How to move from an elite law firm to become a flexible-working A&O Peerpoint consultant
Legal Cheek Careers meets former magic circle lawyer Lisa Mulley, head of consultant management at A&O Peerpoint
Ahead of ‘How to follow your dreams outside law while still working as a lawyer’, held in association with A&O Peerpoint, we caught up with Lisa Mulley, head of consultant management at Peerpoint, who will be speaking at Thursday’s event.
Legal Cheek Careers: You began your career at Allen & Overy, where you worked as a solicitor for six years, before moving in-house with a financial services company, and later joining Peerpoint. What made you follow this route?
Lisa Mulley (LM): I loved working in private practice and did not really have any particular plans to leave. I was exposed to good quality work and interesting clients. As I became more experienced, I wanted to use my skills in a different way; I was particularly interested in working more closely to a business. As a litigator, I did not think that would be possible but was contacted by a head-hunter who was looking for a lawyer to advise disciplinary and arbitration panels for a derivatives and options exchange. I advised these panels, wrote their judgments and, after two years was asked to set up and run the exchange’s first commercial in-house legal department. So I moved from dispute resolution to corporate/commercial. It was brilliant and I feel extremely privileged to have been given that opportunity. After a career break, I decided to try consultancy. I wanted to see how other legal teams worked and I was keen to develop my mediation and coaching skills. My role at Peerpoint has allowed me to use my professional experience to support the consultants and help them progress their careers in a new and exciting way.
Legal Cheek: Why are more lawyers working as legal consultants?
LM: The landscape of legal consulting has changed significantly in the last decade. Consulting was mostly viewed as a post career option, often used by senior lawyers, partners or GCs. This is no longer the case. It is now a positive choice for many lawyers who are using it to build successful legal careers. Legal consulting offers lawyers a combination of high quality work, control and flexibility while still being able to develop professionally. This way of working not only suits lawyers who have a strong interest in another area that they want to devote time to, be it art, music or setting up their own business, it is also very attractive to lawyers who are looking to gain a wider breadth of experience, exposure to new sectors and even to new practice areas. Consulting also can be a strategic way of acquiring the right skills and experiences and helps lawyers to build their professional network and their own personal brand in the market.
Legal Cheek: What support does your team provide to Peerpoint consultants?
LM: Peerpoint is the only consulting platform that has a dedicated consultant management team comprised of lawyers to support and develop its consultants. We work closely with consultants to understand their skillset, needs and aspirations. We carefully and creatively match consultants with the right opportunities and support them when on placement in a variety of ways. This includes access to A&O partners, PSLs, client newsletters and seminars, and online legal databases. As a Peerpoint consultant, lawyers are a part of a community of like-minded professionals and also have opportunities to join A&O’s networks and participate in pro bono projects. Through our experience working with consultants, we know this new way of working requires a shift from an employee to a consultant mindset. We help lawyers make this transition with a coaching and development programme that is bespoke and caters to a consultant’s individual needs.
Legal Cheek: What’s your advice to lawyers post-2PQE who are considering applying to join Peerpoint?
LM: Everyone considers consulting for different reasons. It is a very personal decision and there are a number of things to consider. Think carefully about your motivations for wanting to become a consultant and what you want to achieve. It could be to get more variety and control over your career and increase your experiences and skill levels; you might want to maintain a quality career in law and still learn, but also to dedicate more of your time to other personal interests and endeavours, or simply to have a better work/life balance. Be mindful of your financial situation — can you manage the inevitable periods of downtime a consultant will have, which may be planned breaks or not. Understand your own personality and how comfortable you are with the unknown. Are you the type of person who likes change, is resilient, adaptable, is a strong relationship builder and capable of working autonomously when needed? If you’re serious about consulting it can help advance your career and diversify your professional experience at a faster pace. You would also have the opportunity to work with the best companies in a variety of sectors, with diverse teams, develop new specialisms and experience different types of businesses.
Legal Cheek: Former Solicitors Regulation Authority policy director Crispin Passmore recently tipped flexible lawyering models like Peerpoint as a growth area in a changing legal market. How do you see consulting developing over the next decade?
LM: I think consulting will continue to evolve rapidly. As a career path it is already mainstream. We are seeing a rise globally in clients seeking consultants, which demonstrates that resourcing structures are changing. Technology has enabled significant changes in how we work and, as it advances, we will see the shape of teams change. This will mean a greater diversity of disciplines and roles working together. There will also be a broadening of skillsets beyond the traditional technical legal capabilities. We will also continue to see a rise in lawyers wanting to work in this way as they further recognise consulting as a means to direct their legal career in a more fulfilling way. I think it is an exciting time to be a part of the legal industry. The possibilities, in terms of roles and evolving non-linear pathways, make it increasingly realistic to pursue, shape and achieve personal fulfilment. It is important we make the most of these changes to create a new and more dynamic future for our industry.
Lisa Mulley will be speaking at ‘How to follow your dreams outside law while still working as a lawyer — with A&O Peerpoint’ on the evening of Thursday 13 February at Peerpoint’s base in Allen & Overy’s City of London headquarters, alongside Anup Mehta (ex-Gowling; start-up founder and Peerpoint lawyer); Florence McDonald (ex-Kirkland; artist and Peerpoint lawyer); and Alex Barros-Curtis (ex-A&O and Peerpoint lawyer). Register to attend.
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