worth and make your own decisions. My last day before mat leave, I finished at 10:30 at night. My husband had booked this beautiful restaurant but I phoned him and said: “You're going to have to cancel. I can't leave.” I wanted to settle this massive case, do my best, leave my files perfect... now I look back and think how I wasn’t really living my own life. Working as a consultant has allowed me to be human, and have a life that I love.

Bali is a very creative, diverse environment. I doubt there are many planning rules. But that creates beautiful public spaces because basically anything goes! Being there gives you that freedom to be a bit more creative, think outside the box. We were thinking of France this summer, because it’s less of a time difference – but now we’re planning a month in Bali, and visiting Flores and Singapore, maybe Australia. If you don’t do it when you can, when are you going to do it?!

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