The late Margaret Thatcher had a way with words and several of her finest bons mots really appeal to me. “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t” and “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want it done, ask a woman” and so on. There are lots of others available here. If you are a woman at the top of your business and like me, sometimes feel lonely at the top of your particular mountain, you are bound to enjoy her pearls of wisdom. I think you will also enjoy them if you are on the way up, or even just starting out. Use those quotes as your mantras and they will keep you going. They make great sense to me and I can assure you from my own experiences that they are all true.
When you reach the top of your firm you feel you should be able to sit back and relax. You’ve achieved your goals – maybe its time to let others carry the enterprise forward? But it’s not like that at all. Life at the top is tough. Life out there is tougher. The legal market, like many other sectors, is contracting and it is heavily over-populated. Once upon a time, there was more than enough work for every lawyer. Now there are too many lawyers and not enough work. Why? The decimated economy has put a squeeze on us all. Our lives have been plagued by higher taxation and more indirect taxation. Our savings have been hit, salaries have been held or reduced and redundancies declared in the face of a decline in profits. There are huge gaps in the market where legal aid once existed and no shortage of people who are suffering.
We are told we have avoided a triple dip recession by a squeak, but many would argue that has happened anyway. Shops stand empty and people running their own businesses are so often at the end of their tether. Lawyer’s lives have been turned into a rollercoaster of a ride: a few ups plenty of downs, some highs and plenty of lows. Law firm after law firm has gone bust as their banks pull the plug. And people wonder who will go next.
In my own field, I regularly hear about the struggles of many family lawyers – barristers without work, entire firms with far less work, and it’s scary. So this certainly isn’t the time to stop and take a breather on the top of my mountain. It’s the time to think of Margaret Thatcher – love her or loathe her (as many did). Whatever you thought of the Iron Lady, I, like her, am fighting back.
And I started this last financial year, which ended on 31 March. The truth is, I love my job with a passion. I love the clients who trust me enough to manage a terrible crisis point in their lives. I enjoy helping people out of a hole and seeing them move on. I love my firm, which I have built up over thirty long hard years. I have fought hard to set up my firm for posterity and I intend to do my utmost to make sure it survives, long after it is time for me to go.
This last financial year, despite the shocking market conditions, we opened two new offices. A third will open shortly, making a total of five offices in all. We have recruited more staff. We have increased our market share and turnover. We have cut the average cost per case to our clients. We have invested heavily in our firm and we have managed to maintain our profit for future reinvestment. I have also brought out a 300-page book, aimed at all those who cannot afford a lawyer. I offered it first free of charge courtesy of Amazon, then at 99p when the free period was up, with all the proceeds going to charity.
I rushed to have the book out by the end of December 2012, because it was written in honour of my beloved parents, who both passed away in January 2013. My book is dedicated to them and it has become a bestseller. It will appear in hardback shortly.
Margaret Thatcher once said “I just owe almost everything to my father and it’s passionately interesting for me that the things that I learned in a small town, in a very modest home, are just the things that I believe have won the election.”
Obviously I cant make the same phenomenal claims, but the sentiments, believe me, are exactly the same. My father was an entrepreneur and his daughter is an entrepreneur too – who also happens also to be a family lawyer.
Bring on the next 12 months: I can’t wait.