Corporate and commercial lawyer Michael Edwards joined Setfords in 2015 after a career spent as a partner in Lincoln’s Inn firms. He lives in North London with his wife Taryn.
How does your day begin?
I’m up at 6.15am and after a small breakfast I head into Setfords’ London office in Chancery Lane – I’m usually at my desk by 8.15am. It’s an early start but it works – as soon as clients are up they start to ring, so getting in bright and early helps me get hold of the day.
What prompted you to become a consultant?
I was formerly a partner in two successive Lincoln’s Inn firms, Edwin and Co and Dawsons, and I used to find half my time was spent on admin and compliance tasks. When I returned to the profession after a few years of illness, dealing with all that stuff no longer interested me. I wanted to free up more time to focus on client work and joining Setfords as a consultant allowed me to do that. Being off ill also gave me time to think about how I was working. I was bringing in millions of pounds a year but taking home just a fraction of that.
Was consultancy what you expected?
For the most part, but my learning on IT was vertical. When you are used to being a senior solicitor all you really have to do is dictate. Working as a consultant requires more than that. Although there is a very strong team in the central office offering support, you still have to learn new systems and embrace technology.
I wanted to free up more time to focus on client work
Being a corporate and commercial lawyer brings with it its own unique challenges, were you confident you could make it work as a consultant?
The nature of the work I do means initially I had concerns about whether the resources available to me would be enough – particularly working with other lawyers, which is a key part of how I operate. I have clients who require that sense of depth. But it’s turned out to be perfectly possible, it’s just re-educating oneself about the need to go out and form those relationships with other consultants within the firm. It’s easier than you think. I have cooperated with a number of consultants within the firm on big projects. We have worked as a team. I’ll telephone the property lawyer, employment lawyer, litigation lawyer, whatever is appropriate and that works very well, and they do the same with me. We have pitched for work as a team.
What was your biggest fear?
It was that the model would not appeal to clients. But frankly, they don’t give a damn. It’s me they are interested in. If I give them the service they want in the way they want it and to the level of service they are accustomed to, they aren’t bothered about for whom I work. They look at Setfords as being a big firm and then rightly assume it’s fully resourced.
What have been the greatest benefits?
The freedom to be in charge of one’s self and what one does, subject to the demands of the client, and the potential to earn more. My take-home pay was between 28-32% of what I billed. It’s now substantially more than that.
But it’s entirely up to you how you work it. If you have been made a partner then earning large fees has been a part of your life for some time, so you don’t necessarily enter into consultancy thinking about money. Having been a partner you will know how to go out and get clients, so it’s a given you will do well for yourself. It’s the other benefits you are thinking about. It’s also wonderful not having to deal with office politics. I could never see the function of it and it’s nice not now having that in my life.
Any advice to senior lawyers considering becoming consultants?
If you are an equity partner you are already 80% down the path of becoming a consultant. You are already responsible for everything. So if you have that mindset you should embrace it.
How does your day end?
I leave anytime between 4.30pm and 7pm, depending on what I’ve got on. I work far longer hours than I should but that’s a personality fault I’ve always had. I am always on the look-out for new clients. But I always make time for twiddling with engines – rebuilding an Alfa Romeo or Land Rover.