I Could Have Been Partner in a Law Firm: But I Wanted More

Female lawyers. Have you got what it takes to become a partner at your firm? Would you knock your colleagues over like skittles for a tête-à-tête with a senior partner? Do you get slightly irked when your private life impinges on your work life? No! Then the world is your oyster. If you’re looking for a brilliant career without missing your kids’ sports days, read on…

“THERE IS A GIGANTIC DIFFERENCE between earning a great deal of money and being rich.”

This quote, attributed to Marlene Dietrich, will undoubtedly resonate with many a lawyer torn between their career ambitions and family life. As conventional legal wisdom has it, you either strive for a partner’s plentiful income OR you enjoy a rich, rewarding balanced life.

Inside the mind of a lawyer

We can see how this works by simply wandering inside the head of a typically ambitious lawyer. On one side of a pair of imaginary scales, they place an invitation to little Johnny’s school play, in which their toothsome six-year-old plays a shepherd. On the other side of the scales, they pop an invitation to the networking event that will swim with senior partners and opportunities. As they watch the scales oscillate, they ask themselves, would little Johnny even notice them in an audience of, let’s face it, unambitious parents?

Of course, it may not play out exactly like that. But that scene was very, very easy to imagine, especially in light of some of the comments made in a recent article published in The Lawyer.

Backed up by a survey of solicitors, the article states that the pandemic brought the work-life balance dilemma into sharp focus. Whereas half of respondents were sure they wanted to be a partner before the pandemic, that fraction has reduced to a quarter.

As you may have suspected, the stats also show a gender divide. Male associates are much less likely than their female peers to have dropped their partnership ambitions.

Why is that? How has a pesky virus destabilised this hugely well-established ambition?

Spending time with your family

It seems that working from home during the pandemic prompted epiphanies aplenty among the legal profession. As a Magic Circle female associate put it:

“I have always aspired to partnership. But now it does not seem like any kind of a life. I love my husband and children and would like to actually be able to spend time with them.”

This quote – typical of many quoted in The Lawyer article – resonates deeply with Setfords’ team.

That team includes Faye Griffiths. Faye loves the freedom she has as a consultant solicitor with Setfords:
“I like that I can pick and choose what I do. There is no pressure to take any work, which means I can do my own thing. I feel like I have achieved a really nice balance,” says the corporate restructuring and insolvency specialist.

Skiing through life

A well-travelled solicitor, Faye used to work incredibly long hours at a firm in Hong Kong. This clashed with her husband’s irregular schedules as a pilot. The couple’s sheer lack of time together left them both questioning what exactly they were working for. They eventually took drastic action to solve their dilemma by moving to Canada.

“Since our move, the mere thought of being told what to do with no flexibility fills me with dread,” says Faye from her home in Whistler. “Plus, I now get to ski in the afternoons!”


Faye is not alone. Her sentiments are supported by a corporate insolvency colleague who is also enjoying a new sense of freedom:

“I love the control I have at Setfords,” says Genevieve Wakeley-Jones, who also runs a successful IT consultancy. “I can choose to work the way I want with no one looking over my shoulder.”

We all need to be able to switch off from work

The two consultant solicitors are well aware that working from home brings a different set of challenges for some people. As highlighted in a recent BBC article, those challenges include a lack of support and feelings of never being able to switch off from work.

“I know those kinds of issues are very real for the people involved,” says Faye. “But I think that probably has a lot to do with the way the firms they work for are set up. It is very difficult for people to switch off when it’s the employer that has all the power. We really need to redress that especially, as seems likely, that people will continue to work from home sometimes.”

Supportive culture

Both women agree the friendly culture at Setfords means that everyone is there to offer help and support. Consultant solicitors regularly call on one or another of the firm’s network of 350 lawyers, as well as its team of over 100 support team members.

“Consultants send emails all the time and chat with each other within the firm,” says Genevieve. “You never feel like you are working in isolation, despite not being in the office. Setfords is totally different from other places I’ve worked. And I do mean different in a good way!”

“Setfords is based on the principle that happier lawyers mean happier clients,” Faye adds. “That’s a really good guide because it reminds people of what’s really important. And it works! People like working here and we get a lot of really great feedback from our clients. That in itself is very rewarding.”

Genevieve adds “chasing a partnership is a singular ambition. Being guided by a desire to keep everyone happy is much more collective, much more inclusive. Like many people in the profession, I also used to think about becoming a partner. But I’m much more ambitious than that now. I’ve always seen myself as independent with an entrepreneurial spirit,” she smiles.

Get in touch to find out more about becoming a consultant solicitor with Setfords. If we’re a good fit for each other, you’ll be joining a team that was created for lawyers to do their best work.

Call us on 0330 058 4011 or email [email protected].


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Lawyers who become consultants at Setfords earn more money, experience less office politics, and enjoy a better-work life balance. The next consultant could be you. So get in touch today and take the next step towards a happier life.

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        Currently, we can only work with lawyers qualified under one of these regulatory bodies