Going Solo: developing your expertise and personal brand

January 18, 2018

In record numbers, lawyers across the UK are walking out of the offices, never to return.

They’re not leaving the profession, rather they’re establishing themselves as self-employed consultants, and taking their careers in a new and exciting direction.

gunnercooke’s ‘Going Solo’ series is looking at why this is viewed as such a compelling option for so many in the profession. We started our series looking at the benefits to be had from escaping the office environment, and this week we’re going to look into a reason more pertinent to nurturing one’s career…

It’s all about the development

Any professional worth their salt is single-minded about becoming the best they can be in their field. Most law firms provide professional development opportunities for their lawyers, so leaving this environment might, at first glance, seem counter-productive in the pursuit of this goal. It’s only when we explore the freedoms bestowed upon the self-employed consultant, that we realise that ‘going solo’ can in fact, unlock incredible opportunities to progress.

The end of ‘You get what you’re given’

Working as an employee of a law firm has one major benefit; you’re guaranteed work. The cloud to this silver lining, is that lawyers have little say as to exactly which clients are plonked on their desk. It’s very much a ‘you do as you are told’ existence. Practitioners can become pushed into areas of law that hold little interest, and clients that make them wonder if maybe they should have opted for that Performing Arts degree after all. Over time, this can lead to feelings of frustration and disillusionment. The desire to progress becomes dulled. Some even leave the profession altogether.

Taking control and becoming your own boss is one of the best ways to break this cycle, and rediscovering your passion for all things legal.

Choice of training

Although its fairly standard practice for a law firm to foot the bill for their lawyers’ professional training, the lawyers tend to have little say in what type of training they receive, or when they receive it.

Yes, it is incumbent on the self-employed consultant to finance their own training, but they assume full control of what that training is, and when it is undertaken. They become able to effectively design and build their own development in line with their career aspirations. This may not be bound to simply legal development – but also help them to develop their commercial skills further, taking non-exec positions or consulting for different types of businesses.

Developing your expertise

Although lawyers tend to focus on a particular field within law, clients and matters are broad. As such, it can be difficult to develop any significant expertise in a specific area. By setting up as a self-employed consultant, lawyers are free to choose exactly which cases interest them, and those that play to their individual skillsets.

For those lawyers that have taken the self-employed route, this has been a career, and indeed a life-changing evolution. But there’s more to this decision than the exquisite freedom of deciding exactly what type of work to focus on. The more a lawyer focuses on niche areas of the law, the greater the demand for their service can grow. The reason being, contrary to what has been proposed in the media in recent times…

People like experts

Moreover, they pay good money for them. As a lawyer, developing your expertise and a strong record of delivery within a specific area of the law, leads to a greater personal brand and your reputation growing. Individual lawyer’s names can become synonymous with particular disciplines. It takes time and work to get there, but once established, not only is there no shortage of work, but demonstrable expertise commands most agreeable fees.

Next time, we’ll look at a key benefit of ‘going solo’; the networking opportunities this course of action presents…

If you have any further questions on this topic or other recruitment matters, please do get in touch.

Laura Fisher, Recruitment Director at gunnercooke

DD: +44 (0)7979 144 697

E: laura.fisher@gunnercooke.com