Ex-magic circle trainee reveals why she quit law to live on a narrowboat

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By Aishah Hussain on

‘I found the work so boring,’ says former Linklaters lawyer Dorothy Henson

An ex-trainee solicitor at the magic circle law firm Linklaters has shared her incredible story which saw her give up the daily corporate law grind to live on a narrowboat.

Dorothy Henson, 27, who trained at Links between 2016 and 2018, says she traded her high-flying career as a City lawyer for barge life, and doesn’t regret it.

Henson graduated from Warwick University with a first-class degree in English literature, before going on to complete the law conversion and legal practice course with a combined masters at The University of Law in Moorgate.

Speaking to The Sun newspaper, Henson said, “it was long hours and lots of studying but I had always wanted to become a lawyer. It was all I’d ever dreamed of. Ever since I was a little girl I’d been told, ‘you need to study hard and get good grades'”.

Rookies at Links, which is headquartered in London and has offices around the globe, earn around £52,500 by the time they reach their second year of training, according to our Firms Most List. The magic circle firm is renowned for its sizeable perks, which include an on-site gym and its very own canteen, Silks.

The trade-off, of course, are the long hours expected of many City lawyers. “It was really hard going”, Henson, who is originally from Earley, Reading, but now lives in London, admits. “I would be at my desk by 7am or 8am and would work until 9pm or 10pm. Often I would skip lunch.”

Henson appears to have moved in-house at asset managers Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) shortly after qualifying as a solicitor in 2018. She worked in LGIM’s funds and pensions team for almost a year and a half, according to her LinkedIn, before leaving in January 2020.

“The long hours meant I wasn’t eating properly and it had a negative impact on my mental health — I was really stressed. Plus, I found the work so boring,” she told the newspaper.

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It wasn’t until she began looking for a flat in close proximity to her office that she started questioning her career choice.

“I’d got as far as getting a mortgage in principle when a bloke I worked with told me, ‘you’ll be chained to that loan for at least the next 20 years,’” she said, adding: “That was two years ago, when I was 25, and his words just struck terror in me. Did I really want to be a lawyer with a flat and a mortgage?”

The next week she reportedly quit her job, which paid her a yearly salary of £90,000, and using her savings, inheritance and money from family, she bought an old canal boat for £40,000.

“It was reckless but I just felt an enormous sense of excitement,” she continued. “Of course, people thought I was completely off my head. My parents were fuming and my pals thought I was bonkers, throwing away a great career and years of studying to live on a rusty old boat. But I didn’t care. I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. I’ve always been a bit impulsive and rather than be scared I was excited. I cleared out my rented flat, binned the workplace dresses and high heels and lopped off my long hair and dyed it blonde.”

Now living on her houseboat, Scalleywag, Henson, who is currently in-between jobs and also writes a blog, The Naked Soul, continued:

“My life has changed hugely. But I don’t regret it for a minute. I used to be able to go on really nice holidays to places like Mexico and India. I could afford designer clothes and the best things. But I had no time. Now … I’m happy. My life is scaled down — but things are much better.”

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