Internet partner combining law with writing
Maitland Kalton set up his own firm to prove to himself that he could do it and then made a name for himself as a technology lawyer. Having weathered the dot.com crash, he now splits his time between law and writing.
mtl: Hi Maitland, please can you start at the beginning…
Maitland: I decided to be a lawyer when I was 14 and went the usual route via a law degree at Birmingham and the College of Law, Guildford. I trained at a small firm in the Inner Temple and moved to what is now part of Kingsley Napley in the West End. I became a partner at 28, at which point I thought about leaving law because I was interested in importing furniture. However, I realised that instead of leaving I could actually combine law with the things that I wanted to do outside of it.
At 30 I decided to set up my own firm, partly to give myself more flexibility to pursue other interests, but also to prove to myself that I could do it. I started by doing property work and in the ‘90’s moved more towards technology. I grew the firm and in about 1997 I fell in love with the internet! After reading about, thinking and researching it passionately, I declared myself an internet lawyer and so became one.
By 1999 I had been quoted in Parliament in connection with the E-Commerce Bill and was riding high. The work was enjoyable, challenging and also very creative as I was effectively paid to guess what the law would be. I had the ability to control my own destiny and to take innovative perspectives that most lawyers would be horrified by.
mtl: It sounds like there’s a “but” coming…
Law, Birmingham university
College of Law
Training contract, Inner Temple
Assistant and partner at what is now part of Kingley Napley
Set up Kaltons
Took the New York Bar
Started writing seriously
Maitland: Yes – it came in the shape of the dot.com crash. Although the firm had already been a financial struggle as I’d always stretched it through growth, I was seriously hit when the bubble burst. It took me a couple of years to realise the extent of the damage and by that point I couldn’t save my team, which was a very painful experience. I talked to other firms myself but wasn’t offered suitably attractive packages, so I decided to stick to my guns and work my way out of it, stripping myself away in the process but also promising myself that I would have a great life in the future.
mtl: So what is life like now?
Maitland: In my office at the moment it’s just me, a secretary and my business partner. I’m busy and have enough work on a short-term basis. Work tends to be piecemeal, though it always comes through. I have lots of other things going on as well and have been involved in several business ventures over the years. In 2003, in the midst of my business falling apart, I took up writing. I wrote a couple of pieces and five years later I have over 200. I am currently publishing a book called “Love in Abundance” which is about journeys and discovery, death and disease.
I am writing three business-related books at the moment, including one about creating effective business relationships in the 21st Century called “Would you do it to your best friend?” I am also co-writing a book on business relationships in China with a Chinese intercultural specialist. I think that the West has a lot to learn from China and vice versa.
To some extent, for me law provides an income and pays the bills and I am very grateful for it. There are aspects of it that I still really enjoy, particularly interacting with clients to explore business relationships in depth and understanding the drivers behind a business. I work a lot with entrepreneurs and encourage clients to look at their values and do business within that positive framework. I think that successful businesses are defined by the successful business relationships that underpin them.
mtl: Nearly thirty years into your legal career, do you have any tips for our readers?
Maitland: If you are thinking of setting up your own firm then take a reality check. There is a lot of soul destroying admin that has to be done. You can have fun doing it if you are creating a firm that inspires and fulfills you. However, it can be horrible sometimes and you will have to make yourself do it, although it’s a good test of your commitment. If you don’t want to do the admin that comes with it, then don’t set up by yourself or make sure you have enough resources to pay someone to do it all.
On a more general level, I can recommend promising yourself that you will enjoy all aspects of your life, not just your home life. Don’t worry about where your journey will take you - just follow your heart and your passions. You may be suspicious of that sentiment, so instead I could say aim to enjoy your work and find it fun, rather than seeing it as merely an obligation. Fun and play are very important in life and if your job doesn’t involve them then get out and find something that does. There will always be mundane aspects to any job, but try to have fun in the way you do them, even if it is just by enjoying the company of the people you work with.
mtl: Thank you for your time.
You can see Maitland’s law firm here.
Maitland has also set up an organisation called “Lawyers for Change”, which aims to transform the role of lawyers in society. You can read about it here.
If you know any other lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives or who have a great work/life balance then please get in touch.
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