Penny A Brick – Why I became a lawyer

Posted on April 25th, 2010 by Chrissie Lightfoot

Often I have been asked the question “why did you become a lawyer?” I bet you've been asked the same.
ookie. Frustrated and bored crunching numbers day in and day out he decided to go into the 'commercial van hire business' in the '70s and rode the wave of the Thatcher years.

Being a frugal entrepreneur and having a way with numbers (being an accountant an' all) he decided that the start-up period required investment in the company which meant selling the family home, 'tightening our belts' and living in a caravan whilst we built the next family home.

So, we “upped sticks”, as the North East saying goes, from the town and headed to the countryside.

The new family home was going to be built on a plot of land which at that time had a dilapidated farm house on the very same – a listed building – an old coach &  horses residence (aptly named the Bread & Beer House). 

Brainwave 1: To save money my father decided that we would 'carefully' dismantle the present building and build our dream family home using the salvaged bricks wherever possible.   

Brainwave 2: My father needed 'cheap' labour. We (my older brother and I) were to be the chippies! You see, when you knock down a building and desire to reuse the bricks you have to chip away the mortar from the brick with a hammer & chisel to ensure a smooth brick for use to be 'relaid' with fresh mortar.

Brainwave 3: In order to persuade my brother and I that this was a good idea and worthy of our 'buy in' my father said that he would pay us a penny a brick. This was in addition to our 'pocket-money' that we received for our usual weekly chores which we were expected to continue to carry out (grass cutting, raking, sweeping, dog management etc).

So, (being our parents children i.e. appreciating the value of the £) my brother and I then spent our entire school summer holidays (6 weeks) chipping bricks from dawn till dusk. As you can imagine we weren't exactly happy about this arrangement as our friends were having a jolly and we weren't able to join them. However, with the delightful idea that at the end of the task we would have a small fortune we 'got on with the job in hand'. It wasn't without the typical brotherly sisterly fighting and sniping of course as we fought every day for 'the best hammer'. Tears, tantrums, swearing, the lot (which I am not proud of I hasten to add but all part of the rich tapestry of the growing up process). Yup … we had a great time.

Now, the day arrived when we had chipped our final bricks and my brother and I asked our father for payment due. To which he promptly gave us half the amount we expected.

You see, at the outset my father had said that he would give us a 'penny a brick'. My brother and I thought this meant that he would pay each of us 1 penny per brick (aka the cost of the labour was actually 2 pence per brick). My father retorted “no, I meant penny a brick between the pair of you” i.e. 1000 bricks = 1000 pennies = £10.00 between you, NOT £20.00 i.e. £10.00 each.

And so it was. For six weeks chipping bricks with all the bruises, calluses, new swear word additions to our vocabularies and lack of childhood fun I earned £5.00 and my brother earned £5.00 instead of our anticipated £10.00 each.

I felt cheated, stupid, dumb, ignorant, dependent, angry, void of knowledge and recourse. It was a defining moment.

I was 6 years old.

To add insult to injury the council promptly slapped a 'stop build' notice 2 months later due to the listed building wrangle and we ended up living in the caravan for 30 months (instead of the anticipated 6 months). Woo-Bloody-Hoo …

You're no doubt thinking that there were lots of legal issues amongst this little experience, apart from the human nature element of course.

From this defining and unique episode in my childhood I learned a harsh lesson and vowed NEVER to be so trusting, stupid, ignorant or dependant. I figured I needed to understand and learn about 'the law' … as well as human nature!

So, when someone asks me why I became a lawyer, perhaps they now understand.

Chrissie Lightfoot
The Entrepreneur Lawyer
(of the naked kind)

What's your story? I'd love to hear it. Feel free to share and/or comment here …

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This entry was posted on Sunday, April 25th, 2010 at 1:38 pm and is filed under Lawyers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


61 Comments

  1. S.Mirza says:

    I wish i had an interesting story like you do, but i don’t. I wanted to go into politics and maybe become the Prime Minister. With time, i realized that this perhaps wasn’t the best option for me, and i side tracked. Law seemed a natural thing for me do. 🙂 And hence a lawyer. 🙂

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by TheNakedLawyer: Penny a brick. It’s why I became a lawyer http://bit.ly/aSryPR. Why did you? #lawyers #solicitors #lawschool #lawfirm #accountants…

  3. Kimon Paxinos says:

    Mine is not a specific indecent but simply the accidents of life that accumulated and created the person I am. My father was a music professor. A brilliant genius that skipped two standards at school, ended up top of the class and earned the top marks from international music schools where he studied. A true prodigy.

    He and I did however not connect and I was left to my own devices to grow up and figure out how to be a man in this world. It was not an easy journey. It has taken deliberate gut-wrenching decisions to claw inch-by-desperate-inch toward toward a sense of self and how to take control of life, understand life and thrive.

    In the process I forced myself to think and think and think again about opportunities and challenges and options. Today, innovation and all things entrepreneurship seem second nature. The talent and skill was however honed in years of struggle and frugality. The old metaphor of the butterfly struggling to emerge from the cocoon comes to mind. Save the emerging butterfly from the struggle and you prevent it from pumping blood into its wings that will enable it to fly. Saving the butterfly precipitates its doom. One is so often defined by the way you react to adversity. It is the adversity in life and your reaction to it that defines you and what you will accomplish. Your pedigree, tiles and academic qualifications are all incidental.

  4. David Anson says:

    What a sad story of child exploitation. Anyone involved in childcare wil tell you parents are the greatest danger to the happiness of children One of my grandfathers was from the north east but was moved by his parents to that other outpost of civilisation, Barnsley, in the 1890s. They were so poor they could only afford one clog at a time and had to become politicians in order to make money. I think had my parents treated me like that Grandad would have belted them with his coal shovel. Still it must have set you in a good frame of mind for living during the Thatcher years and for what Dave and his Etonian brigade now have in store for us. I can see why you became a lawyer after such a period of exploitation but take some comfort in that at least you got pocket money as well. Mine stopped paying me once I had a Saturday job. They said I had too much money for a teenager and that they never had such wealth in the 30s.
    Once I had got over this period of being unloved I decided to become a town planner so I could get back at society and impose mediocrity in architecture and upon it. The Thatcher years enabled me to come into my own and so I have been cursed to years of atonement working for nothing in my retirement for community groups to right all those wrongs.

    Can anyone find me clients who pay loads of money?

  5. Maria Penny says:

    This may sound corny but it is true. I became a lawyer because I wanted to make a difference. I grew up in a working class family and until recently was the first person in my family to go to university. I saw how my life was and that of my mother and wanted to change it and decided from my first day at college that I wanted to be a lawyer to help those who need it, and to go as far as my talent and tenacity would take me.

    Suffice to say it was the right choice for me. I love being a lawyer and love getting a result for the ‘little guy’.

  6. Emma Tozer says:

    Wow, some very interesting stories.
    Why did I become an Executive Financial Consultant?
    I grew up in a Devon town as part of a one parent family in the 70’s & 80’s. Yes it was very hard on my mother as people just did not get divorced in the 70’s and it was a very taboo subject.We had no contact with my father and he did not provide for myself or my brother.
    I remember sitting outside of my primary school headmasters office one day, my mother and class teacher were discussing loudly my next class move. The head wanted me to be kept in a lower class and both my mother and teacher believed strongly that I should be in the top class as I was more than capable. An example of how we were treated as a a one parent family in the 70’s.
    My mother was a strong woman and supported us as much as any two parent family could. She pushed both of us as hard as possible, as if we had to prove to the world that we deserved to be treated as well as any other child in the school. Obviously we wore hand me down clothes and she made a lot of my clothes herself. my grandmother knitted our school jumpers which were always oversized!
    I did ok at school, unfortunately I discovered me at a very early age and lost interest in education but still I did ok!
    My mother could not afford to send me to University so life has been my education.
    So I have always wanted to work with money, a distinct lack of it as I was growing up has driven me to want to be around it, and a bank robber would just not have been my forte, I am far too honest! Bank manager it would be then!
    I have always had my mothers drive and the ambitions she had for me as a child I am turing into a reality now.
    I began life at a private bank, and wanted to get into my qualifications quite quickly, unfortunately my manager was an old school bank manager and I was held up for 4 years without completing any qualifications, so I took redundancy and decided I would teach. Luckily I met my husband and he persuaded me not to give up on my dream so I went to work for another bank, with a lady manager who was inspirational and driven. I achieved my dream at the age of 29 years, and was the youngest manager in the organisation at the time. So when I reached my destination early I just did not know what I wanted to do next!
    I worked as a regional manager, but being a kind hearted soul I did not like the forced pressures on staff to sell to customers who really did not know what they were going into the majority of the time.
    I was lucky to have several good mentors throughout my career, many were women, however the one who gave me my direction was my compliance officer. We sat & had a good discussion about life, work & what motivated me. People having the access to the whole of the market and not being funnelled into something they didn’t necessarily need. “You need to be an IFA” he said. So I started my new career path about 4 years ago now, and I really love it. I have a wonderful work life balance and I coach people through their financial lives making a difference to their present & future. Ok I don’t physically handle notes any more, actually money is really dirty to handle and I think I have counted enough in & out of safe’s to make up for a childhood without any!!

    I look forward to hearing other stories, thanks for starting this one it is great to remind myself why I do what I do and keeps the motivation going !

  7. You lived in a Caravan for 30 months? Wow… not the easiest …and i can empathise…. when i first moved to the UK, myself, brother, sister and mother lived in a mobile home for 2 yrs….i can confirm… it was rubbish…Though we did adopt the local street moggy, so not all bad 😉

  8. Gareth says:

    Ended up doing what I do, because I’m not intelligent enough to be a lawyer! Simples.

  9. MARTYN COOK says:

    I fell into credit control some 30 years ago and found out I was good at it. I could get people to pay their accounts on time and moreover I enjoyed the job. I moved from industry to industry, challenge to challenge and always did well. I got a position with a blue chip Japanese textile money because as the FD put it “if anyone can get money out of West Yorkshire farmers, I’d be well suited to the tests of the textile world”
    I now run my own debt collection agency and am very proud of what we have achieved in such a short space of time. Our collection rates are I believe fantastic even in the current climate but with all the experience I have, I know what to do and when to do it. We are are constantly looking to forge referral relationships with other interested parties, but the thing I love the most about my job is when I phone a client to say that the debt that he had written off (in his mind or in his books or which other DCAs or solicitors had tried to collect) has now been paid. I love giving them something to smile about.
    I am available at info@amreceivables.com or visit http://www.amreceivables.com
    MARTYN

  10. Chrissie says:

    Hi David …

    It wasn’t all ‘sad’ and ‘exploitation’. And I don’t look on it in that way. The whole experience instilled a solid work ethic, an appreciation that one must not take anything for granted and one must hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. I live my life by this code and it stands me in good stead.

    The story did have a ‘happy’ ending insofaras my mother didn’t agree with my father’s disingenuous behaviour. She rebelled and insisted that she take my brother and I (whilst my father was at work) for a day trip ‘to the seaside’ on completion of our labouring. We had a wonderful bus trip to Scarborough up Sutton Bank (if you know that area; now that’s another story!).

    However, Mum never did manage to convince my father that he ought to pay us the full amount due. Hey-ho, you live and learn!

  11. Chrissie says:

    Emma – a bank robber eh? LOL !!!!

    I was so pleased to read that you pursued your dream and were not deterred. Good on you!

  12. Chrissie says:

    Hi Gareth. Meerkat huh?

  13. Chrissie says:

    Hi Maria

    Getting a result for the ‘little guy’ eh? Reminds me of the story about David & Golliath. Also, Richard Branson’s comment that “it’s always best to be the underdog because the masses always root for the underdog”.

    Wonderful. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  14. Chrissie says:

    Hi Kimon

    I love your metaphor and take on adversity. Delighted that you took the time to comment. Thank you 🙂

  15. Chrissie says:

    Hi Mirza

    I bet you’re glad you’re not Gordon Brown right now?!

    Thanks for getting involved.

  16. Hi Chrissie,

    Great story!

    I started off as a ‘traditional’ lawyer, but didn’t like the fire-fighting or the 6 minute billing approach. I wanted to prevent problems rather than just carry out salvage operations and I therefore moved into industry.

    I was fortunate enough to have great (and very pedantic!) mentors, but over a period of time, I learned how to use the skills I acquired to work with the management – and to achieve what THEY wanted. In particular, I came to realise that the more information I obtained about the business and the agreement in question, the shorter, clearer and more relevant I could make the finished contract. In industry, there is no incentive to create a 10 page document if a 1 page one will achieve what is needed – and where I worked, I was paid to create something which everyone understood!

    For family and health reasons, I eventually moved into other things. However, people I had worked with kept asking me to help them in their new ventures, and several suggested that I start up on my own.

    Being pretty risk-averse, it took me a long time to take that plunge. However, eventually I did, and now I simply love what I do!

    Margaret

  17. Chrissie says:

    Hi Margaret.

    It’s not so bad once you get your feet wet eh? You’re testament to the same.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Truly delightful and inspiring.

  18. Ali Davies says:

    Hi Crissie,
    Read your story. really interesting. Here’s mine
    After 14 years in the Corporate world I felt really strongly about the impact work has on life, freedom, health and family life. In 2001 I left, retrained and set up my own business. Fuelled by my experience of the impact work has on the most important things in life, my business is now dedicated to helping self employed parents, sole traders and people running a business from home to build a successful business around their life and family.

  19. Vince Pizzoni says:

    Hello Chrissie. I can’t manage a catchy headline such as “Penny a brick” and your interesting story but here goes in brief:
    After 30 years in business, primarily the oil industry, I decided I wanted something new where I believed my skills were transferable and I could make a difference to the next generation. I applied for my current job and haven’t looked back. I lead a team providing support to students in making informed decisions about their futures. My career in energy was wonderful and has been a massive plus in my new role.
    Thanks, Vince

  20. Rob Severson says:

    I was out of work, had a wife and baby and needed a job. I got a call from a headhunter for a banking job and although I had no interest in banking I took the job. I learned that the job is not about me but what I do for the business/employer that counts. It was a way to support my family and i and that was most important. With the attitude of helping make my employer successful I became successful myself. If you check my site you will learn more. (no I am not trying to sell my book!)

  21. Jayant Naharwal says:

    It has always been easier for me to connect with people who had their lessons firsthand (lived through) instead of some written text.

    I had to deal with my father pretty much in a similar manner. He now is a retired government official who held various bureaucratic positions in his tenure. Wished me to follow suit and I took the destructive rebel route to make it clear to him that I’ll not give in to his dreams but live my own. Even while I had that destructive outward display, I never gave up laying and strengthening the foundations for my dreams of an independent individual.

    Worked against his wish and did not complete college till the time I reached an age where I was sure that I cannot join the bureaucratic positions. He was totally against me joining a private firm, and I worked with a MNC till the end of Aug ’09.

    The focus on developing myself was crystal clear and this led to me being an autodidact. Now as an independent consultant, I am able to return to the world some hope of peaceful sane life and not fall for the rat race. Mildly but gladly proud that I have been able to achieve my objective to moderate success.

    I am very sure of what effect my words have left so far as you have reached to this part of the message. The much celebrated and decorated Bengali poet Robindranath Tagore wrote in his poem “yadi tori daak sune koi naa aa chhe to bey ekla chalo re” – meaning ‘if no one replies to your calls to join in, then walk alone’.

    Keep that smile on. I welcome your comments on mine.
    Jayant

  22. Paul says:

    A chartered accountant? Working class family? Hey, it’s all right to be the daughter of a professional from the North of England, Chrissie – even if nobody south of Watford thinks they exist.(That he was a tight-fisted sod can’t be disputed!).

  23. Chrissie says:

    Hi Paul

    LOL!!!!! Thanks for your input.

    I have every respect for my father. He taught me to be independent, to be a survivor, to expect the unexpected and above all, the value of a work ethic.

    The world does NOT owe you anything and you have to go out and make things happen for yourself.

    As I commented previously, one must hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. I do believe that there is no greater lesson.

    From an early age I learned to take disappointment on the chin and move on, to learn from my mistakes and move on, not to repeat the same mistake and move on, and not to take things personally. He taught me the kind of lessons that are character building and strengthening.

    Let’s face it, I still had a roof over my head, food on the table and loving parents to guide me … for that I feel blessed.

  24. Gareth J says:

    This thread is evidence enough that I’m too stupid to of become a lawyer! Hence it was marketing for me, totally by accident I might add. Given the choice, I’d rather be lucky than clever!! I’m a lucky guy.

    All that said, I would of LOVED to of followed in my Dad’s footsteps, (fighter pilot in the RAF), I applied and went for officer selection just at the time when the forces where cutting back…….. oh Bugg……

  25. Chrissie says:

    LOL Gareth !!!!!!! May I add that ‘lucky and clever’ would be a good combo for all of us – whatever we choose to be and do 🙂

  26. Gareth J says:

    Chrissie,

    Your Brother had exactly the same experience as you, of curiosity, what career path did he take?

  27. Chrissie says:

    Computers. AS400 mainframe operator and expert re. training in the same. I guess we were both destined to be detail orientated!

  28. Hi Chrissie

    Well as you requested me to on LinkedIn I’ve added my ‘story’ to your blog.

    I decided to become a lawyer aged about 7 (so just after you!).

    I was a huge fan of comics and crime fiction and initially I thought that being a lawyer (I didn’t know there was a difference between a solicitor and barrister) meant being involved with the criminal law. I had no idea that tax, company, commercial and all the other sorts of law were out there so that was it I decided to do criminal law. My Dad worked as a driver for an oil company, my Mum was a housewife. No-one in my family had ever been to University but being a keen reader I managed to get some OK A-levels and headed off to Brunel University where I did what was then called a thin-sandwich law degree. Essentially the first 3 years consisted of 6 months study followed by 6 months work placement and then the final year of exams.

    I’m so glad I did the course that I did as I still see people now who I met during my work placements and my final work placement was at a firm of criminal defence solicitors, McCormacks, who thankfully offered me a training contract and where I ended up becoming a partner.

    About 7 years ago now though I started to become disillusioned at the limitations of working as a criminal defence lawyer and so decided to get involved in other roles – using the skills and knowledge I’d built up. I now feel very lucky to have a ‘portfolio’ of roles as someone described it the other day which essentially means a full and varied diary of stuff to do with a good work/life balance. As well as continuing as a consultant for my old firm I have 4 part-time judicial positions, I run a company which conducts disciplinary, grievance and complaint investigations for both the private and public sector, I train lawyers, experts and investigators, I am on the Board of a NHS Foundation Trust plus various other interesting occupations.

    I don’t know what I would now be described as. I keep hoping that someone might one day call me a ‘polymath’ but I think it more likely that they’ll just describe me as someone who can’t make their mind up!!

  29. Kate Hotson says:

    Yes I am often asked how I became the owner of “Office National” and The Woodstock Stationer usually they assume that it is a franchise or an inherited business and seem quite surprised that I started in business myself over 20 years ago, although it has been a long and evolving journey. Originally I trained in a drawing office as a Tracer producing layout drawings for engineers, as Id been tinkering with my Dads pens for years and was pretty much a draughtsman by the age of sixteen, however I felt completely exploited as I was taken on as a “Trainee” at pittance wages but was turning out more work than the rest of the girls put together. Fast forward two children later and at the age of thirty I decided to set up my own agency which worked very well untill Computer Aided Drawing came into being and I had the choice of retraining or think out of the box, so I offered the same customer base the papers and technical pens that these new machines needed and was happy to discover that I made more money selling a few boxes of paper than I did slaving over a hot drawing board. It didnt take long to add Bic pens, and the whole range of papers,files and machines that are needed in most ofices today and as a shop below my office was empty I opened The Woodstock Stationer and expoited my own children to work in the shop during the holidays, where at twenty seven she is still happily playing shop but I have to pay her more these days.
    Now I have set myself a new challenge having relocated to be with someone very special, David has MS and we will marry later this year. I have set up Office National as an online Office Supplies provider…taking advantage of the very close industry links that I have built up over the years I can provide next day supplies anywhere in the UK and I have also become a group leader for a National Business network (4Networking) where I am making some great friends and finding new business. I cant see myself retiring by the seaside anytime soon and have a feeling I might itch to open another shop down here too in the near future!

  30. David Gabor says:

    When I was in grade school we had Square Dancing as a requirement. The rule was that the girls picked the boys to dance with. There was one African American girl in the grade. She was new to the district and had a look of terror in her eyes that she had to pick someone to dance with. I appreciated her concern. Remember, this is an age where most boys and girls do not like another. I asked Wanda to pick me to dance with. I said “Wanda, please do me a favor and dance with me.” I also did not want her to think that it was any form of charity.

    A year or two later I saw Vicky, by far and away the best athlete in the school, being teased because she was not feminine. I came to her defense many times. However, there were few opportunities for women in sports in those days.

    These experiences led me to the realization that it was important to take a part in shaping the world. As a result, I thought of different careers where I could make a difference. It came down to being a teacher or an attorney. I chose the law for the power and education.

    I went into the employment law field with the notion that I could help shape a world where personnel decisions are based upon performance and not age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, national origin or disability. Having done that, my next goal is to work with corporations in bringing about high productivity, morale and customer satisfaction.

    Cheers,

    David

  31. Chrissie,

    some great stories here.

    I too am from a working class background, grew up in the Thatcher years and wish I’d worked harder at school and had better career guidance early on. I nearly became a quantity surveyor but went on work experience at the local council and found it exceptionally dull.

    I became a lawyer having being inspired by one of my current partners, as a 16 year old I couldn’t believe what a great job this guy had.
    When I eventually landed to be an articled clerk I realised that whilst he and I had much in common and were without actually realising it at the time, entrepreneurial, most lawyers are not.
    Several years of frustration followed and I still become frustrated with lawyers, my view is we are in business, it just happens to be the legal business. It is not special it is just another business.

    I enjoyed Margaret’s comments above about documents, why have 10 pages if 1 does the job?

    We need more people with this type of approach.

    I greatly enjoy the challenges my job provides, I find it all consuming too often and as it is partially mine never leave it, even when I pretend to.

    would I rather be doing something else? maybe; beach bar in the south of France in the summer and ski bum in the winter maybe but after a couple of weeks I’d want to own a chain of bars and my own ski resort.

    Fortunately I have discovered what kind of person I am and know I need to be challenged, presently being an entrepreurial lawyer (obviously not “the” entrepreneurial lawyer – that would involve all kinds of IPR issues :-)) provides me with challenges and allows me the opportunity a few times a year to look at beach bars and ski resorts and dream a little.

  32. Chrissie says:

    I understand EXACTLY where you’re coming from Simon. Thanks for sharing … and for your honesty. Great story and thoughts. And ‘yes’, I am dealing with those very IPR issues presently re. Entrepreneur Lawyer. I love a challenge too! 🙂

  33. Greeting from New Hampshire on the other side of the Pond. I have many friends in London and in Scotland, maybe more than the States! I’d love to move to the UK but how would I get a work permit there? Here is my story. Oh, the profile I refer to is on http://www.linkedin.com. My Firm’s website is fairly simple but tempus fugit.

    You should really look at my profile before you read this I hope, humorous, account.

    Both my grandfather and my great-grandfather were attorneys and judges. They both had full heads of hair; my father was bald and not an attorney. I have a full head of hair, so I guess the inclination to go in to law, after I worked for Andersen as a (strategy) consultant. Law was in my blood; like baldness, it skipped a generation.

    However, so-called friends dissuaded me from entering the legal profession, saying I’ll be treated like a 20-year-old and have to work 80 hours a week, at little pay. So I became a FINRA-registered financial advisor and absolutely hated it. I worked 80 hours a week and was treated like a 20-year-old at little pay. My clients liked me until my immediate management and the Company got in trouble with the State Securities Department of Regulation. So I left.

    I had a friend who was a top notch appellate attorney and she hired me to write up some IRACs under her supervision. I absolutely loved it; it was a completely different way of arguing from my academic background. So on her insistence I took the LSACs on a flyer and got a decent score even though I was 15 minutes late, posted my resume, and started getting acceptances to law schools that I didn’t even apply to, with scholarships even! Hey, I’m a non-traditional student! Like Sally Fields at the Oscars, you really like me!

    I visited every school that reached out to me, and finally picked one. It was in a state where divorce and money exceeds the median so I figured OK, I’ll get a CDFA(tm) before I enter law school. I’m 56, I need to make some money while in law school so l’ll work with attorneys doing the financial stuff rather than being a bartender. If you want a hoot fill out your own FAFSA form at 56!

    Friends threw a going-away party for me and I was leaving and the deck I was walking down collapsed. I almost died; law school was out. As I was recovering over quite a long period of time I realized that I should work with attorneys rather than compete with them.

    So now I’m a CDFA. I love working with attorneys, many of them like working with me because they understand I’m not trying to take fees away from them.

    I like working with clients because I get them to concentrate on financial matters, and forget about some of those horrible personal issues, at least for the moment, while we pour through documents.

    It’s basically my story and I’m sticking to it, although I’m hoping a novel will appear at some time now that I have something to write about. But that’s another story….

  34. Oh, a CDFA is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst; we have them in the USA and Canada. Haven’t reached the UK or the EU yet.

    The FAFSA form is the US Federal Form for student aid, loans and such. It is mostly for college students, so it is pretty funny when you say your parents are long gone pushing up daisies and your mother was born on 12 August 1922 (The Glorious 12th) and her occupation, like my even older father, is “deceased.”

  35. Hi

    Some great stories.

    I am from a farming background but was always ambitious and driven even as a kid on the farm (perfectionist at mucking out!!!). With an older sister and two brothers, I learnt from a young age about fighting my own corner. This lead to me getting involved in debates in school and I enjoyed looking at alternative angles and interpretations. I also enjoyed problem solving.

    I was told in school not to go into law as at the time in Ireland it was oversubscribed and they tried to convince me to take the agricultural route. The more I was told how difficult law would be, the more I was determined to do it.

    I love dealing with people and finding loopholes in the law and therefore I consider myself lucky that I have specialised in employment law. I get to look at the different angles of the law but I also get to hear that sigh of relief from the client and that is very satisfying.

    Anne

  36. Michaela Hardwick says:

    Great stories all, a pleasure to read.

    As for me, I wish I could say that becoming a lawyer was a childhood dream but actually it was an accident! I was quite bright at school but having been given no inspiration or guidance, I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do and had actually decided that at that point, more education wasn’t for me – good job really as coming from a poor family, university just wasn’t an option.

    I drifted through various sales and admin jobs and actually found that I enjoyed and was quite good at working (I’d finally found my talent!). I always knew I would go back to education at some point but the issue was what to study? I was working in an underwriting admin role for a Legal Expenses Insurer so was delving slightly into legal topics. I decided to sign up for a part time A level in law, I then went onto a part time degree. I thoroughly enjoyed the course but other than that, had no idea what I would do with it. It was only after 3 years of a 4 year course having heard from my peers that they all wanted to be solicitors or barristers that I thought to myself “Oh, I might as well do that then”!

    So, on achieving my degree, I took the first job in practice I was offered and that turned out to be a bit of a nightmare (a whole other story!) I almost gave it up at the stage but then got offered a position in a firm with a very good reputation. I spent a year in this firm before signing up for the part time LPC and was lucky enough to be offered a training contract in the same firm. Having been there a few years by this stage, soon after qualification I moved into a position where I was managing people and helping create new and innovative processes. Now I was in my element, I found that this aspect of the work was far more appealing to me than the fee earning side of things and spent most of my post qualification time doing this type of work.

    Life happens and after various “events” I realised that my life/work balance had been way out of kilter for pretty much my entire adult life – the best part of ten years working full time in a demanding job and studying law part time. I started to think long and hard about my values and, despite working hard whether what I was actually doing fit in with my vision of my future. It was then I recalled that as a teenager, I had always seen myself as running my own business – far removed from working in a 100+ partner law firm!

    I had always been especially passionate about helping other people grow and develop and achieve their goals and was also an insightful and successful problem solver. So, how to combine this with my background and interest in law? I studied for diplomas in Personal Performance and Corporate Coaching (despite telling myself “no more education”) and finally feel like I have found what I am supposed to be doing.

    I am incredibly proud of my qualification as a solicitor and I worked very hard to achieve it, I do wonder though what I could have achieved if I had identified a goal which I was really passionate about at an earlier stage!

    I believe that there are some incredibly skilled and talented people and firms in the legal world but that the systems, business models and motivations often work against them. I strongly believe that Performance Coaching can help lawyers and legal businesses thrive.

    Many thanks to Chrissie for the opportunity to share this.

  37. Chrissie says:

    William, Anne and Michaela I feel humbled and blessed that you shared your personal journey. I feel that your stories will touch many readers and make a real difference.

    Thank you again !

  38. […] Blog » Entrepreneurs » In the beginning … calling all lawyers and entrepreneurs Penny A Brick – Why I became a lawyer […]

  39. Great stories.

    Mine started off so simple, I was a Thatchers child. I watched LA Law as a teenager and decided I wanted to become a lawyer so that I could drive fast cars and date beautiful women. I actually told someone this in an interview having decided I didn’t want the job!

    I trained in commercial litigation in London, loved the fast paced life and working towards the fast car and beautiful women.

    Whilst training I was given a criminal matter to deal with because no one else in the firm wanted to dirty their hands with it. It was a drink driving, “oh the glamour” I thought.

    The guys defence was simple, he wasn’t driving. He had 3 previous convictions for drink driving, his van was followed by the police and they then saw him at the door of his house. It was an open and shut case. He argued that he had been walking and his friend was driving the van and they crossed paths around the corner out of sight from the police. The police had assumed he had got out of the van but he had just walked past it.

    Yeah, yeah I thought. It was obvious this guy was lying to me. I wanted to get it finished quickly so I could get back to some real work.

    The night before the trial I was reading the papers (we were represented by a barrister because I hadn’t qualified) and something struck me. He had been searched at the police station and all of his property was recorded down to the exact penny. He had lots of bits and pieces on him but NO CAR KEYS! I realised he was probably telling the truth. I felt really bad, I had given this man a real hard time, I had treated him badly and warned him of the consequences of lying in no uncertain terms, not least that he would go to prison.

    I vowed to apologise tomorrow at court, now I was going to throw everything into it with some gusto.

    The following day at court we waited for him to attend, and waited, and waited. He didn’t turn up – perhaps I had been naive, maybe he was guilty and couldn’t be bothered to attend.

    As we were leaving a woman came up to me, she was clearly upset and asked if I was Steve Williams. I said I was. She told me she was my clients widow. He had had a heart attack in the night and died. She told me he had been terrified of going to prison.

    20 years on that story still upsets me. I had become hooked on criminal law, I gave up the dream of having fast cars.

    I became a criminal lawyer, determined to give my all in every case regardless of whether I believed the client.

    It wasn’t quite that romantic and I became fed up of acting for the same people who wouldn’t help themselves. Legal Aid cuts etc forced me into starting my own firm a year ago (acting for motoring matters – including drink driving – it really did come full circle)

    I love the chance to make a difference to peoples lives, the majority of people I act for are honest road users who have been caught slightly exceeding the speed limit a few times and now face losing their licence for 6 months. I love being able to help, knowing that what I do means they get to keep their job.

    I love working on my own terms, running the firm how I want. Committed totally to excellent client service.

    I now realise that I can still have the dream of the fast cars and am working towards that on my terms. I am enjoying working as a lawyer more than ever. I like being an entrepreneur and businessman too.

    Oh and I gave up chasing beautiful women because I finally caught her and have a wonderful 14 month old daughter with her 😉

  40. Jorge Colón says:

    Chrissie,

    Great story! 🙂 Thanks for this opportunity.

    My stepfather, Carlos, was originally from Argentina. He brought me up as his son. His ancestors were Basques that migrated to Argentina 400 years ago. That family had an unbroken lineage of lawyers, judges or legal scholars amongst the males for 500 years. Carlos graduated at 19 year from law school in Argentina, having memorized the civil code since he was 13. He practiced for only 1 year in NYC after NYU law school. Although my stepfather had no biological children of his own, he brought me up without a step between us. 🙂

    So, you see, I sort of expected I would one day be a lawyer. What I did not expect was to stay one for 18 years! At my graduation from Georgetown, Carlos was fighting back the tears because we both knew that I had gone to law school to keep that legacy going. It was not easy, but I’m forever grateful.

    Carlos died last year and I have no children, yet…. That legacy remains with me. 🙂

    Jorge
    http://www.theonlinebar.com
    twitter:@theonlinebar

  41. Jane Rapin says:

    Hi everyone,

    I came to law late in life. I left a relationship and saw what my lawyer was charging… It was my eureka moment.

    I had always wanted to study law, I used to gaze at the University out of the landing window at my parents house as a kid and say “I’m gonna go there one day and become a lawyer”. I blame Crown Court (the tv series), I couldn’t wait for each episode to be aired. I didn’t know it at the time, that there was a difference between a barrister and a solicitor, but whatever it was they were doing I wanted to be part of it.

    I had to go back to school in order to get A Levels before I was able to get a place at uni to read Law. It was tough, I was a single mum living on a grant. But I haven’t regretted a single second of my decision, I love it. It makes me shake with the joy of it. I love the reading, the arguing, the decision making, the negotiating, discovering new things, meeting new people … I love it all.

    I’ve been out of practice for a little while, and am now completing my LLM but even though I haven’t been in practice I have studiously kept up to date and continued to read widely on my area simply because it’s part of who I am, like oxygen.

    Next step – get back into practice and blaze a trail.

    ps – i’ve loved reading all your stories, thank you for sharing. It’s nice to see a few familiar faces from Twitter too.

  42. Nancy Delain says:

    Hi Chrissie,

    You asked…

    I came late in life to the law; for over 20 years before law school, I was a technical writer, editor and project manager. I spent those 20 years documenting invention.

    I’m a lawyer now because I got divorced many years ago. Law school was my Declaration of Independence. I’d wanted to go since working with a copyright lawyer on a book that involved simultaneous distribution on a floppy (and I do mean floppy) disk in the early 1980s (you remember — 640K of RAM was unimaginably huge, and data and software were stored unencrypted on 5.25-inch wide magnetic media disks that were truly “floppy”). I had fun with that — then I saw the check that my employer wrote to the law firm. That’s when I absolutely decided I was in the wrong field. However, life had to happen before I finally got to law school.

    I loved law school (scary thought, that…). I started off in New England Law | Boston’s ( http://www.nesl.edu ) phenomenal Special Part-Time program (which gave me up to six years to complete my J.D. since I was the primary caregiver for a young child at the time). I was there for two years, then my dot-com job went belly-up in the dot-com bust of 2001. I could no longer afford the Boston area, and I knew I wanted a strong intellectual property (IP) program, so I transferred to Franklin Pierce Law Center ( http://www.piercelaw.edu ) for my last two years of law school, from which I graduated in the top 20% of my class even with simultaneously being a single parent to my then-preteen daughter (Pierce was, when I graduated, the #3-ranked law school for IP in the USA, coming in behind Georgetown and Berkeley).

    I still document invention; I just do it differently now than I did before law school, and with different effect. As a patent attorney, it’s my job to find the path to patentability for my clients’ inventions, and to enforce those patent rights. As a trademark attorney, it’s my job to register and protect my clients’ business goodwill. As a copyright attorney, it’s my job to register and enforce my clients’ copyright interests. As a business attorney, it’s my job to help my clients keep all their legal balls in the air as they wend their way through the process of running a business. I love my job. I Protect the Creative Product of Your Mind.™

    Nancy
    http://www.ipattorneyfirm.com
    @ipattorneyfirm on Twitter

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