Lawyer James McElhinney shares his experience of over ten years as a Consultant Solicitor at Setfords

While many lawyers enjoy working in traditional firms, it’s not for everyone. And even those who like it the most can find that they’re tired of the environment after years of the rat race. When they reach this point, increasing numbers of lawyers are turning to consultancy and embracing a new way of working as a lawyer.

James McElhinney is a commercial and residential property solicitor. He joined Setfords as a consultant solicitor in 2010 after working as a partner in a traditional firm for a number of years. Having now been at Setfords for more than ten years, James discusses his journey and what he has enjoyed the most about consultancy life.

A new environment

When James tired of life in a traditional firm, he decided to turn to a way of working that was, at the time, relatively new in the legal world. He says:

“I was partner in a firm for a good ten years, and I wanted to change the lifestyle balance. It was a hard slog. I enjoyed it, but going into the office daily and dealing with a lot more than just the work became unsatisfactory. There weren’t many firms doing consultancy back in 2010, apart from Setfords. I was intrigued, and I thought I’d give this a go.”

The consultancy model has clearly worked well for James, as he is still with Setfords more than ten years down the line. So why has he decided to stick to this model rather than go back to a more traditional firm?

“Basically, freedom. I’m in control. Everything that you do at Setfords is about how much you’re willing to put in, and you’re in control of that. So you can work really hard, or for a period of time you can ease off. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Freedom to embrace new opportunities

Our lawyers enjoy total flexibility in their work. So, they can choose their working hours, targets, clients, location, and more. Furthermore, our unique fee-share structure means that the more they bill, the bigger the percentage of the billings they take home. So, they have the freedom to shape their roles to suit them. For James, this meant the opportunity to live and work abroad in Sweden without his work having to take a hit. He says:

“My partner is a nurse, and last year, during COVID, she was offered an opportunity to work in Sweden for five months. Because of the setup at Setfords, I could plug in a router over there and worked there for five months as if I was in Guildford. I couldn’t do that if I worked in an office or as a partner of a firm. It opens up horizons for you.”

Why Setfords?

As more and more law firms begin to offer consultancy as an option, what makes Setfords stand out from the rest? For James, it is the fact that consultancy is at our core, and we offer the systems to make life as a consultant easier. He says:

“Other firms tack on consultants because it’s just another revenue stream for them. But for Setfords, it’s just what they do. I think you can hit the ground running with Setfords, as opposed to going into a firm where it takes you a little while to get to know everyone and the systems. It’s so easy to plug your phone into your router or switch on your computer, and it’s all there in front of you.”

Setfords was founded in 2006, making us one of the longest-established consultancy law firms in the UK. Consultancy remains our core focus, enabling us to provide a better experience to our lawyers and their clients without our consultants feeling left behind or ‘tacked on’. And, we are constantly investing in our technology and systems to allow our lawyers to easily work from anywhere.

Generating leads

New consultants, and those who are considering it, tend to all have similar apprehensions. One of the most common ones is worries about their ability to generate work. It was also something that James was concerned about, though he soon managed to overcome this:

“At first, you go in and wonder where am I going to get clients from? But there’s a good referral structure within Setfords between the consultants. I also get referrals from the business development team, and I’ve got my repeat clients coming back to me so there are always avenues where work is coming from. And for the work I do, the remuneration I get is far more than I would get in an office.”

Our dedicated Business Development team drives more qualified leads to our lawyers than any other comparable firm. Particularly when first starting out, many of our consultants find this helpful as they begin their journey and become more established. We never leave our consultants completely on their own to find clients, and invest considerably into helping them with millions of pounds worth of leads every year.

Final words of advice

James’ final piece of advice for anyone who is considering joining Setfords is as follows:

“Back in 2010, I was feeling the stress more than I had done before. But within four or five months of joining Setfords, I found my feet. I felt a lot more comfortable at Setfords than I did in my previous job because I was just doing the work as opposed to worrying about a million other things.”


Is consultancy for me?

If you want to find out more about becoming a consultant with us, get in touch. We are happy to conduct interviews remotely for suitable, UK-qualified candidates with five or more years’ experience. If you’re a good fit, you’ll be joining a team that was created for lawyers to do their best work.

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        This allows us to send you the information you need to know about consultancy

        This enables us to get in touch and discuss life as a Setfords consultant

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