From employment law to jazz; to Canada and back; to part-time working; to psychotherapy and coaching; Jenny Wilson is bringing as much colour as possible to her life as a Vario.
Jenny’s legal career started in a fairly traditional way. Having studied languages and then law at university, she managed to secure a training contract at Pinsent Masons. Her interest in people led her to focus upon employment law and she duly qualified as an employment lawyer. Two years after qualification, Jenny was placed on secondment at Asda’s head office and experienced her first taste of life as a client-side lawyer.
“I loved it. The work was really interesting and I enjoyed experiencing a different environment and building relationships with new colleagues. I have come to realise that variety really is the spice of life for me and this eight month secondment fed my taste for this at an early stage of my career.”
Returning to work at Pinsent Masons, Jenny continued to develop as a lawyer. She utilised the new skills she had acquired in-house and after a few years was promoted to Senior Associate. Jenny enjoyed law firm life and learnt a lot during this time, but had a growing sense that something was missing. A relative had once sent her a card which had wording on the front that read “Life is like a box of crayons – try to use every colour” and that message resonated.
“I know it sounds cheesy, but I can really relate to the sentiment. Whilst I was devoting so much of my time and energy to being a private practice lawyer, I felt like I was just using the one colour. I enjoyed working alongside my colleagues and was grateful for the training and support I had received from the firm but I wanted to express other sides of me and to have other life experiences.”
Jenny had moved from Leeds to London and was enjoying this new adventure; however, with some personal changes also taking place, Jenny had grown to realise that she was climbing a career ladder she didn’t want to reach the top of. And so, without another job lined up and no particular plan in place, Jenny decided to leave her private practice career and seek a new ladder to climb.
Jenny embarked on travel to Canada to track her family roots, undertook further learning relating to psychology and set aside plenty of time for introspection. After a six month career break, Jenny returned to work in law but this time as an in-house lawyer. She was employed on fixed-term contracts for BP and then the John Lewis Partnership, which she enjoyed. She was offered permanent opportunities, but her desire to continue to have new experiences was growing and so when a chance arose to work at the BBC as a consultant, Jenny embraced it.
“I had never freelanced before, but this was just such an interesting opportunity. It came through another supplier in the industry and they really looked after me as I took my first steps into consulting. The BBC is an organisation that I had always wanted to experience working with as it is a truly iconic British brand. The work was fascinating and I found the environment inspiring. One minute you’d see The One Show being filmed, the next you’d walk past Sir David Attenborough! I can’t speak highly enough of my first freelancing experience and my time there.”
With Jenny’s appetite for freelancing now whetted, she embarked on a new assignment with Mitie through Vario. Jenny successfully completed a five day per week assignment and at the end of it, proposed to Mitie to reduce to three days for the second phase of the project. Mitie, happy with Jenny’s work and keen to retain her services, were happy to agree to this.
“I’ve always been interested in working reduced hours as a lawyer so that I can explore other interests. I had a stint at four days per week previously and the second phase of the Mitie project was well suited to three days per week so I leapt at the chance to do this. I can honestly say that this arrangement has transformed my life. I’ve taken up jazz singing and the creative part of me which had never been given the time to flourish can now be expressed. I attend open mic nights and jazz workshops, I’m heading off to a singing course in Slovenia; it just makes me feel so happy to have the time to do this. I was even approached following a jazz workshop to sing at a book launch – my first gig!”
In addition to jazz, Jenny has furthered her interest in understanding people by completing a Psychotherapy course at Regent’s University and undertaking further studies relating to psychology and coaching, including exploring the areas of relationships, body image, self-love and intimacy and how all of these factors impact upon our well-being.
“Right from the start of my career, I chose employment law because of my natural interest in people; the courses that I have taken relating to psychology, psychotherapy and coaching are a continuation of that. I see so much potential for me in this area and expect this to become an even more important part of my life and career in the future. It feels like such a natural fit for me and I have got so much out of the studies and the coaching work that I’ve done so far.”
Jenny also recognises the benefits that have arisen professionally in her legal career from the path that she has chosen. She believes that working across multiple industries and having experience of several different organisations has helped to make her a more versatile and capable lawyer.
“In addition to private practice, I’ve now worked in retail, energy, media and outsourcing. Each sector has its own set of unique challenges for an employment lawyer to navigate. I have also experienced organisations with very different cultures and working environments. I’m lucky to have learned so much from each opportunity and to then be able to take that knowledge and experience into the next role or assignment.”
It isn’t always easy and Jenny has reflected on the reduced security that comes from freelancing. However, she strongly believes that the benefits easily outweigh any downsides and advises others to take this path, if they have the desire to do so.
“Fortune favours the brave. You need to believe in yourself, your ability and what you can bring to the client. If you are adaptable, feel drawn to contracting and thrive on variety, then go for it. I am so delighted that I did!”
What’s next for Jenny? Variety, exploration and development matter to Jenny as she fills her canvas with as many colours as possible. She intends to carry on freelancing, alongside jazz, coaching, further studies and who knows what else will take her fancy. The freelance career is enabling Jenny to design her own path, one which perfectly fits her needs and her approach to life.
If you’d like to create more time for your passions like Jenny did, Vario could be the career for you too. Get in touch with the team today.
READ ANOTHER OF OUR STORIES
Vario and founder of The Conscious Lawyer
Elaine joined Vario in 2013 and has experience of both in-house and Pinsent Masons’ internal assignments. Alongside her three-day week as a lawyer, she has launched theconsciouslawyer.co.uk, a publication exploring a more mindful approach to law.
Vario within Banking and Finance
Having been a Vario for four years, Kate enjoys the flexibility that comes with being a freelance lawyer. In her current full-time role, she works from home one day a week, allowing her to stay involved in family life and achieve the balance that matters to her.
Vario specialising in IP law
After graduating with a degree in computer science, Doris began working in the IT sector. A colleague then suggested one day that she should consider pursuing a career within IP Law as she would be best placed for it with her existing technical knowledge.
Vario and founder of Dancing Vine
A natural-born multipotentialite with a true portfolio career, Meg continues to work in-house for leading international companies whilst completing a Psychotherapy degree, establishing a private therapy practice, and running a ‘mindful wine’ company, www.dancingvine.co.uk.
Based in Belfast, Rose joined the Vario community early on in her career, and has already worked on a variety of assignments. Rose shares with us her philosophy on life and work, and how Vario has given her the independence and control she desires.
From practising solicitor to project management. Rachel found a permanent position through Vario.
Rachel originally qualified as a solicitor in corporate law, moving from a fee earning solicitor role at 5 PQE into a PSL position at McGrigors LLP in their corporate team as one of the firm’s first PSL lawyers.
Growing up, Michael actually dreamed of studying architecture and design, but it was his traditionally-minded father that persuaded him to become a lawyer.
After working 8 years at a firm, Michael decided it was time to make a new start and launch his own firm in October 2017, he then discovered Vario.
Nicola always had a passion for illustration, but her professional career steered her towards law. Working as a Vario, she can now enjoy both
Nicola enjoys seeing more of the world and her lifestyle needs a flexible career to support it. Working as a freelance lawyer through Vario allows her to do just that.