Career choice: Portfolio career

Hannen Beith

Name: Hannen Beith
Level of PQE: 36 years
Current position and immediate former position: Sole director of a paralegal firm (limited company), business consultant with Cognatum Estates Limited, computer coach for the over 55s, and adjudicator with the Law Society

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

I was orphaned at 16 and had no close family to live with so I looked after myself (living in bedsitters and doing part-time jobs). Eventually, I gained a 2.1 in Humanities.

I needed a career that would provide financial security, and law seemed the best option. I applied for, and was granted, a Law Society Scholarship so that I could complete my training.

What was your first job as a qualified solicitor?

As a solicitor with Surrey County Council.

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

I never had one. I've always moved from a post when I got bored with it and, as I like variety, that meant quite a few moves.

Each post brought fresh challenges and the range of work I have done has given me an array of legal and interpersonal skills. I applied for the local authority post because I thought the work would be varied and interesting, which it was.

I became a law lecturer (part time) because I wanted to help others who wanted to be lawyers, and because it added a new (academic) dimension to my career. It was also a useful CPD exercise as you have to know your stuff when you are standing in front of 20-plus enthusiastic students!

When I was made redundant from the Law Society I decided to come off the roll and concentrate on building a portfolio career which would satisfy my desire for a good work/life balance, be interesting and, from a personal point of view, rewarding.

It's great fun being able to use my experience and knowledge to help others and honour my values of altruism and the desire for variety.

What steps did you take to make that move a reality (include details of resources that you found particularly helpful)?

Having unsuccessfully applied for over 200 jobs in a period of six months (I think I encountered 'ageism'), I consulted a career coach who helped me to identify my large range of skills and values. She encouraged me to build a portfolio career working for myself and doing what I wanted.

How easy or difficult did you find the move?

Setting up my company was easy, but I found the marketing and networking hard. Once again, I took professional advice to improve in these areas.

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

Because of my background, I am naturally resourceful and determined.

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

Excellent. It was great being my own boss and beholden to no-one else.

What do you most enjoy about your current role?

I work with people I know and like. I can be very flexible with the number of hours I work and when I take holidays, and I don't have financial targets. It's wonderful having the opportunity to help others by sharing my experience and knowledge.

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

Examine all the options and weigh up the pros and cons. Take advice from a variety of sources. Aim for something you will find personally rewarding and enjoyable. I can't think of anything I would have done differently.

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

  • Be very clear about your goals and motivation. Work out what you really want for yourself and from life
  • Don't be afraid to take advice from peers and mentors and other professionals - for example, an accountant or a good business mentor/consultant, or career coach, or all of them!
  • Don't be fearful of change, if one change doesn't work, then there are always a lot of other options. Go with the flow, and honour your values

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS