Traditional Law: Is the juice worth the squeeze?

YOU KNOW THE FEELING. You slice an orange in half, place it into the palm of your hand and engage every muscle fibre in your forearm to squeeze every last drop from it. Yet, when you look into the glass below, you’re disappointed to see the juicy equivalent of an espresso.

This exercise, this breakfast bootcamp, serves as a useful analogy for many a legal career. A career that begs the question: is the juice worth the squeeze?

Legal duties

It costs a lot to become a lawyer.

The Law Society tells us the cost of qualifying is as follows: £9,250 a year for a degree course. If you study anything other than law, the conversion course is another £12,000. Whichever of those routes you choose, you still need to find £17,000 for the legal practice course. And on top of all this expenditure, you’ll need the funds for an electric toaster, a saucepan and a five-year supply of baked beans and sliced bread. Because, unless you have extremely generous parents, the road to a successful legal career is usually a fairly basic one.

Becoming a partner is The Lore

Little wonder fresh-faced young lawyers feel under pressure to perform at work. So, they strive for the financial rewards associated with becoming a partner.

Paper waits

Becoming a partner has been The Ambition for as long as any lawyer can remember. It pervades every legal workspace. It’s the chat-du-jour during coffee breaks, water-cooler moments, gym-locker debriefs. It also works as a great distraction for many insolvent young lawyers as they wait for the photocopier to spew out yet more reams of paper.

But it costs a lot to become a partner.

This time we’re not referring to financial costs. We’re referring to the cost to your health and well-being. The cost to your friends and family. The costs associated with restless sleep, straining to build up billing hours and not being able to switch off from work.

Breakdown blogs

Becoming a partner is a stress test. And you don’t need us to tell you about the adverse effects of stress. The internet groans with articles on this pernicious issue. A mere sample includes this one from the American Bar Association Journal on a link between long hours and burnout. This one from Thompson Reuters, which includes the ultra-cynical line ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’. And this one from Forbes, with the splendid headline:‘I fought the law and the law won’.

Covid made re-thinking infectious

We are not saying there is anything wrong with ambition, per se. But there is a sense that more lawyers are beginning to question what ambition actually means. For many post-pandemic lawyers, ambition means enjoying a better work-life balance.

Zero traffic build-up en route to the spare bedroom

Enforced working from home has halted many tedious commutes. This means less expense. A lack of exhaust fumes. And no more impatient tapping on the steering wheel. Waiting. For. The. Bloody. Traffic. To. Move.

It is amazing how quickly partner ambitions have changed during lockdown to ambitions about spending time with your partner.

Becoming a partner for many lawyers was about earning more money and having more control. But, at Setfords, you can earn up to 80 per cent of everything you bill. And you will have complete control about when to work and when to cycle into school with your kids.


Happier lawyers, happier clients

Finding this kind of control is relatively new to many lawyers, especially those suffering from symptoms of ‘partner syndrome’. But it’s not new to us. Setfords was created in 2006 on the principle that happier lawyers mean happier clients. Well before the effects of the pandemic, co-founder Chris Setford wrote a series of articles entitled ‘A day in my legal life’. Each focuses on those who became consultants with Setfords to achieve a better work-life balance. Read samples of the articles here, here and here.

Chris was often surprised by the details that emerged as he interviewed Setfords’ consultants. Details about wanting to leave office politics behind, taking the dog for a walk or being able to follow a passion.

You can read more on some of our consultants’ individual pursuits here.

Is consultancy for me?

If this has whet your appetite – and you have at least five years’ PQE and are UK-qualified – get in touch to find out more about becoming a consultant with the largest, most-established firm of its type in the UK. You’ll be joining a team that was created for lawyers to do their best work.

Call us on 0330 058 4011 or email


Thinking about consultancy?

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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        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