Career choice: Using your experience to start something new
Name: Laren Riley
Level of PQE: 4 years
Current position and immediate former position: CEO and founder of The Link App; formerly, Associate Family Law Solicitor.
Why did you go into the law in the first place?
I'm not sure where the idea came from, probably a movie, but I'd wanted to be a lawyer since childhood. I always desired to make a difference - the idea of advocacy appealed a lot.
What was your first job as a qualified solicitor?
I had a passion to succeed in family law, and I managed to qualify into a relatively young firm in the north west of England. Here I thrived on the responsibility and business development opportunities given to me.
What was your reason(s) for choosing your career path?
My goal was to move into business development or management within a law firm. By living it every day, I built up in-depth knowledge of problems faced by law firms. I started looking for improvements in practice by use of technology, but I couldn't find anything. Compelled to provide a solution myself; that's where the idea for The Link App was formed.
Appearing on BBC's The Apprentice was an opportunity to become a media commentator on the issue; now I regularly address and advise the profession on such topics. Hopefully my passion for innovation makes a difference to my fellow lawyers.
What steps did you take to make that move a reality (include details of resources that you found particularly helpful)?
Before I qualified, I took a few years out to complete a business graduate scheme. I found this experience very helpful when applying for training contracts, as I could demonstrate commercial awareness.
When starting-up, I used my brilliant network to conduct market research on the concept of an app for the profession. This feedback has helped inform every decision while building and branding my product. I've been overwhelmed by the support the profession has given me.
How easy or difficult did you find the move?
When I founded The Link App, I still worked as a consultant family law solicitor, gradually moving away from practice, which made things easier. In 2016, I went full time in the business, but I still consult with hundreds of law firms each year in a sales, training, and feedback capacity.
I still feel part of the industry, as my business is an integral part of how law firms across the UK operate.
What do you consider to have been the key factor in enabling you to make that successful move?
The fact I'm addressing a real problem felt by lawyers every day. Without this universal recognition of the problem, and a commitment of the profession to constantly keep adapting and improving, it wouldn't have been possible.
Alongside this, my experience working with clients has shown frustrations about how communication could be improved. Our simple solution ensures law firms work more effectively.
What do you most enjoy about your current role?
I love the variety of law firms we deal with. From sole practitioners on the high street to large global law firms, I get to meet their decision makers and understand their needs on a regular basis. We are continually developing The Link App to fit these needs, so every day is different and fast-paced. I really enjoy the engagement via social media too.
What did you learn about how to make change effectively and what would you have done differently?
Along the way I was very self-critical, particularly when I didn't go straight into law after university. However, each twist in my journey took me to right where I am today and without mistakes there wouldn't have been those critical learnings. Being a qualified lawyer gives a wealth of transferable skills to successfully take forward into any number of alternative careers!
What are your three tips for a successful change in career direction?
- Surround yourself with mentors. Those who have achieved what you aim to are a powerful source of information and support (and often give back)
- Choose a direction that compliments your existing skills and network
- Don't feel like because you've spent years qualifying into one profession that you must stay there. Lawyers are recognised as talented individuals, so it's a great stepping stone at the very least