Solicitor focusing on legal CPD

Adel Sheikh qualified as a property lawyer in Portsmouth in 2003 and made several job moves until he was an associate legal counsel for GAP in London by 2007.  At the end of 2009 he was made redundant but has since set up a CPD training business called Legal Focus.  We spoke to him as he was getting started and we will find out in a couple of months how he is getting on. 


mtl:  Hi, please can you start by telling us about your legal career.


Adel: I trained at a large Hampshire firm based in and around Portsmouth from 2001 - 2003.  When I qualified I stayed in the commercial department and focused on property law, on the basis that I would be able to do property law anywhere.  In the end I decided that I wanted to get back to London, but I don’t regret having started my legal career in the “provinces.” I think it’s actually quite a good way to do it if you make the right moves at the right times as it gives you a well-rounded approach to law.


Next I spent two years at Ormerods in Croydon, before moving to Jeffrey Green Russell in the West End for a year.  At the beginning of 2007 I became associate legal counsel for GAP, and covered real estate work in Europe and also some more general commercial work.  I was responsible for the legal side of a European real estate portfolio.  It was a massive change in culture and style of work to move from a traditional West End firm to a big US retail fashion brand, but I certainly preferred it!


However, I was then made redundant at the end of September 2009, as the state of the economy was hitting retailers hard. 


mtl:  How did you react to redundancy and what are you doing now?


Adel: It was a huge surprise to be made redundant and it took a while to come to terms with it and to decide what to do next.  Initially I went into survival mode by trying to get another legal role, but with the economy being so bad there was nothing much out there, especially for real estate lawyers.    



Career timeline



Training contract, Churchers, Hampshire



Churchers, Hampshire



Ormerods, Croydon



Jeffrey Green Russell, West End



Associate Legal Counsel, GAP



Made redundant and set up Legal Focus




However by this point in my career, I had realised that I wanted to be in the client’s shoes running a business rather than being the lawyer.  I had had enough of large organisations and wanted to be doing my own thing – I just didn’t know what initially.


At earlier stages in my career I considered going into property development as I have owned and developed a few properties and have a real estate background.  However due to the economy dipping, it wasn’t the best time to be considering such a move.  Instead I was trying to find business ideas that wouldn’t require much capital to get going and that would be less risky than investing in property.   In the end an idea popped into my head which I explored until I couldn’t find a reason not to do it! 


mtl:  So what is your new business?


Adel:  I have set up a business called Legal Focus that provides affordable CPD training to lawyers and firms outside central London.  The aim is to make CPD training more accessible to suburban High Street firms and for training to be part of the working day, rather than instead of it. 


The idea came about as I was going through the redundancy process and was trying to see if there were any other courses I could go on before I left. It dawned on me that the training available to lawyers is very expensive, often well over £200 and rising to £700 per course.  This is a lot of money for a large organisation, let alone a small High Street law firm. I remembered having to come into London from Croydon to go to training, which was expensive and time-consuming. I have therefore explored why it is so expensive and looked into ways of running sessions more affordably and locally. 


After doing the market research and incorporating Legal Focus, I used some of my redundancy money to set up the website and have been speaking to law firms, planning courses, speaking to conference centres, arranging speakers and thinking about marketing and publicity ever since. 


I am starting in the south of London as I have contacts in various firms, and my first CPD courses will hopefully start running in April 2010 in Croydon.  I am focusing on hiring local conference centres so people can avoid having to spend time traveling on top of an already busy work day.   I have also worked out ways to minimise costs – and these savings will be passed on to the law firms. In a way it’s just a no-frills approach to CPD training. Think Easyjet – but with legal training instead! But don’t worry - we won’t charge lawyers to use the toilets!


The courses will cover general high street topics including property, family, crime and immigration and I have a large database of enthusiastic speakers.  I would like to expand the business into a general training company that also caters to in-house lawyers and that covers soft skills as well.  The business doesn’t have too many overheads at the moment and my redundancy payment is keeping me going until the first course.  In the meantime I am being as frugal as possible!


mtl:  How are you feeling about the future?


Adel:  I am completely focused and confident that this business will succeed as there is a real need for what I am providing.  I have wanted to run my own business for years and I am enjoying the ride so far, though working from home is a challenge as you have to divide your work and play time carefully.  The hardest thing is not being able to share ideas and problems with anyone, which can be a bit frustrating.  But I am developing a network of advisers and mentors who are good to discuss ideas with.


I’m nervous but excited! The business’ success obviously depends solely on my performance so I feel a lot of pressure to get everything right - but I am confident that I will get there.


mtl:  Good luck Adel.  We will check back with you in a few months to see how things are going.


You can see Adel's website 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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