Legal Cheek meets the lawyers that bucked the trend and started up their own businesses
Sometimes, it’s all too easy to forget that lawyers actually do things and have interests that don’t have anything to do with the law.
Just look what happened when Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger hinted that he was a hip hop fan: the world was shocked (and thrilled).
But it’s true, lawyers do have wider interests — and there are some practitioners out there that have decided to capitalise on this, without sacrificing their legal career.
Legal Cheek spoke to two lawyers that have managed to craft their outside-law passions into viable businesses: Toby Fountaine, a private client lawyer and the proud owner of an independent publishing house, and Kay Ma, a freelance commercial solicitor and cake business owner.
Fountaine (pictured below) — who has studied at Cardiff, Bristol, and London — splits his time half and half between legal practice and running his own publishing house, Blue Mark Books. Far from fulfilling a childhood dream of his, Fountaine admits that he came across publishing by chance about five years into practice. What started out as a hobby soon became a career, when Fountaine decided to “do it properly” and start working on his publishing house full-time.
Ditching his job for 18 months to set up his website, Fountaine — who now works at private client outfit Gaby Hardwicke — is pleased with the success of his business. Blue Mark Books has now published a number of titles, including one law-themed novel, Bugle & Yarrington, with another called Flack’s Last Shift expected in June.
There are all sorts of problems that come with giving up a regular job and a regular salary, and Fountaine admits that. One person who didn’t have to worry about that when forging her business career is cake maker Ma (pictured below). Unlike Fountaine — who took time out to set up his business venture — the Southampton law grad works as a freelance lawyer, which gives her the time and freedom to pursue other goals.
Like Fountaine, it’s passion and drive that got Ma to where she is today: the proud owner of Kay’s Bakes, and a successful lawyer.
When asked why she decided to start up her own business, she told Legal Cheek:
It was definitely a case of enjoying my legal career but wanting to do something else too. Remember when you were a child and you wanted to grow up to be a painter, an astronaut, an actor AND a superhero? It was acceptable to dream big and want to do everything when we were children, so why do we then have to focus on only ONE dream when we are older? No-one ever said you can only be ambitious about one thing, so I choose to be ambitious about lots of things.
And lawyers are definitely better placed than most to have these dreams. Studying law, Fountaine told Legal Cheek, is a great platform from which to launch something like your own publishing house. He explained:
Law firms teach you how to be professional, and that can only help you in the rest of your career.
While Fountaine and Ma speak positively about their career paths, both admit that keeping two ventures afloat can be a bit of a balancing act. But their stories are clear examples that it can be done.
So what advice do Fountaine and Ma have for other lawyers, who fancy dabbling in business ownership like they’ve done?
For Fountaine, the most important thing to do is to think long and hard about what sort of career it is that you’re after, because there’s no one size fits all approach. He explained:
If you want to make it big in a City firm, then it’s probably best you stay on that path and don’t take a big chunk of time out like I did. But if you want to have a fulfilling life away from your legal career, then you should be able do other things. If your firm values you, then they’ll support you.
Whatever your interests and goals, his ultimate advice for lawyers is this:
Just do what your heart tells you to, and you won’t regret it.
The lesson from Ma is strikingly similar. She told us:
[I]f you want to be a lawyer and something else, make it happen. Your ambition got you to where you are now, so don’t stop here. An open-mind, effective organisation skills and good old-fashioned self-belief can get you a long way.
So the message is clear: you don’t have to sacrifice your outside interests to have a successful legal career, and you don’t have to sacrifice your legal career to pursue your outside interests. With enough motivation and drive, you can even capitalise on both.
Fingers crossed we’ll see Lord Neuberger starring in Jay-Z’s next music video soon.