You're hired! How lawyers make better entrepreneurs

The new season of the Apprentice is in full swing—and at the moment, there are two lawyers on the show. Matthew Kay, director of Vario for Pinsent Masons, weighs in on the entrepreneurial skills that lawyers develop over the course of their careers, and how they can be both lawyers and entrepreneurs.

  • Last updated Oct 16, 2018 3:31:50 PM
  • Matthew Kay, Director of Vario from Pinsent Masons
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Image: Damien Everett (via Wikimedia commons)

This month saw the 13th series of the BBC’s The Apprentice kick off, and this time we’ve got both a solicitor and a law graduate in the mix, hoping to avoid the wrath of Sir Alan Sugar and that lonely walk to the black cab parked out front.

Solicitor Sarah Ann Magson works at Middlesbrough firm Watson Woodhouse as their Director and Head of Civil Litigation. In addition to her legal work, she also runs her own nursery furniture business. Joining Sarah as one of the hopeful contestants is Kurran Pooni who recently completed his LLB at University of Law. And it’s not just this year which has seen lawyers competing for the title of Sir Alan’s apprentice. Four years ago, Lauren Riley, a qualified solicitor, was fired after week seven on the show. She has gone on to utilise her entrepreneurial skills in the legal world, launching The Link App—technology which is designed to help lawyers communicate more efficiently with their clients.

So, do lawyers make better entrepreneurs? The skills are certainly there; lawyers have a great mind for detail, deadlines and of course, the rules and regulations which govern the business world. Working in such a client-facing role, and helping someone through a very stressful time, often takes developed and attuned soft skills and particularly a high level of emotional intelligence.

Innovation isn’t necessarily the first word which springs to mind when people think of lawyers, but so many working in the legal profession regularly have to think creatively when dealing with legal or business problems for their clients.

There are a lot of lawyer-entrepreneurs out there too—our survey revealed that around 25% of our freelance lawyers also run their own business or venture outside of their legal work. But how do you make a career like this work, balancing the day job with something more entrepreneurial and risky?

Firstly, you need to look at the day job before thinking about how your passion for fine wine, travel or technology could translate into a business. For most it will be nigh on impossible to continue working in their full-time job and set up a new business. That’s when new ways of working, such as freelancing, come into their own. We’re seeing more and more lawyers choose a freelance path which allows you to do the ’day job’ in a different way. This doesn’t mean the role has to be a step down either—there’s a real requirement from many businesses now for recently-qualified lawyers, and as a result we are able to place many of these lawyers in interesting roles across a wide variety of sectors.

I expect to see lots more entrepreneurial lawyers in the coming years—not just on our TV screens—as people increasingly look to diversify their careers and the traditional routes to success in the workplace are overlooked as outdated.

For example, one of our contractors, Henry Burkitt, juggles his career as a lawyer with his adventure sailing and eco-tourism business, Kraken Travel. He found that the flexibility afforded to him by working as a freelancer not only gave him more time to devote to his business and sail around the world, but also gave him more free time to see friends and family.

With the right freelance job and preparation, a legal career alongside an entrepreneurial venture can be a hugely rewarding way to indulge passions and make money from something that was previously only seen as a hobby.

Viewers will have to wait and see how both Sarah and Kurran fare in this year’s The Apprentice, but for lawyers looking to make more of their entrepreneurial streak, there are certainly opportunities to get hired. 

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