A Blog by Carol Lee – My experience as a Consultant Lawyer over the last 10 years.

A Blog by
Carol Lee

My experience as a Consultant Lawyer over the last 10 years.

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At the end of February, I shall reach the milestone of having been a Setfords consultant solicitor for ten years.

Working this way over the past decade has enabled me to change my lifestyle by moving away from the traditional “nine to five commute” to being able to fulfil my dream of living on a beautiful Scottish island, whilst still serving my many long-established and new clients in England.

“When I discovered Setfords, it fit the bill completely.”

What made me originally consider Consultancy?

Having established a wide client base as a partner in firms in Lincolnshire, Rutland and Leicester, I was looking for a business model where I could run my own business and serve my clients, without having to spend many hours a week on admin and accounting tasks, and without spending hours a day commuting and contending with cancelled and overcrowded trains. When I discovered Setfords, it fit the bill completely.

Visiting my son and daughter in law in DC

Visiting my son and daughter in law in DC

“It has fulfilled the expectation of not having to waste hours a day travelling.”

Has it been what I expected?

My Setfords consultancy business has gone from strength to strength over the last decade. It has fulfilled the expectation of not having to waste hours a day travelling, and working from my own home office or meeting rooms which I have set up nearby over the years. This allows flexibility when there are family matters to deal with and creates extra time to provide a better service to clients.

My daughter’s wedding day (with my two sons)

My daughter’s wedding day (with my two sons)

“Nobody is tied to the traditional nine to five office hours.”

How does it differ from working at a traditional firm?

As a Setfords consultant, there are no billing or file opening targets, and each consultant is free to work as much or as little as they wish, to fit their individual circumstances. Nobody is tied to the traditional nine to five office hours. In practice, this does usually mean working early in the morning, late into the evening and at weekends, but always knowing that that is a matter of personal choice for each consultant at the end of the day, and how many clients and files that consultant wishes to take on.

As the Setfords community has grown exponentially (from the five consultants and one member of the Admin team, when I joined 10 years ago, to over 200 consultants and numerous Admin support staff now), this has produced the advantage of a mutual support network of lawyers, sharing ideas and problems, similar (or better!) than one would have in a traditional law firm.

“Being a consultant has enabled my husband Jules and I to fulfil a long-time dream.”

What have been the most significant benefits of consultancy?

Apart from the benefits referred to above, being a consultant has enabled my husband Jules (who works alongside me in my Setfords business) and I to fulfil a long-time dream of being able to move to the beautiful Scottish island of Arran and to open our vegan B & B here while continuing my Setfords practice. This works very well with the fantastic IT support and structures set up by Setfords and enables me to continue to act for and serve my many existing and new clients in the Rutland and Stamford area (where we lived previously and where I practised law for over 25 years before moving to Arran) as well as clients throughout England and Wales.

The village of Lamlash, Isle of Arran, where we live and run our B & B now

The village of Lamlash, Isle of Arran, where we live and run our B & B now

“One of the biggest challenges throughout the last decade was becoming too busy and having too much work at times.”

What has been my biggest challenge?

One of the biggest challenges throughout the last decade was becoming too busy and having too much work at times, and getting the balance right. This was addressed by being able to employ, under the Setfords model, extra staff to assist and as well as my husband Jules working alongside me to provide day to day admin support, we are also fortunate to employ Sarah Pembleton who works as a residential conveyancing manager (and who has many years’ local residential conveyancing experience) from the meeting room which I have set up, and retain, in Melton Mowbray, on the Rutland/ Leicestershire border.

Carol with Sarah Pembleton

Carol with Sarah Pembleton

“An individual consultant’s practice can be adapted to fit in with virtually any lifestyle.”

What does a typical day look like for me?

Our day to day life and schedule has changed a great deal over the last ten years, as our Setfords practice has evolved, and we have adapted it to meet our changing life circumstances. I think we have demonstrated that an individual consultant’s practice can be adapted to fit in with virtually any lifestyle.

Some of the years with Setfords, we have run two separate meeting rooms, in Oakham and Uppingham in Rutland and have also set up the Melton Mowbray meeting room where Sarah Pembleton is based. In March 2018, we moved to the Isle of Arran and have our Setfords office set up with a beautiful view over Lamlash Bay and Holy Isle. Alongside this, we run Stonewater House Vegan B & B.

A typical day varies according to the time of year but in the Summer months, involves usually a 5:30 am start, making breakfasts for our guests and then getting to my Setfords desk by around 9 am (while my husband Jules sorts out the breakfast making aftermath and chats with guests); perhaps a break around 11 am for an hour or so to sort out guests’ rooms, and then back to my Setfords client work until between 7 pm and 9 pm.

Some evenings there is then time for a local yoga class or time to participate in many of the other activities going on, on the island. Weekends follow a similar pattern, with the occasional afternoon out to enjoy the glorious walks on Arran and to fill our lungs with the wonderful sea air!

Holy Isle across from our house, in Lamlash Bay

Holy Isle across from our house, in Lamlash Bay

“It has enabled us to live in what we feel is one of the most beautiful places to live in the world.”

Throughout my ten years, what has been my biggest achievement?

There have many great moments throughout the last decade, but the greatest achievement is the life-style which being a Setfords consultant has enabled me to achieve. It has enabled us to live in what we feel is one of the most beautiful places to live in the world; to work alongside my husband Jules, which has worked really well for us, while being able to continue to run our Setfords business, meet the needs of our existing and new clients and at the same time pursuing our passion of running our vegan B & B. We became ethical vegans three years ago (initially for health reasons) but are now passionate about this and sharing information with others.

I advise vegan clients (and indeed any clients with strong philosophical or religious beliefs) to make Lasting Powers of Attorney to ensure that their wishes and beliefs are made known if there is a time when they cannot communicate these themselves. We are also running the first Arran VegFest on our island in on 14th and 15th March 2020; I am the Arran volunteer co-ordinator for the Vegan Society, and we run the Arran Vegan Support group. In addition, we are involved in arranging the poetry events for the local McLellan Arts Festival and helping out generally with the Arran Rock n Blues Festival in September 2020.

The Setfords model has, therefore, enabled me to continue and pursue my legal career, while also allowing me to pursue a whole range of interests and passions, and to live in an amazing place!

At the Plant based expo in London with one of the “stars” of the recent film “The Game Changers”

At the Plant based expo in London with one of the “stars” of the recent film “The Game Changers”

“There is a vast wealth of experience and many specialists solicitors who can take on or advise on matters.”

What is the most important lesson I have learnt after 10 years as a consultant?

There is sometimes a temptation to take on too much work. An important lesson learned is to keep life and work levels to a manageable level (which is subjective and different for different people and times of their life), whether this is by enlisting help when needed (e.g. by taking on additional support or other staff), or by delegating or passing to others. One of the beauties of the Setfords community now is that there is a vast wealth of experience and many specialists solicitors who can take on or advise on matters which are not in your particular realm of expertise.

“With some forethought and planning, you can change your Setfords business model to fit your life circumstances.”

What advice would I give someone considering consultancy?

Be flexible with your expectations and what you want to achieve, whether this is heading up a large team under the Setfords umbrella, with a meeting room to attend each day or working part-time a few hours a day or week while bringing up a young family (or indeed while looking after grandchildren occasionally which is my next challenge as a Setfords consultant!) Know that with some forethought and planning, you can change your Setfords business model to fit your life circumstances. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and others around you. Make the most of every day. It sounds clichéd, but life really is very short and passes by very quickly, as I can attest to the speedy passing of the last ten years with Setfords.

Becoming a Grandma recently! (Eek)

Becoming a Grandma recently! (Eek)

“I can happily say that I am looking forward to continuing my life as a Setfords consultant for the next decade.”

What do I like most about Setfords?

Everyone within the Setfords community seems to be treated with equal importance. Right from the early days of the firm, ten years ago, it was recognised that every person’s role was just as important as everyone else’s and that the old boundaries between for example “partners”, “secretaries “and “office junior’s” in a “traditional” law firm, which I first experienced forty years ago, no longer apply. The staff and directors at Setfords’s head offices are always courteous, friendly and go out of their way to help with any issues that arise in a practical hands-on approach.

As I approach my sixtieth birthday, and after nearly 40 years in the legal profession, I can happily say that I am looking forward to continuing my life as a Setfords consultant for the next decade and beyond, and am grateful to the directors, and all the wonderful people based in Guildford and Chancery Lane, first for coming up with the business model and secondly for their day to day support.

Carol was one of our first consultants, and we were delighted that she decided to join us. In the 10 years we have worked together, Carol has successfully built her practice which led to her opening not one but two offices! The flexibility of consultancy has enabled Carol to move to Scotland and pursue other interests alongside the legal work she undertakes through Setfords. Her experience as a consultant has clearly been life-changing for her and it’s fantastic to be playing a part in her success. Congratulations on all that you and Jules have achieved Carol and thank you for being part of the Setfords team.

– Chris Setford Co-CEO and Guy Setford, Co-CEO

Interested in becoming a consultant? Take the first step today…

Take your first step today

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