Family Lawyer Tracey O’Dwyer revives her love for the legal profession in her ‘exhilarating’ career as a consultant solicitor at Setfords

Tracey O’Dwyer was a successful family solicitor at a traditional firm. However, looking around at her stressed and overworked colleagues and reflecting on what she wanted from her own life, Tracey decided she needed to make a change…

A stressful working environment

Throughout Tracey’s career as a family lawyer at several traditional firms, she realised just how stressful the role was. After watching many of her colleagues succumb to the pressure of targets, difficult cases, and trying to balance family life, she wondered if there was another way to ensure she kept her passion for her career alive.

“I was in a senior role at my previous firm, but partnership never appealed to me. When you’re a partner, you’re involved in an awful lot more work than just the law; managing people, managing budgets, and dealing with any other day to day issues that arise. I didn’t want any of that; I just wanted to be a lawyer and do my legal work.”

It was becoming increasingly clear that managing family life and working at the level she knew her clients deserved was becoming more and more difficult at a traditional firm. Many of Setfords consultants have previously been partners and they all seem to have similar experiences; gruelling hours, impossible targets, office politics, and a lengthy commute while juggling family life at home.

“At the traditional firms, there was always a conflict. If the children were at unwell or there was a school event I wanted to attend, I’d have to go and clear any time away from my desk with a boss beforehand. School holidays were always very tricky and the lack of autonomy was challenging.”

A new opportunity

After seeing that working for a traditional firm and aiming for partner was taking its toll on many of her colleagues, Tracey began to wonder what other options were out there for her so that she would not also start to resent her legal career.

“I had kept an article from 2013 about Setfords; I read it and thought, this sounds too good to be true as it sounded perfect for me.”

When most lawyers enquire about becoming a consultant at Setfords, they often believe that what they are reading is too good to be true. Like many of our new consultants, Tracey wondered if she might feel cut off from her colleagues, especially to begin with. At Setfords, we ensure this doesn’t happen by fostering a cohesive internal network. This provides many opportunities to cross-refer work and collaborate on larger projects.

“I find the culture itself really good, it feels supportive, and as a family lawyer we’ve got an all family lawyers email. If you email out and say to somebody, I’ve got a problem with this case; what would you do or have you ever come across this or what do you think, then you’ll always get replies. I love that at Setfords we’re all equal in the sense that we don’t have partners and non-partners. There’s no hierarchy, and often hierarchies are misleading so it’s a really good thing.”

Sometimes moving away from the traditional law firm model and finding new clients can seem daunting at first. To begin with, your clients may follow you; but, unlike other consultancy firms, Setfords invests heavily in generating leads for consultants, something Tracey quickly realised.

“I found moving to Setfords to be exciting. I enjoyed building up my caseload from scratch. I brought a few cases with me, but the business development team immediately sent me some good enquiries and my work built up quickly. Every morning, I’d be looking forward to logging on to see if any of those enquiries had turned into instructions, and I found it exhilarating.”

New Found Freedom

Consultants at Setfords choose a more flexible, balanced and rewarding career. Our ethos and support help lawyers to recapture the spirit that inspired them to become a lawyer in the first place. This means that our consultants begin to feel like real people again and can choose to prioritise their lives however they like. For Tracey, ensuring she could be there for her children was a top priority.

“My favourite thing about Setfords is the total flexibility. I can live my life how I want to live it, I feel like I’m in control, and I’m here when the children need me to be. I now never have to miss any event that my children are involved in due to work. I can now do things that would not have been possible working in a traditional firm, I’ve been here, there and everywhere, and my children haven’t missed out.”

With the increased flexibility that we can offer consultants like Tracey, not only are they happier, but they make more money, enjoy a better work-life balance and don’t have to spend time on office politics, management chores or billing targets.

“Being a consultant solicitor benefits my clients because of my flexibility. I can speak to them at times that suit them without feeling like it’s impacting me. If I was working in a traditional law firm and somebody said I want you to speak to a client in the evening, I would have to do it. Whereas now, it is when I choose to work, and I decide to do that if I want to.”

Financial Rewards

One of the greatest surprises for Tracey has been how lucrative her life as a consultant solicitor has been. At Setfords our fee structure reflects consultants’ achievements; the more you bill, the more you earn.

“I think the biggest difference between consultancy and a traditional law firm is that you get paid for the amount of work you do. So, the more effort you put in, the more you will earn out of it.”

“In terms of the fee structure at Setfords, I found it works for me. It’s very much about how much work you put in and how much you want to build your caseload, which reflects how well you do financially. Some months it’s been almost double what I’ve earned in the past. So it’s been a lot more rewarding financially.”

The True Meaning of Success

Choosing to make the move to consultancy is a huge step for many lawyers; it can be incredibly intimidating. But for Tracey – having the opportunity to work flexibly and take on as many or as few clients as she wants puts her back in control of her life.

“If you define success by what I’m earning, I’m earning a lot more than before. If you define success by being happy, I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my job. And, if you define success by having more flexibility, then I’ve definitely got that!”

A Happier Career Path

At Setfords, we believe happier lawyers do better work, so we ensure they get the support they need and the rewards they deserve. When asked about what she would say to anyone considering consultancy at Setfords, Tracey said: “I would say definitely go for it; it’s worked for me. I could not go back into a traditional law firm!”

Tracey added: “I won’t be leaving. I’ll be at Setfords until I retire. There’s no doubt about that because it works so well for me. I feel like I’ve got complete control of my life now, and I really wish I’d taken the leap a long time ago.”

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