Interview with former Linklaters & Government Legal Service lawyer, Tobias Latham.
Can you briefly summarise your career as a lawyer.
I commenced my training contract in September 2006 at Linklaters in London. I sat in the financial regulatory department, derivatives and structured products, real estate and litigation. I qualified in September 2008 just as the financial crisis was taking hold. I became a financial regulatory associate days after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. Linklaters acted for the administrators (PwC) and so I spent the first months of being a qualified solicitor at Lehman Brothers offices dealing with the largest ever bank failure.
Having thoroughly enjoyed my training contract, I soon came to realise that the long haul of associate life with the ultimate aim of partnership wasn’t for me. The hours were long and without an ‘end point’ like there always is during a training contract, I found it difficult to motivate myself even though the work I was undertaking was high profile.
After a year of being qualified, I moved to the Government Legal Service and became a solicitor at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). I found working in the public sector rewarding and the environment was supportive, however, following upheaval in personal life and a desire to return to the financial legal sector, I returned to the financial regulatory sector as an associate at Macfarlanes. I worked with some very impressive people at Macfarlanes, however, I found the experience to be much like my time at Linklaters. The hours were long and the job was quite stressful.
My next move took me to BPP where I became an LPC tutor and found my niche. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching students the fundamentals of corporate law and soon became the programme leader for the Allen & Overy LPC. I enjoyed my job immensely. The opportunity to move to Manchester as an LPC programme leader arose and, as this fitted with my personal circumstances at the time, I jumped at the chance.
Having settled into life at BPP in Manchester I was taken by surprise when one of my closest friends and the founder of Elemental asked me to join as a director of the legal & governance department. I was enjoying my time at BPP and it would, therefore, only have been something special like this that would have caused me to consider my position. I found it an opportunity too good to miss and said ‘yes’. I continue to teach at BPP on a consultancy basis but am thoroughly enjoying my career after a long and varied journey!
What are you now doing to earn a living?
Since 2017, I have been a director of the legal & governance department of Elemental. We offer various different support services to our clients including, company secretarial support, corporate and financial regulatory legal advice, escrow services, tax advice and accountancy and bookkeeping.
I also teach business law & practice and private acquisitions at BPP Law School in Manchester.
What made you decide to change from practising as a lawyer?
I found the City law firm culture to be hugely exciting and interesting in some respects. I enjoyed working with incredibly bright and driven people. I also enjoyed being exposed to the inner working of large companies that are household names. However, the hours were punishing and the job can be stressful. I did not love my work and I think that, unless one loves that type of work, it is difficult to see a long-term future in such an environment.
How did you decide on your current line of work?
I didn’t choose my current line of work, it chose me! Nick, the founder of Elemental, approached me with an offer to come on board and help grow the business. The opportunity to work with a close friend and to own and grow a business of my own was impossible to turn down.
What was the most difficult part of your career change?
I have been very fortunate in that my career change has been very smooth however I think the most difficult part is resigning from a position because I find it difficult to escape the feeling that I am letting my employer down. Ultimately, it’s important to consider one’s own self-interest and I don’t for one moment consider myself irreplaceable but still the feeling remains.
How has your life changed now that you’ve changed career?
Being a director of Elemental brings flexibility, but also a responsibility to provide an excellent level of service to our clients. Not having an ultimate ‘boss’ to answer to is certainly a positive thing but my current role is not without its stresses and challenges. I believe that any role that you care about brings those issues with it. Compared to being a City solicitor I am now far more relaxed at ease with my career and myself.
What do you miss and what don’t you miss about being a lawyer?
Fortunately, Elemental affords me the opportunity to provide legal advice to a variety of interesting clients therefore much of which I missed during my team at BPP I am now involved with again however it is no as all-consuming as it was in private practice. I certainly don’t miss the long hours’ culture.
What advice would you give to any lawyers who are contemplating a career change?
Keep an open mind. I could never have planned my career trajectory. Opportunities arose that I didn’t expect and they’ve led me to a great career destination. Remain prepared to take unexpected opportunities when they present themselves.
Find Out More
You can find out more about Tobias and his current work at www.elementalcosec.com