Property solicitor Sarah Thomson discovers a rewarding alternative to partnership

There are many reasons why lawyers decide not to become partners. However, two of the biggest reasons are the lack of freedom that comes with partnership, and the unwanted additional responsibilities. However, traditional law firms don’t offer many alternative paths for lawyers who still want successful careers without taking the partnership route. Where do these lawyers go?

Sarah Thomson is a consultant property solicitor at Setfords. Before joining us, she had progressed up the career ladder to become Head of Residential Conveyancing for a regional firm with several offices. However, that level of management responsibility was not what she truly wanted out of her career. Here, she discusses why she decided to join Setfords instead.

A new path

In a traditional firm, like most lawyers, Sarah found that to increase her earning potential, she had to take on more tasks away from fee-earning. Ultimately, this wasn’t what she wanted to do, which is why she turned to consultancy:

“I found that I was spending the majority of my time dealing with management matters, endless meetings, and staff issues. I was really missing the client contact and day-to-day conveyancing. I came to realise that the part of my job that I love is the actual conveyancing work, and I wanted to get back to that but did not want to sacrifice my income level. I also wanted to have more control over the type of work I took on and to have the flexibility to work from home and at times that suit me. Consultancy seemed the logical step!”

At Setfords, our lawyers can earn up to 80% of their billings with our fee-share model. This means that lawyers like Sarah, who want to focus on client work over management, can still earn higher than without doing the bits they don’t like. Sarah says:

“After just nine months with Setfords, I am now matching, and some months exceeding, my previous Head of Department salary. Yes, I have worked hard to get there, but that has been on my terms, and I have loved every minute of it.”

Our purpose-built model

But with other fee-share firms out there, why did Sarah choose Setfords in particular? Established in 2006, we were one of the very first consultancy-focused firms in the UK. This means that our entire business model is built around consultancy. Unlike others, we’re not just a traditional firm with a consultancy arm, which is something that Sarah noticed set us apart from the rest:

When I started to look seriously into consultancy, I investigated Setfords and others closely. I came to the conclusion that Setfords would be the right fit for me. I spoke to a lot of consultants and the team at Setfords. The firm has been designed around consultancy rather than adding it on later. There are well-designed processes and support in place and a large network of very friendly fellow consultants, so you never feel alone.”

Indeed, our processes and systems are specifically designed with consultancy in mind. We have everything set up so that our lawyers can work remotely from almost anywhere in the world and complete their roles with the support of our dedicated in-house teams. Furthermore, we also encourage our consultants to work on a paperless basis. This was something that Sarah was initially concerned about:

“Like many conveyancers, I have always been pretty paper reliant. At Setfords, I choose to work completely paperless, and I was initially worried about how I would manage. In fact, it has not been too difficult to adjust as the practice management system is complete, so I have a full file available to me – working with two screens is a must for me though!

Getting to grips with new systems and processes takes a bit of time, but everyone is so helpful if you ask questions, and practice makes perfect!”

As Sarah says, even if lawyers do take a little time to adjust to our systems, our teams are always on hand to help. With more than 140 in-house support staff available at no additional charge, as well as a dedicated Lawyer Wellbeing department to ensure our consultants are happy at work, it’s no wonder we are one of the leading fee-share firms in the country when it comes to support!

A different kind of freedom

The benefits of consultancy for our lawyers go beyond offering an alternative lucrative career path for those who don’t necessarily want to become partners. The way our model is set up gives consultants ultimate freedom in their careers, which also translates into freedom in their home lives. For Sarah, this means the flexibility to make time for her family, friends, and hobbies. She says:

“The best thing for me is flexibility. I can work from home, or wherever I choose, at the times that I choose. I can take advantage of a lovely sunny day to take my dogs for a long walk in the middle of the day without needing to take time off or ask permission. I can travel to visit friends across the country or spend time with family. I no longer need to book time off to travel to the ultra-marathon events that I enjoy taking part in, making the logistics a little bit easier and meaning I am not compromising holiday time with my husband.

With modern tech, I can still check emails or take calls while out and about if I need to. As long as my clients are happy and the work is progressed properly, I can fit my work around my life.

I know many traditional firms are offering “flexible” working and allowing working from home, but there still has to be a structure to that flexibility in order to ensure fairness for all staff and keep the business running. With consultancy, there is no enforced structure – just what you choose for yourself.”

This flexibility enjoyed by Sarah and all of our other consultants translates into the work itself, too. We think that lawyers do their best work when they’re not being constantly micro-managed or monitored. Setfords lawyers can choose their own targets to build the type of career that motivates them personally. Sarah says:

“No time recording is my other big joy – throughout my career, time recording has been my Achilles heel. Now I do not have to worry about it with no targets or KPIs to meet!”

If you want to enjoy these benefits and more, we want to hear from you! We’re looking for UK-qualified lawyers with 5+ years PQE to join us as consultants. Get in touch today by filling out the form below.


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