Glynis Wright, sole director of Glynis Wright & Co, shares her experience of starting a legal career at 40, and setting up her own niche firm.
My background is unusual, as I decided to train as a lawyer at the age of 40, when most decide that their career path is fixed for the rest of their lives. I gave up a safe career in local government and enrolled at De Montfort University in Leicester to undertake a conversion degree and the LPC, relying on a student loan to pay for the tuition fees and to cover my mortgage and childcare costs.
I really enjoyed my studies, and was very proud to be awarded 'Student of the Year' for achieving the highest grades. I was taken on as a trainee by a local firm and flourished there – I attracted so much business in my first year as a trainee that they made me a partner within two years of qualifying as a solicitor. Three years after becoming a partner, I again took a massive leap in the dark and launched my own private practice in family law and mediation. I had only been qualified as a solicitor for five years when I decided to take on this challenge, and I had no previous experience of running a business. The decision was very scary, and certainly enormously risky, but nonetheless the most empowering thing I’ve ever done.
It is now four years since I started the firm. It is based in the city centre of Leicester, and is a private family law and mediation practice. Business boomed from the outset, and the practice rapidly expanded – now employing nine staff, four of whom are specialist family lawyers – despite the market being ferociously competitive, particularly for small firms. Mergers and redundancies are common in today’s legal market, but I’m proud to say that my practice bucked the trend. The achievements of the practice have been recognised by the Leicestershire Law Society, which made Glynis Wright & Co joint winners of the 'Law Firm of the Year 2015' award for outstanding achievement. I was also awarded 'Highly Commended Lawyer of the Year 2015' nationally in the Modern Claims Awards, and am currently shortlisted for 'Businesswoman of the Year 2015' and 'Best Professional Service of the Year 2015' in the Niche magazine business awards.
I have prioritised building strong links with the local business community. I was made director of a business chapter shortly after setting up my practice, and I have been invited to present publicly on how to succeed as a woman in business on a number of occasions, most notably at a NatWest-sponsored women in business event. I also helped to set up a series of seminars in Leicester, entitled 'Inspirational Women in Business', and spoke at the seminars on the skills I feel can benefit women who are considering setting up their own businesses or who are already running their own business ventures. These have been well received, and the third seminar is taking place in October.
I believe that in today’s world, lawyers have to be adept and insightful business people, as well as effective lawyers. That is a combination of skills rare in lawyers, which is why so many firms have struggled in these difficult economic times, when firms have faced more challenges than ever. Being a female lawyer is even more challenging, since partnership for female lawyers can be delayed or thwarted as they struggle to meet their dual commitment of childcare responsibilities and meeting their fee-earning potential, which paves the way to partnership opportunities. However, I am a firm believer that the legal sector can offer opportunities to older women that do not necessarily exist in other sectors. The fact that I was able to enter the legal sector at the age of 40 as a complete novice and am now running my own successful legal practice 10 years after qualifying as a lawyer, demonstrates that age and gender are less influential in today’s legal market than natural talent.