Chambers, Barrister, public property and planning, London
Career Change Story
I am now a self-employed garden designer. I design outside spaces and planting schemes, advise and project manage.
I left the Bar in 2009 and then took a break before jumping straight into another career. I did voluntary work, work experience and various projects just to allow myself the time and space to reach what I wanted to do.
Once I had the idea of becoming a garden designer I did some research, went to an open day at KLC and my mind was made up.I had some help from a career coach but predominantly I have received support from my family, particularly my husband.
After graduating from KLC's Diploma in Garden design in Dec 2011, I set up my own business. I have done freelance work for other designers, created a garden for the Chelsea Fringe 2012 and I am working on several private projects, which are at various stages.
I was lucky in that, during the transition, my husband and I were able to manage on his income alone. We had not overstretched ourselves financially in terms of a mortgage or lifestyle and this, combined with a fortuitous fall in mortgage interest rates around the time of my career change, made things easier. One of the reasons I decided to make a career change when I did was that I knew that the more I relied on the increasing income I had at the Bar, the harder we would find the adjustment financially if I left. In addition I was able to use some savings and the aged debt which barristers accrue i.e. money owed for work done that trickles in.
The Bar requires a long-term commitment of difficult hours and high levels of stress. I did not feel sufficiently driven by the law, legal process or financial return to make that commitment. I wanted to find a career with more personal satisfaction, creativity and which involved working with nature, and one that would be flexible, enjoyable and manageable with a family.
Career Change Reflections
There is very little I miss; I have never regretted my decision to leave. Obviously the income was greater than I currently enjoy, but this has been manageable and the benefits far outweigh this aspect.
I was absolutely right to make the change.
Do not be put off by what you perceive to be the stigma of 'giving up' what you are doing. I think this can be a common problem where people are in professional jobs that they don't like. My experience is that people very much respect and admire my decision to take a leap into the unknown. I think I sometimes take for granted that it was actually quite a brave thing to do and some people just feel they cannot do it themselves, even if they could manage financially.