Name: Michael Hagai
Level of PQE: 2.5 years
Current position and immediate former position: Founder, LexStep.com and a former corporate associate at Allen & Overy LLP
Why did you go into the law in the first place?
I wanted to combine mathematical logic with literary analysis, which were the subjects I enjoyed most at school, in a way that applied practically to the world of commerce and found the perfect cocktail in law. As the global financial crisis unfolded, there seemed no better introduction to the business world than through a training contract at a global commercial law firm, with unrivalled exposure to business-critical matters involving the world's leading companies and a chance to travel.
What was your first job as a qualified solicitor?
I qualified into the corporate team at A&O advising on a wide variety of cross-border corporate transactions. I got to work on some high profile deals involving drinks brands such as Coca-Cola, Lucozade and Ribena, FA Premier League football club takeovers and really exciting tech transactions such as advising a California-based company on a confidential UK acquisition.
What was your reason(s) for choosing your career path?
My colleagues and I found cold calls from recruitment agents annoying and ineffective, so a friend from Linklaters and I decided to build LexStep.com - a site where lawyers can see all career opportunities relevant to them in one place and connect with leading law firms in just a few clicks. Once we let our friends in on it, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive and we just couldn't ignore the opportunity to disrupt and transform the way lawyers get hired.
What steps did you take to make that move a reality (include details of resources that you found particularly helpful)?
We talked to so many people to validate and refine our concept and built a minimum viable product to test on our friends. I collared my colleagues in the evenings and asked them to test it out in their offices, and slowly we refined the platform in line with lean start-up theory. Given the feedback, we got very excited that this was something our colleagues would really use.
How easy or difficult did you find the move?
I was doing well and had forged some really close relationships with partners and colleagues at A&O where I had a secure and rewarding career ahead of me, but I believed in the idea, which is why I took the plunge to leave. It was a very, very difficult decision. I was 2.5 years' PQE and it really was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to take with significant lifestyle sacrifices.
What do you consider to have been the key factor in enabling you to make that successful move?
A formidable co-founder, and unwavering encouragement from my unbelievable family, friends and former colleagues.
How did you find the transition after you made the move?
The work ethic, organisation and client skills I gained from my A&O experience has certainly been put to good use. However, an early stage start-up is very different to a global law firm and probably at the other extreme end of the spectrum!
What do you most enjoy about your current role?
Value creation and the economic contribution to society: knowing that people have benefitted directly from something that never existed before we created it. From the obvious direct benefits to (a) employers - like facilitating the hire of a valuable new associate - and (b) lawyers - like paying out thousands of pounds in LexStep bonuses - to (c) the employment of our own team, (d) being a client of our suppliers, and (e) contributing to the tax pool.
What did you learn about how to make change effectively and what would you have done differently?
To be honest I haven't really had too much time to dwell on it. I've found that the best way is to just get stuck in and keep focused on your goals. Once we had committed, things just started to take off and fall into place and before I knew it I had resigned. I have absolutely no regrets and if I could, I would do it all again.
What are your three tips for a successful change in career direction?
- Research and prepare yourself mentally.
- Surround yourself with formidable friends.
- Keep focused and don't look back.