Ex-City lawyer finds life balanced at Practical Law Company
We caught up with an ex-City lawyer who now works for Practical Law Company, the leading provider of legal know-how, transactional analysis and market intelligence for business lawyers in the UK. PLC also provides a comprehensive cross-border service, especially for in-house counsel at leading multinational companies worldwide and international law firms. How does it compare to life in private practice?
mtl: Hi there. Let's start with a run through your legal career.
Anon (that’s not his or her name, it’s an indication that our interviewee prefers to remain anonymous): At university, like most people, I thought a lot about what I was going to do after graduation.
After a lot of research (via the milk round, the law fair speaking to careers advisers, and so on), I decided that a career in corporate law was attractive, as it combined technical and commercial fields. My history degree also gave me transferable skills.
After the CPE/LPC I went to a magic circle firm, which was good training. My training contract covered a wide range of areas, including some interesting and cutting-edge corporate finance work. However, the hours were very long. I qualified into real estate as I found the work there interesting. In real estate, you tend to get the responsibility of handling your own files from early on and the hours are sometimes more reasonable. However, the hours were still very long so I decided to try a smaller firm instead. There I found that, although the work was good, I was spending just as long in the office.
To spend that long at work you need to commit a large part of your time and I was not prepared to do that for another 30 years or more. My social life was suffering and I needed a better work-life balance.
Graduated from Oxbridge with a history degree
CPE and LPC at the College of Law
In private practice
mtl: So how did you go about changing your career?
Anon: A friend of mine was working at PLC, really liked it and recommended it to me. I was impressed with PLC at interview. I liked the transparency of their description of the job (for example, they gave me clear examples of what I would actually be doing, which have proved representative of what I do now). I had also used PLC's services a lot in practice (particularly their web-based standard documents, practice notes and legal updates service, which are very highly-regarded in practice). PLC's "mission" to bring greater clarity to law appealed to me, as I think a lot of legal areas are unnecessarily complex and cause much confusion to clients, lawyers and the public generally.
I wanted to stay in law so that I could use the knowledge I had, but in a different environment. Leaving law totally would have been a bit of a waste, throwing years of hard work and experience away.
mtl: So what do you do at PLC?
Anon: I work in PLC's cross-border team, which provides a global information service for lawyers all over the world. This includes a comprehensive web service, practice manuals, a quarterly cross-border magazine on topical subjects, a large annual publication on recommended lawyers worldwide and handbooks for in-house lawyers, covering a very wide range of legal areas and jurisdictions.
I work mainly on the editorial side, which includes drafting, working with contributing law firms, legal research, project management and helping to get things published. I work on projects and with law firms in a very wide range of legal fields, from corporate finance to real estate and environment law. I also work with people in areas such as business development and marketing, and people who research lawyers and practice areas in jurisdictions all over the world.
PLC also has a range of leading UK web services, including teams of lawyers providing professional support, legal know-how, transactional analysis and market intelligence in a wide range of practice areas, with which many lawyers in practice will be familiar.
I didn’t have any previous publishing experience, but legal practice gave me transferable skills such as drafting, technical knowledge and project management.
mtl: And what does your average day consist of?
Anon: I work regular hours. In a typical day I will work with contributing law firms on various articles, edit and draft documents, carry out legal research to compile ideas for articles and projects, and work with colleagues to progress projects to publication.
mtl: What is it actually like at PLC?
Anon: I find the work more focused than private practice and I am developing more of an expertise in what I do. I am using a lot of legal knowledge, in a very wide range of areas. On the other hand, it’s an all-round commercial business and I work with colleagues in mainstream commercial disciplines, from business development to publication, so I see the wider aspects of projects.
There is a very friendly working atmosphere, morale is high and there is a good social life. People work hard and then go home on time. There is a good flow of work, and it is not too manic or too slow. There is excellent training and supervision.
I have received detailed on-the-job training and there is always somebody willing to help if I need a second opinion or advice on an issue. There are no billing targets or smart timers, though obviously we work to publication deadlines. I am really very happy here.
mtl: Do you miss anything about private practice?
Anon: Not really. I miss some of the people I worked with but I am still in touch with most of them.
mtl: Do you have any advice to others?
Anon: I know people who are still in practice and really like it, but some people realise it is not for them in the long-term. I think career changes are increasingly common in most job sectors. There is some pressure to stay in private practice, due to years spent at law school and so on, but if you are not happy in it then it may be better to try something else. Now that I am outside practice I have met a lot of people who have done this, whereas in practice, by definition, you only really see the people who stay in it.
There are more options in law than you think. If you carry out research and talk to people who have been in the same position, I think you could find an area where you’re happier, better suited, and even contributing more of your legal skills and putting more back into the profession.
As far as getting into legal publishing, legal practice is obviously a good grounding and there are many transferable skills that you can take with you. I think my job would appeal to those who considered publishing in the first place. You need excellent written and communication skills and good legal knowledge.
mtl: Anonymous from PLC, thanks very much for talking to us.
To find out more about PLC please see www.practicallaw.com.
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.
Send this feature to a friend: