“Our firm isn’t about making as much money as possible”
I never considered any other career. My dad was a lawyer and I decided at around eight years old that I wanted to follow in his footsteps. The LPC convinced me that practising law would be enjoyable and I gravitated towards employment law during my training contract.
I began working towards partnership the day I qualified. That goal gave me the focus to work hard, make sacrifices and reach the milestone as quickly as possible. I invested so much time in the partner application process, and I remember the feeling of having ‘made it’ when I was given the news of my promotion.
I want to be the type of partner that most solicitors of my generation never saw when they looked upwards. The role of a partner is to set the tone of the organisation and create a safe working environment for everyone else. It’s given me a platform to be vocal about things that matter to me such as workplace culture and diversity and inclusion – if you treat people the right way, you’ll attract and retain great people.
Our firm isn’t about making as much money as possible every year; we want to build a legacy. Of course, we want to make the firm a success, but I also want to be part of an organisation that is helping make positive change. It scares me to think that I could work for 40 years, retire and then that be it. I want to leave a mark by showing that our profession can be more progressive and inclusive.
A lot of Gen Z employees aren’t looking to work 60 hours a week for big salaries and no personal life. The legal sector could be better when it comes to wellbeing. The profession attracts high achievers but creates people who work too hard, have strong perfectionist traits and are very ambitious – these people don’t tend to be great at setting boundaries. We’re going to see a shift within the younger generation; they’re more purpose driven. If law firms don’t change too, they’ll be left behind.
Flexible working needs a refresh. To many people, flexible working might mean three days a week in the office instead of five days a week – but to me that’s not flexible working, it’s simply ‘adjusted’ working. I understand the need for core working hours to accommodate clients but, other than that, provided your clients are satisfied, you should be able to create a working pattern that suits you. If it brings out the best in you, you produce the best for the firm and clients – everyone wins.
I became a dad for the first time in 2019. I’m ambitious and wanted to succeed at work, but also wanted to take an extended period off work to spend time with my daughter, Sophie. I wanted to show that taking time off was not only the right thing to do but also that it wouldn’t set my career back.
I was the first male partner at my previous firm to take shared parental leave. I wasn't the first eligible partner, but I was the first to choose to actually do it. My wife has a very good career that she's passionate about and we wanted our daughter to grow up seeing us occupying equal roles as parents and professionals. We wanted to build a life for our new family where we both benefitted as parents, and where neither of us was held back in our careers. That was right for us, although I appreciate it might not work for others.
A lot of dads aren’t really there for the first few years. Every male solicitor I’ve spoken to who is over the age of 50 regrets missing milestones and not spending more time with their children because of work commitments. I don’t want their regrets to become my regrets in years to come. Shared parental leave meant I was able to build a bond with my daughter at that early stage. I used to take her out in the backpack and walk for hours on the local common – it was a fantastic experience.
I took shared parental leave because of what matters most to me. While I’m proud of my skills and achievements as a solicitor and a partner, and hope that I can be a positive influence to some extent, I won’t change the world through my work. But there’s only one ‘Sophie’s Dad’, and I do have the power to change her world for the better. She’ll be four this August and we’ve now got an amazing, close relationship.
There is still a stigma around shared parental leave. Some people in the profession cannot fathom why you would take six months away from work. I think junior staff worry they won’t appear committed to their job because most people haven’t historically been able to look upward and see someone in their firm who has championed shared parental leave.
Some people still believe that women should just work part-time instead. Going forward, we need to create a practice where everyone can succeed – parenting is not just ‘women’s work’, and taking shared parental leave is just one of the steps men can take to show we’re equally responsible. Women have told me they need more men taking these steps so that women aren’t stereotyped as caregivers – a stereotype that leads them to feel pressured to switch to part-time working or to not push as hard for their next promotions.
I want to know more
Changing career direction – considering working as a consultant / freelance lawyer? (Wednesday 24 May 2023) (60 mins)