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From partner to pizzeria: ex-Clifford Chance lawyer opens up on life as restaurateur

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Katrina Allison moved to Cumbria aged 46 after tiring of commercial litigation

A former Clifford Chance partner has revealed how she gave it all up to set up a pizzeria in Cumbria.

Katrina Allison, who worked at the magic circle giant for 11 years, packed in life in litigation to run a “bike-friendly cafe-restaurant” in the small town of Ulverston in the Lake District.

The solicitor told Channel 5’s Making A New Life In The Country, which aired on Tuesday night, how she made the transition from City megabucks to small business owner.

Allison trained at CMS before moving to Clifford Chance in 1998, according to a LinkedIn profile. She became a partner in the firm’s litigation and dispute resolution department in 2005, but left to cycle around the perimeter of USA (covering over 13,000 miles).

With some short stints as a freelance consultant and interim general counsel to help pay the bills, Allison dabbled in creative writing and moved to Cumbria aged 46, where she first opened a pop-up shop selling clothes with animal designs.

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She then met her Italian partner, and the pair decided to go into the pizza business after just six weeks together. Setting up a restaurant from scratch wasn’t always easy — the former solicitor at one point complains that builders don’t have the same ways of working as lawyers — but Allison seems to have no regrets.

She tells viewers: “Life as a lawyer in a City law firm is pretty tough. There’s lots of good things about it but it is hard work. You’re always thinking about it when you’re not working, you’re on your phone or on your Blackberry doing conference calls in the middle of the night and things like that. It started to feel, for me, very claustrophobic.”

Allison later confides to presenter Ben Fogle:

“I always thought that if you just do a bit more, just get to senior associate or partner, it’ll all become a little bit easier — but I don’t think it ever did, it just got more and more pressured.”

But she does admit that losing what was a six-figure salary has been a challenge. As a City partner, money wasn’t often on her mind. Now, “it’s a concern. I have to think about it now, I haven’t got an option”.

The full episode is available on the Channel 5 website.

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