LawyersInBalance recently invited Pippa Allsop of Michelmores to share her journey towards a career in law with us. Pippa has evaluated her goals and objectives, coming to an informed decision about where she has chosen to practice law. Her ambition and drive can only be nurtured by her choice to put a healthy work-life balance at the centre of her decision making process.
Where did you start out in law?
I undertook my first legal work experience in 2006 at the age of 17 at Truro Magistrates Court, as part of my Silver Duke of Edinburgh ‘skill’ requirement, shadowing the Magistrates Clerk every Wednesday afternoon over a three month period. The experience definitely sparked my interest in the legal system and in turn, triggered my aspirations to embark upon a career as a solicitor. In the following years I undertook my first work experience with Michelmores LLP, in addition to numerous other pieces of legal work experience, including stints at barristers’ chambers on a mini-pupillage and shadowing a CPS prosecutor. As a result of these experiences I was exposed to a plethora of fascinating and often eccentric personalities and, without a doubt, it was this environment of unique characters that drew me to Law in the first instance.
My secondary school did not offer Law as an A Level or GCSE, something for which I am now very grateful, although I wasn’t at the time! This is because I had numerous friends who were put off pursuing a career in Law by studying it at an earlier stage, rather than at University. It was during the formative period of my teenage years that my interest in Law as a profession was given its foundations and solidified, predominantly due to my being exposed to the practicalities of the job rather than solely the academic side. I truly believe that had I not had such a firm rooting in the practical side of Law, then the stresses and struggles of the Law degree would almost certainly have defeated my passion of becoming a lawyer. As it was, the experience I had gained previously allowed me to remain focused on the end goal, rather than losing hope whilst pouring over endless reams of case law in the early hours of the morning.
Why did you decide to be a lawyer?
My friends and family would say it is because I am a chronic pedant who loves a good argument. Whilst I can neither confirm nor deny this, I think that aside from the reasons outlined in my answer above, the main reason I decided to be a solicitor was because throughout all the legal work experience that I undertook, I can genuinely remember looking forward to giving up my holidays to come into an office to read files. Tragic I know, although admittedly I cannot honestly say that this stretched to all areas of Law (namely limited to only Criminal and Family). I knew if I could look forward to coming into work every day then I couldn’t ask for more from a career. Certainly during my training contract this rose-tinted, idealistic theory has been tested, but now that I am back in a team that I fought so hard to be a part of, I feel that happiness and excitement associated with what I get to do every day. I am well aware that I am incredibly lucky in this respect as not everybody is fortunate enough to feel this way about their chosen career.
How would you describe your career so far?
I am not sure I can describe my career so far, because so far I have simply been driving towards securing a career in Law. Arguably that has been a full-time occupation in itself! What I can describe is my journey to the point I am now, at the beginning of my career. I set my heart on Law and then on Michelmores, and I had the realisation not long ago that I have been working towards reaching this point for nearly 9 years. Consequently, I would describe my ‘Law career’ so far as challenging and emotional, yet incredibly rewarding. My struggle with Family Law has been particularly poignant in this journey. My love for an area of Law that is currently both oversubscribed and in decline has not been something that I have taken lightly. My passion for Family Law has been all-encompassing throughout this journey and there have been times that I have shed more than a few tears when faced with the prospect of not being able to realise my aspiration to become a Family practitioner. To eventually be here, not only in my preferred firm but also in my department of choice, is surreal to say the least and I am sure that it will take a considerable amount of time for me to acclimatise to the fact that my career has finally begun.
Tell us about your role at Michelmores, your choice of lifestyle over being based in London and what you want to achieve?
My role at Michelmores is with the Family Team. One of the things which attracted me towards Family as a practising area was the level of court exposure that was involved. I love the fact that I am unlikely to be sitting at my desk every single day of my working week (as some of my colleagues do) and rather am able to break up the week with court attendances, conferences with Counsel etc. Our team works across all 3 of our offices in Exeter, Bristol and London which also adds to the variety of the role.
Being from the South West, I have always wanted to live and work here. As a student, I was definitely attracted to the prospect of being able to work in London, dazzled by the ‘glamour factor’ associated with the lifestyle. However this wore thin very quickly, firstly when I realised that I only enjoyed being in London because I didn’t live there and secondly because I knew that the type of lifestyle that it demanded was not one that I wanted for myself.
I noted in a previous blog that I would fiercely contest the allegation that my aspirations are in any way inferior to my London contemporaries purely because of where I have chosen to practice. My ambition is to progress through the ranks at my chosen firm and to one day become a District Judge. Along the way I want to obtain the best knowledge base, the best reputation, and I am incredibly fortunate in that I have the perfect team to learn from in realising these aspirations. I intend to learn everything I possibly can from them during my junior years so that I may climb (even though my London piers would probably not agree) to reach the ‘top of my game’.
What do you do in your spare time to relax?
Being born and bred in the South West and living here again now, I have the luxury of being close to water, albeit in Exeter only the river! I try to get home to Cornwall to see my family and get on the beach (whatever the weather) whenever I feasibly can. Aside from that, relaxation for me can range from something completely sedentary like watching Jeremy Kyle (my very guilty pleasure) to something altogether less embarrassing and more active such as surfing, riding or yomping about the countryside. I think in a strange way, a career in Law has turned me off reading as a pastime (which I used to love) as often I feel I need a daily fix of mundane reality TV dross to wash over me as my brain unwinds after work. In short, I enjoy excellent food, friends and weather.
What is the best experience you have had in life so far?
At the time of writing this, my title is ‘Legal Assistant awaiting admission to the Law Society’, so I can’t cite the cliché of qualifying just yet, although I have to admit I am sure once I have it will go on to the list! Therefore, I think I would have to say my best experience to date has to be my year of travelling between University and my LPC, where I visited the East and West coasts of America, Russia, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.
Do you feel having a good work-life balance affects/improves your performance at work?
Absolutely. Getting the work/life balance right can affect you both negatively and positively. Negatively in that either you haven’t got enough time outside of work for yourself, or conversely you have too much ‘extra-curricular’ involvement and it affects your career progression. Achieving a positive balance means that you are relaxed at work but can often also mean that work in some respects is intrinsically connected with your life and/or becomes your life. In my personal opinion, it is important to always maintain a degree of separation between work and the rest of your life. All factors need to be considered and weighed in finding the right balance for you and it is worth noting that there is no universal formula because the perfect point of equilibrium will vary from person to person.
Sometimes the work/life balance is not something that is achieved on a day-to-day basis, rather it is more about an overall picture. For example, you may have a really busy month and/or week but as long as this isn’t every month or every week. A work/life balance doesn’t necessarily mean that every single day has to be exactly balanced.
LawyersInBalance is all about recommending new things to other lawyers, do you have one recommendation to make (i.e. to try out a certain lifestyle, a certain place to go on holiday, a new way of working etc)
I love exploring new places, especially abroad, as I have a strange love of air travel! I am very aware that a high-pressured job can mean that people become complacent with how they use their holidays, because they just want to go somewhere to ‘switch off’ and so the destination becomes irrelevant. Therefore, I would recommend making a bucket list of the places in the world you want to visit and the things you want to do and working through it religiously. Explore new places and expand your mind in areas other than Law, because the best type of solicitor is a rounded individual and not just a legal drone!