Career choice: Portfolio career as legal consultant and mentor
Name: Eunice Shang-Simpson
Level of PQE: 21 years
Current position and immediate former position: Portfolio career as legal consultant and mentor
Why did you go into the law in the first place?
Watching too many Perry Mason films, I think. My grand-uncle in Ghana was the only lawyer in the family. He had recently retired as owner of a highly successful law practice, but he never pressurised me to follow in his footsteps. My dad, a journalist and a director of Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, had hoped I would follow him and commented, 'I guess being a lawyer isn't a bad thing, although I would have preferred you to be a journalist', so I went off with his blessing.
What was your first job as a qualified solicitor?
After qualifying from College of Law, Guildford, I joined the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Kent as a trainee solicitor. I spent part of my training at Kent County Council's Legal Department and had great fun in the Rights of Way Division traipsing through the fields during summer.
What was your reason(s) for choosing your career path?
I had previously qualified in Ghana as a barrister and enjoyed advocacy, so the CPS seemed a good idea as it allowed me to do the two things I loved: advocacy and work as a solicitor. My career path within the CPS was quite unusual, mainly because I wasn't afraid to push the boundaries and explore new avenues. After starting out as a 'rookie' prosecutor at Folkestone Magistrates court, this 'can do' attitude led me to pursue and obtain my Higher Court Advocacy qualification, enabling me to practice solely at the Crown Court, then to apply for a stint at our European and International Division at CPS HQ as a policy advisor, and subsequently to my appointment as a seconded national expert at the UK Desk of Eurojust in the Hague.
What steps did you take to make that move a reality (include details of resources that you found particularly helpful)?
I'm assuming the 'move' here refers to the move from the CPS after 23 years. It was a combination of push and pull factors. The push was when my unit, the South East Complex Casework Unit (SECCU) based at Maidstone, was moved to Brighton. Since I lived in Canterbury, a daily commute to Brighton wasn't viable, so I was eventually offered a voluntary early exit package. The pull was the realisation that, after discussing the offer at length with close friends and with my mentor, actually I had fulfilled practically all my ambitions at the CPS, worked in a variety of very interesting and challenging roles and that perhaps it was time for an exciting new adventure.
How easy or difficult did you find the move?
It was scary to start with, but once I had made the decision it was easy because I knew it was the right thing for me.
What do you consider to have been the key factor in enabling you to make that successful move?
My faith, my friends and a positive mental attitude that helped me to see the silver lining in a situation that others might have considered devastating after 23 years.
How did you find the transition after you made the move?
The most difficult thing was the feeling that my life lacked structure. For so many years I knew exactly what my caseload was, which court I was scheduled to attend, etc. Once I found my own structure, life was much easier.
What do you most enjoy about your current role?
The sense of freedom of being in charge of my own destiny!
What did you learn about how to make change effectively and what would you have done differently?
I learnt that I needed to believe in myself, take stock of my strengths and weaknesses and be very clear about what value I was bringing to the table. I'm not sure I would have done anything differently, except perhaps get a coach earlier to help me plan the way forward.
What are your three tips for a successful change in career direction?
- Believe in yourself.
- Update your CV.
- Get a coach/mentor and make a plan. Then implement it.