Career choice: Helping others with their business challenges

Julia IballName: Julia Iball
Level of PQE: 29 years
Current position and immediate former position: Currently business and personal coach and mentor, about to take a role in a charity. Previously, managing partner of regional firm with £9 million turnover.

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

My father was a policeman and took me to magistrates' court when I was 14 to watch him present cases. I spent the morning there and decided I would like to be a barrister. Later, I heard about medical accidents and how people were not compensated and decided that I wanted to ensure they would be.

What was your first job as a qualified solicitor?

I stayed with the firm I qualified with, doing general practice in a small market town. I then specialised in personal injury and clinical negligence.

After some time I was appointed managing partner, and gradually reduced the amount of legal work that I did. I realised that eventually I would prefer to work in business management rather than going back to a legal role

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

Having stepped down as managing partner, I decided that I wanted to work with other organisations to improve their management. I was particularly interested in SMEs and educational establishments.

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

I spent some time networking and talking to other business professionals that I knew or met to consider what options I might have to work with businesses. I joined a group of business mentors, who gave me some training as well as the relevant profile and resources.

Having done so much coaching, I used that process to help identify what was important to me so as to help me choose my next move when the coaching business did not take off. I identified a continuing desire to help people, as well as missing being part of a community, so I searched for opportunities to fulfill those motivations.

How easy or difficult did you find the move?

I found the transition to being essentially a sole trader very easy. I enjoyed the change and working with more entrepreneurial businesses. However, I found it difficult to gain clients and build my practice due to a combination of factors that were mostly out of my control.

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

Sadly, I believe the key factor turned out to be 'who you know.' I made numerous applications for roles where I matched the required skills very closely, but rarely got an interview. I spoke to recruiters who told me they were often told by clients to focus on sector experience rather than skill sets.

I finally had an interview for a role in a charity where I knew the chief executive. I don't believe that I would have got an interview without that connection, although I am sure that I would not have been offered the job unless they were confident that I had the skills to do it.

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

I really enjoyed working with small business owners and helping them with their business challenges in my time as a business mentor. I enjoyed the different approach that non-lawyers brought to their business issues. I am also looking forward to learning about a new sector in my new role.

What do you most enjoy about your current role?

I have enjoyed the freedom and time to do more voluntary work than I could while working in the law.

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

I think you have to realise you cannot change everything or everybody around you, and you may have to make a move to a new organisation to accommodate your changing priorities.

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

  • Be clear about your goal - this decision-making easier will be easier
  • Ideally begin developing your voluntary activities to support your career change in advance of making any applications
  • Be open to different pathways to your ultimate goal

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS