My journey to starting a law firm
I left private practice in 2014 with a bit of a bang. I was 3 years qualified when I started a new role with a top law firm, and I was so excited. I was convinced that I wanted to be on the partnership track, and I was prepared to work hard to get there.
It very quickly became apparent that it was not what I wanted. Within a few days of being there I hadn’t seen my children and I’d been treated like total crap by a number of partners.
Two weeks later I handed in my notice. I didn’t have another job; I hadn’t had time to even look for one. But I knew I had to get out of that environment before it completely consumed me. I left the same day, convinced that my career in law was over and not having a clue what to do instead.
It didn’t take long to get back on my feet. I found some consultancy work to pay the bills, so I decided to do that until I had my light bulb moment of what I wanted to do next. Over the next three years I had numerous ideas of what I could do, both within and outside of the legal industry; but the idea of starting my own law firm never left me.
I’d worked so hard to qualify as a solicitor. My A level grades were against me, I couldn’t afford to go back to university without sponsorship, and it was during the 2009 recession when jobs were thin on the ground. I wasn’t going to easily throw all that away and start something new, but I knew that I’d really struggle to find somewhere I was happy working.
So, in January 2017, I embarked the journey of starting my own law firm, with a two month old baby in tow. My mission was to create a business that challenged the status quo and legal stereotypes. I never understood why law had to be pretentious, stuffy and devoid of personality, so I wanted to create something that was the opposite of all those things.
I didn’t have a clue where to start.
I’d dipped my toe in entrepreneurialism a few years before, when I started a side hustle, and my husband had started a couple of businesses, so between us we knew the basics. But when it came to the world of regulated legal services, I was completely out of my depth. I also didn’t have any money, which always makes starting a business harder!
Whenever I discussed my plans with anyone I was told I was completely mad.
I heard numerous stories from people who had also decided to start their own law firms but had met with insurmountable obstacles, the most notable being the cost of professional indemnity insurance. I never figured out if any of these people actually tried to start their own law firm, of if they just thought about it and the stories they were sharing with me prevented them from even trying. I suspect that was the case though.
I spent countless hours trawling Google trying to find some useful information, but there was very little available. I eventually found the contact details of a really helpful insurance broker (who unfortunately is no longer working there, but I can provide details of her replacement). She talked me through the process of writing my business plan and completing the application form for insurance, and even provided me with some templates.
The SRA website helped me understand how to become authorised and what it means to run a regulated law firm. I’m not going to lie; it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. But I eventually got my head around it all and managed to write my business and plan and complete all the forms. There were so many forms!
A few months later and my insurance and SRA authorisation fell into place. I remember sitting at my desk on 1 July 2017 thinking "shit, now I need to make this work!" I had no client following so I had to go out and persuade businesses to give me their legal work, and I somehow managed to make £17k in my first month. Cue the need for all founders to be able to sell!
When I look back at those times now, I can see how much I’ve learned. About law, myself and business. Starting Stephenson Law has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding and enjoyable. For the first time in my life, I’ve finally felt like I belong somewhere.
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