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Career choice: Owner of legal recruitment business

Name: Husnara Begum
Level of PQE: N/A (qualified 1999)
Current position and immediate former position: Owner of Husnara Begum Consulting Begum Limited (a legal recruitment, outplacement/career transitioning and training business). Formerly a recruitment consultant at GR Law.

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

For all the wrong reasons: money, status and sibling rivalry. My younger brother wanted to be a lawyer, so I stole his idea instead of sticking to my original plan of pursuing a career in journalism.

What was your first job as a qualified solicitor?

I followed a very traditional career path. I studied Law at the University of Warwick, completed vacation schemes with Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance, landed a training contract with Linklaters in my penultimate year, and eventually qualified into the latter firm's corporate practice.

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

I loved my job at Linklaters, and in the early days saw myself as a future partner. But qualifying into the corporate department during the height of the dotcom boom meant very long days at the office, with minimal sleep. Unfortunately, this played havoc with my health (I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, which can be adversely affected through stress and lack of sleep), so as I approached three years' PQE, I reluctantly decided to quit the profession; I reverted to my original choice of career by enrolling on an intensive journalism course. Journalism, too, proved to be a relatively short-term move for me; after spending nine years at The Lawyer, I switched to legal recruitment before setting up my own business in early 2013.

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

The London School of Journalism's Summer School was an ideal way to show editors that I was serious about switching careers. It was also a really fun course and gave me the basic knowledge I needed to hit the ground running when I secured my role as a junior reporter on The Lawyer. What's more, the course lasted just six weeks, meaning I could start earning quite soon after leaving Linklaters.

How easy or difficult did you find the move?

On a practical level, the moves I have made throughout my career have been very straightforward, as I decided to focus on positions within the legal sector. This meant that I started working at The Lawyer within days of finishing my course. I settled into journalism with great ease, as I brought plenty of transferrable skills with me, along with industry knowledge. The move from journalism to recruitment was even easier because, again, the roles have a number of striking similarities - namely networking and cold-calling lawyers! The emotional side of changing careers is more intense, and there were plenty of sleepless nights when I wondered if leaving law was the right thing to do. But looking back, I have no regrets, even though I'm pretty sure some people probably see me as someone who couldn't hack it in the City.

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

Having a clear plan and being realistic about what I could achieve. I would advise any solicitors who are considering a career change to do it in stages. As such, I would recommend initially exploring non-solicitor roles within the legal sector.

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.

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

I absolutely hated the time I spent in a recruitment agency because it was fiercely competitive. That said, it gave me a very helpful insight into the mechanics of moving lawyers between law firms. It also highlighted the bad habits adopted by some recruiters, and I quickly learnt not to make the same mistakes. If I had my time again, I would be less apologetic about leaving the law, because it was ultimately my choice so there was no need to say sorry about trying something different.

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

  • Plan your move carefully. Even if you are miserable in your current role, avoid doing anything knee-jerk.
  • Don't be afraid to ask others for help. Equally, don't be put off if some people dismiss your ideas as a pipe dream.
  • Don't be overly concerned about what others think. It's your career, not theirs.

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