Caroline Landes was a successful solicitor/partner in a big law firm. After 31 years she made a major life decision
Last year, after 31 years as a solicitor, including ten years jointly running my own practice in partnership, I decided to jump ship and transfer to the Bar. I am now a baby barrister having been called to Grays Inn in 2019.
I can’t wind the clock back to my 20’s (the average age of those being called to the Bar with me) but in the course of learning my new trade I have been asked by numerous people( well at least 3!): why I did it and how I did it.
I was working as a solicitor in a well supportedenvironment with a great team. I now work on my own. I was receiving a good (enough) salary each month but one I could depend on. Now I have no idea when I will next receive an income.
Previously, if I needed something done I had marvellous support from my secretary Karen and the trainee solicitors and junior colleagues. Now, if I need something done, unless it is something my wonderful clerks can be asked to do, I have to do it myself!
I used to dictate documents which, as a result,were beautifully typed and formatted by my secretary. Now I type my own documents and spend more time on the formatting (rarely achieving what I want) than the content.
Many reasons….31 years in the same role – time for a change? But I love the law and had no skills or appetite for anything else. But I did/do want to be challenged again.
What do I like best about my job? Court work. Where can I just do court work – at the Bar. My simple thought process that got me to the point of a decision to transfer.
I spoke to lots of people in the robing room on an anonymous basis ( I have a friend who is thinking about….) and secured lots of views of the Bar, good and bad. I decided to start the process which took a while.
Oh and I thought it would help me become a better lawyer!
Firstly, an enquiry of chambers – would they take me as pupil? Tick.
Then an application to the Bar Standards Board as a transferring lawyer. I felt it was fate when, on the first working day of 2019, I received confirmation that the BSB would have me and I did not need to do any transitional exams ( decisions are taken so far as I am aware on a case by case basis); I just need to attend the New Practitioners course in the first three years, work under a mentor in chambers and dine 6 times.
Best news of all no need to serve any time as a pupil.
Dear Chambers….will you consider me as a tenant….? Yes – thank you – although I was racked with nerves waiting for the decision to be made. Then take a deep breath and hand in my notice – shock to all (including me – in my whole career I have only worked for 4 employers one of which was myself and my erstwhile lovely partner Georgina).
Then decide which Inn. I went for Grays and on the hottest day of the summer in July last year I was called to the Bar. It was a memorable day particularly as I was able to have with me my close family and my two “partners in crime” from my previous practice. A day I will never forget. I was the oldest person being called that day but felt young again.
Then the admin – practising certificate, insurance, register for tax and just when you think everything is complete – oh need to register with the ICO. Eventually ready to practise having invested in new computer hardware I start at the Bar in September.
In the main amazing. Not looked back. I feel well supported by my colleagues and clerks in chambers , although as I say, life can be lonely sometimes. However, there is much camaraderie in the robing room. I am getting used to the highs and lows of fee income. I have been lucky. I also secured a part time judicial appointment in 2019 (it was a big year what can I say? – my son got married too!) so I have been able to rely on income from sitting. I didn’t plan for breaking my foot a few weeks after commencing at the Bar nor the pandemic but I have adapted. I enjoy getting into the nitty gritty of cases and the fact that in the main ( although not always) I can concentrate on one thing at a time (rather than have many plates a-spinning as I did as a solicitor). And I hope that all of this will in time make me a better lawyer – something I continue to strive for.
Just over ten years ago I was running my own practice and going through treatment for breast cancer. Looking back that’s probably the start of my journey which has brought me to where I am today. I remain on the roll of solicitors (non practising) – we all need insurance right? But I’m not looking back save to think about what has been a varied and rewarding career. Let’s hope in my advanced years I can finish my career on a high.
Original article from It's a Lawyer's Life