Interview with former corporate lawyer, Vicki Milner
Can you briefly summarise your career as a lawyer.
I started my training contract with Burges Salmon in 2017.
I sat in Real Estate, Corporate, Dispute Resolution, Banking and Competition seats before I qualified in 2019.
I went on to practice Corporate law at DAC Beachcroft for just over a year.
What are you now doing to earn a living?
I now work in legal technology at Osborne Clarke.
I spent a year in the IT team, focusing on leveraging Osborne Clarke's legal technology offering internally and supporting our lawyers in using the technology available.
I then recently moved into Osborne Clarke's Solutions team, where I create bespoke solutions for lawyers and clients to improve productivity and increase efficiency.
What made you decide to change from practising as a lawyer?
I personally needed a much better work/life balance and I found adjusting to life as a junior lawyer in a new firm during the pandemic particularly difficult.
It was not a decision I made lightly, given all the hard work and time I'd put into it to qualify, but I'm now really glad I left.
It was the right decision for me.
How did you decide on your current line of work?
I knew that lawyers did leave private practice (usually to go in-house) but I generally was not aware of many junior lawyers leaving.
At the time, juniors only tended to leave their firm at 2PQE and would usually join another private practice firm.
I spent a lot of time researching different career paths that would suit my skill set and contemplated leaving law altogether.
I have always been a bit of a technology geek and thought I could really add value to the legal technology sphere by using my experience as a practising lawyer to develop solutions that enabled lawyers to focus more on work that added value and less on process-driven work like collating signatures or putting reports together.
I'm really pleased to say that I love my career and I find it really challenging and rewarding.
An influential factor in my decision to work in legal technology was that it is a rapidly growing area as law firms realise they need to become more efficient to keep up with client demands.
It is evolving quickly which makes it a really exciting time to be working in the field.
What was the most difficult part of your career change?
I really enjoyed the work I was doing as a solicitor and I loved that there was so much to learn.
I liked the variety and felt very proud to be doing high-quality work.
I liked that it was challenging and I really admired the senior lawyers in my team.
I wanted to be like them.
Ultimately, though, it wasn't for me and accepting that was really hard.
It did feel like I'd failed for a while.
However, I eventually realised I could still have a successful career even if I wasn't on the partnership track.
I changed the way I saw myself.
How has your life changed now that you’ve changed career?
I am much happier and more content within myself.
I have a lot more confidence and feel more satisfied in the work I'm doing.
I also have a life outside of work; I have hobbies now!
In terms of work, I'd say there is less pressure overall but my role is intellectually stimulating; it challenges me to think creatively and I still spend a lot of time problem-solving.
I take pride in my work and I am very proud to work for Osborne Clarke Solutions.
The skillset I needed as a solicitor overlaps quite a lot with my role now – skills such as project management, managing stakeholders, being organised and able to prioritise with tight deadlines and analytical thinking are all important.
Our team is a mix of ex-lawyers, paralegals, project managers and legal technologists and I've also had to develop other skills, such as commerciality (in terms of understanding what's best for the business and translating tech speak), influencing and persuading different parts of the business and understanding how certain decisions are made and what impact they'll have on the business (e.g. introducing a new piece of software) to name a few.
What do you miss and what don't you miss about being a lawyer?
I miss the work and I miss the people I worked with.
Sometimes I miss the fast-paced nature of law – change is incremental as it is much more about slowly changing peoples' behaviours so that the business is more efficient.
I used to get a lot of satisfaction from completing deals and moving on to the next one but there are definitely upsides to a slightly slower pace of life.
I don't miss the stress particularly and I'm pleased to say that I no longer wake up at 3am frantically opening my laptop to check whether I sent an email.
What advice would you give to any lawyers who are contemplating a career change?
Go for it!
It’s different to practising as a solicitor but it’s been a brilliant change for me.
There will never be a 'right time' to make the change but if you feel like it isn’t quite right then it's worth a try.
Life is too short to stay in a job that isn't making you happy.