Career choice: CEO of non-legal business
Name: Rob Hall
Level of PQE: one year
Current position and immediate former position: Founder and CEO, Wriggle, a website and mobile app to help people discover and save money at independent restaurants, cafes and bars. Formerly, mergers and acquisitions lawyer, Clifford Chance, London and Sao Paulo.
Why did you go into the law in the first place?
In retrospect, it probably wasn't the right route for me. I was an English Literature graduate, and presumed that my analytical skills could be applied well to law. On top of that, my father had enjoyed a long career as a commercial solicitor and enjoyed the work, so it seemed like a good route.
What was your first job as a qualified solicitor?
I joined magic circle firm Clifford Chance as a trainee and left the firm at just under one year PQE.
What was your reason(s) for choosing your career path?
I knew that law wasn't for me and was looking around for next steps. I started thinking about start-ups when looking into my brother's concept for a mobile app, and the research snowballed into coming up with an idea. From there, the idea itself changed (as often happens with start-ups), but I'd fallen down the rabbit-hole and got far enough exploring the idea behind Wriggle that I had to give it a go.
What steps did you take to make that move a reality (include details of resources that you found particularly helpful)?
I networked with as many people as possible in the start-up world, initially talking to anyone who had launched their own company. I then attended a 'Lean Startup' course in which I spent a weekend testing out a start-up idea, to test the concept for Wriggle. It went really well, which was the validation I needed to give it a go properly. From there, I went to Bristol to start working on it in earnest, and it's grown from there.
How easy or difficult did you find the move?
The decision for me was easy. Since I knew I didn't want to stay in law for the rest of my career, it made sense to move quickly, while I was still in my 20s. I'm a risk-taker so was happy to take a big leap quickly - the harder thing was to persuade my family that it was a good idea to go from a well-paid career to a much riskier route.
What do you consider to have been the key factor in enabling you to make that successful move?
My own temperament. I like to move quickly and be creative, and this works better in the start-up world than it does in law, where you need to be meticulous, and transactions take months.
How did you find the transition after you made the move?
I've loved every second.
What do you most enjoy about your current role?
The fact that every day is different and I'm constantly learning. I also work with a team of passionate colleagues who are now close friends, so not only is the work is enjoyable, but the environment is engaging.
What did you learn about how to make change effectively and what would you have done differently?
Looking back, the way I made the change was gung-ho. I'd advise people to make their first entrepreneurial steps (in testing their idea and assumptions) while still in their existing role, so they can prove the viability of their idea before making any big decisions.
What are your three tips for a successful change in career direction?
- Network as much as possible - people are always keen to help, so ask as many people as possible for help.
- Ask yourself if you're willing and able to make the change of life. My existence is very different from when I was a lawyer - I'm living off a significantly smaller budget in a new city - so you've got to be willing to make changes in your personal life.
- Go for it - if you decide to make a change, throw everything you've got at it!