The high wages paid by City law firms are a kind of "risk money" to compensate lawyers for the damage done by the gruelling nature of the work to their physical and mental health, a former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer lawyer has claimed today.
Most people don’t stay at the law firms they join as trainees all that long. When I interviewed Freshfields lawyer-turned-author Jonathan Lee on Wednesday about his brilliant new book 'Joy', he told me that only five out of the fifty trainees in his 2005 intake are still there.
This week’s #RoundMyKitchenTable podcast guest, Jill Marshall, is another ex-Freshfields lawyer who decided to try her luck outside corporate law. Rather than stick around to battle it out for partnership, Marshall elected instead to do a PhD and pursue a career as a legal academic at Queen Mary, University of London, just down the canal from Legal Cheek’s studios in glamorous east London.
Such a switch is anathema to podcast co-host Kevin Poulter, a lawyer at Bircham Dyson Bell, whose gritty Doncaster roots cause him to view learning with suspicion. "I can think of nothing worse than going back to being a student," says the Yorkshireman at one point during the podcast, before returning to the sketch of a coalmine he spent much of the evening completing.
For the legions of training contract hunters out there, being a lawyer is a dream. But it’s not a job that makes everyone happy. The British Hollywood actor Gerard Butler (pictured), who started out as a trainee solicitor with Edinburgh corporate law firm Morton Fraser, didn't enjoy his time in the legal profession.
“If I’d continued in the law, I don’t think I’d be alive today,” Butler told The Times on Saturday. “I was 27, I’d passed my degree and was working as a trainee solicitor, but I was heading down the wrong path and drinking far too much. The week before I was due to qualify, I got really wrecked at the Edinburgh Festival and was sacked. I now know that this was covering up the truth and that I was very unhappy with where I was headed.”
Butler wanted to be acting, not assisting companies with contracts. In a previous interview, he told Scotland on Sunday of his heartbreak at watching a Fringe production of Trainspotting as a trainee lawyer “because I thought 'this will never be me'." He added: “those days were incredibly miserable for me because I was trapped. Not even trapped in a law firm...but I was trapped in my life, I was trapped in my head, I didn't know how to make myself happy."