The "new normal" has given many solicitors the chance to stop and reflect on what they want from their careers. Our research into the future of legal recruitment showed that the desire for flexibility in the legal market has been around for some time, and going forward it will become a prerequisite. The introduction of freelance / consultant solicitors and the shift towards homeworking has shown an industry traditionally resistant to change that new ways of working are possible.
Embracing a portfolio career
Legal professionals are increasingly considering portfolio careers - a way of working that can incorporate multiple jobs across different fields. Instead of a traditional full-time job, you may want to try multiple part-time jobs, or be freelance for half of the time and work for a company the rest of the time. By the fourth quarter (Oct to Dec) of 2019, there were more than 5 million self-employed people in the UK, up from 3.2 million in 2000. Self-employment has contributed strongly to employment growth in the labour market, with self-employed people representing 15.3% of employment, up from 12% in 2000.
Roles can include a combination of your experience or interests, such as:
- non-executive director
- committee or board membership
- multiple part-time legal roles
- consultant for legal businesses
If this sounds like something you’re interested in pursuing, think about the following considerations first.
A portfolio career can be extremely financially rewarding, as you are not reliant on one source of income but rather multiple income streams. “As a portfolio careerist, you have multiple streams of income to support you. If one dries up or slows down, you can lean on the others to get you through.” (CareerShifters.com). However, if you’re a freelance / consultant solicitor, the pressure of having to constantly juggle priorities to make sure that you have a regular income can be stressful. If you’re considering multiple part-time roles, the company benefits for part-time roles may be poorer (for example, pension contributions and sick pay).
Variety and breadth of experience
Jennifer Brewer’s portfolio career includes roles such as business consultant, executive mentor, and leadership skills trainer whilst Hannen Beith focuses on being a director of a paralegal firm, a computer coach for the over 55s, and an adjudicator with the Law Society. If variety and novelty are what you’re looking for, and you'd love to indulge more than one of your interests – and get paid for them – a portfolio career can be deeply appealing. Laura Mackenzie, head of careers and employability at King’s College London, says that portfolio careers enable people to widen their skills base or portfolio of research.
Control and work-life balance
A portfolio career can give you more flexibility and time to yourself than a traditional 9-5 legal job. Portfolio careers have become more popular in recent years as achieving a better work-life balance has become more of a mainstream goal. However, the stress of having multiple projects on the go at once could lead to burnout, so its important to start out gradually. Most portfolio careerists start out by reducing their hours at one job, and taking on freelance work on the side in an area they are skilled in. For example, becoming a part time teacher or coach, sharing your knowledge in your expert skill whilst working part-time.
If you’re considering a portfolio career, remember to view the latest part-time and consultant vacancies at Gazette Jobs, where you can sign up for job alerts and upload your CV.