City litigator turned eco-tourism guide
Holly Faithfull trained and qualified at Lovells, where she spent five years PQE as a commercial litigator. Meanwhile she always had a love of travel and wildlife and as a result of a chance meeting in India, she left law to work as a freelance guide on high-end, small-group wildlife-watching trips to more than 45 countries around the world. She has now set up her own company called Wildlife Quest and leads tailor-made trips throughout the year.
mtl: Hi Holly, please can you start by telling us about your legal career?
Holly: As a child I wanted to be a vet and spent my teenage years volunteering in local practices. I decided to do law fairly late in the day on the basis that it would be more intellectually interesting and I could have my own animals at home! I trained at Lovells and qualified into commercial litigation, which was one of the top litigation departments in the City at the time. I stayed for five years post-qualification and loved it. The firm was fantastic, I worked for great partners and had high profile work to do.
mtl: Why did you leave?
Holly: I had always thought about travel, wildlife and the environment while working as a lawyer and was a member of several charities such as the RSPCA. I took lots of exotic trips and in 2000 I was in India visiting some national parks when I met a guide who was working for an American travel company.
As a result of this meeting, I left Lovells and started working for the same company, as a freelance guide. The partners thought I’d be back, but I haven’t worked in the legal sector since. Although I didn’t envisage working for Lovells again, I had thought that I might live abroad and didn’t think a return to law was out of the question. In fact I would still be happy to use my legal skills if the situation arose, but in a more “environmental” way.
1988 - 1991
Law with English and American Studies, Sussex University
1991 - 1992
LPC, College of Law, Guildford
1993 - 1995
Training contract, Lovells
1995 - 2000
Commercial Litigation assistant, Lovells
2000 - 2007
Freelance guide for a US company
Set up own travel business – Wildlife Quest
I doubt that my life would have taken the path it has if it wasn’t for that meeting in India, especially as I was happy as a litigator at the time. However I feel very lucky that I was in the right place at the right time, particularly as I know that it is usually difficult for a British guide to work in other countries as you are in competition with local guides.
mtl: So what have you been doing since 2000?
Holly: I ran small group land programmes for the American company until 2007. They were happy to take me on as they were expanding and I had years of travel experience behind me already by that point, as well as a keen interest in wildlife. Every year I came back to the UK for around two months and the rest of the time I was living out of my suitcase, visiting up to 40 countries a year.
I worked for the company for seven years and became a director. My last trip for them was in summer 2007, at which point I started to do more work on my own account. In 2008 I began marketing my own tours through my website, to my existing clients (some of whom have been away with me over ten times now) and through word of mouth. The travel industry is a small world and there are relatively few companies offering top end, expensive, adventurous trips like I do.
My trips involve staying in 5* hotels, amazing lodges and out of the way places in remote areas for around two weeks, in a group of 2-10, but usually with about 6 people. I appeal particularly to retired English-speaking customers who are fairly active. Examples of trips I’ve done include looking for jaguars in Guyana, lemurs in Madagascar, orangutans in Borneo and tigers in India. The focus is usually on wildlife but I also cover cultural highlights, such as visiting the tribes of the Lower Omo Valley in Ethiopia and the Iban longhouses of Sarawak.
I use local operators because it is important to put money into the area that you are visiting and also the local guides have a huge amount of knowledge and information. Only top-end companies have someone like me supplementing a local guide and I bring a higher end-product, good organisation and a lower risk of wasted time and things going wrong while away.
mtl: Do you enjoy running your own business and has your legal background been a help?
Holly: Obviously it’s a bad time economically to be selling luxury products at the moment. However I’ve found it very rewarding putting together the website and marketing myself and I haven’t had to advertise as I’ve been recommended by word of mouth so far. I can be anywhere in the world and still run my business, as long as I have my laptop with me, and the freedom is great. I currently work for six months of the year, travel for four and am in the UK for the remaining two.
I do sometime miss working with a nice group of people like at Lovells, and the social events that come with that. I also enjoyed the high profile and high pressure work that you get working in the City, though I have stress in my current work too as I have to make sure that my clients are happy and that they understand what they see and how it fits together with e.g. climate change issues.
My legal training has been useful in running the business for several reasons, including making me think in an analytical way, being used to and good at dealing with people and having to learn lots of information in a short space of time. I certainly have no regrets about having done law along the way, but neither do I have any regrets about leaving as I love working for myself.
mtl: Thank you for your time Holly.
Click here to see Holly’s website.
If you know any other ex-lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives then please get in touch.
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