‘I miss the people and I miss the team, but with great risk comes great reward’
John Ramsay achieved something most of our readers will be very jealous of.
While in his second year of a languages degree at Oxford University, he landed a training contract at Linklaters, a firm widely regarded as one of the best in the world.
It has 29 offices in 20 countries; it pays its NQs just shy of £80,000 a year; it scored As and A*s almost across the board in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey; its profit per equity partner is nearly £1.5 million.
So why, then, did Ramsay wave goodbye to the City’s dizzy heights in 2015 after just six years at the commercial law coalface? We spoke to him about why he packed up shop, what he does now, and whether he has any regrets.
This career change story is hardly one of emotional turmoil, depression and a growing dislike of the legal profession. Working at a firm like Linklaters is “tough”, 32-year-old Ramsay says, but he really enjoyed his time there. He explains:
I met some great clients while working at Linklaters and made great friendships. I did two international seats, one in Amsterdam and one in Singapore. These were both amazing experiences.
So why did he pack it in? In his words:
I wanted to do something more personal and I wanted to go try something on my own. I had a nagging feeling that if I wanted to do this, I’d have to do it sooner rather than later.
Now, the Oxford grad is UK partner of ‘Tovertafel’, or ‘Magic Table’ in English, a game designed by Dutch PhD student Hester Le Riche for people with late-stage dementia. Images are projected onto a surface, usually a table, which users can interact and play with. This helps with cognitive stimulation.
Ramsay — who undertook a three-month client secondment with Goldman Sachs — explains further:
The game really gets people out of their shell. When speaking to people with dementia, it can be easy to get an initial spark of social interaction, but it can be very hard to elongate this connection. This is what the game does.
The results give you unbelievable goosebumps; we’ve had family members break down in tears when they see the effects.
Unlike his previous life as a lawyer, Ramsay’s new job is very sales-focused (his aim is basically to flog the game to as many UK care homes as possible). What’s also very different is that the Magic Table team is much smaller. Though it is in the process of recruiting sales representatives, the atmosphere does not quite emulate the hustle and bustle of at magic circle office.
In many ways, then, the career change seems quite a leap, but dementia is something very close to Ramsay’s heart. He lost his father, David, ten years ago to the condition.
David was diagnosed with dementia when he was 52-years-old. He lived for ten years after his diagnosis. His final years, Ramsay says, were “very difficult”.
Ramsay met the game’s designer by chance at the wedding of a friend from Linklaters. By this point, he knew he “wanted a break” from the long nights and intense work that comes with being a magic circle solicitor. It all fell into place, and he took the plunge.
“My friends and family thought quitting was a brave decision”, Ramsay tells Legal Cheek. “My family in particular was very supportive because dementia has affected all of us.”
As for the firm’s reaction, Linklaters understands that people move on. Ramsay looks back very favourably on his time as a solicitor and thinks the experience was “a great grounding for the future”. He goes on:
You build a really good work ethic and spirit at Linklaters. I’d thoroughly recommend working there, but for the time-being it’s just not for me.
Any regrets? “I don’t live with regret, I look forward”, Ramsay tells us. “I miss the people and I miss the team, but with great risk comes great reward”.
But, Ramsay laughs:
I don’t miss the all-nighters!
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