Not many people can boast a stint in Toronto, a successful legal career and raising four children all born within four years of each other, but Kara McLaren has managed it. Here she describes her journey to become a Vario in her own words.
I studied at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and completed my degree and diploma there, before being fortunate enough to land a training contract with W & J Burness (now Burness Paull). I moved over to Edinburgh to complete my traineeship and then enjoyed a fantastic five or six years working for them in their corporate department. My husband and I then had the opportunity to move to Canada, which we duly took and ended up living and working in Toronto, where I spent two happy years at Stikeman Elliott completing M&A work and enjoying all that Canada and the US have to offer.
Although it was great to live and work in Canada, we both wanted to start a family and after a couple of years decided it was time to return home to Glasgow. I had intended to have three children (which as any parent knows would be stretching in itself!), but my third pregnancy turned out to be twins. At this point, I took the hard, but right decision to leave work as an in-house solicitor in Glasgow and concentrate on the family. Having four children all aged under 4 was challenging and it was right for me to leave work at this point.
I took seven years out to focus on our family and although I completed some work during that period, such as committee work for the Law Society of Scotland, I didn’t practice law at all. However, after seven years, my children were all starting to grow up and my thoughts turned to practice again. I missed some of the intellectual stimulation and wanted to use the skills I had spent so many years developing. I also wanted my children, and in particular my two daughters, to see me still as their Mum, but also as a professional completing demanding work.
In truth though, I didn’t know where to begin. I couldn’t seem to find much interest in employing me and there wasn’t really a support network for returning to work. Some people laughed when I said that I wanted to have a balanced career of stimulating legal work and providing a home for my family! My confidence was low and although I knew I had the skills and enthusiasm, I just couldn’t find a starting point.
I was passed Vario and Geraldine’s details through a friend and reached out to her purely as a way of looking for advice and some ideas. I didn’t expect that freelance opportunities would exist for people who hadn’t practised for seven years. However, Geraldine looked at my career as a whole and wanted to talk to me in greater detail. After discussing at length with her, I applied to Vario and after passing the assessment process, I was accepted. An assignment shortly followed and I’ve been working three days a week since March 2019.
It’s amazing how quickly it has all come back to me. You don’t lose your skills or ability and since starting back I’ve been involved in a vast array of challenging commercial work. Every day is completely different and with the right support your experience, self belief and confidence really grow.
What’s next? I don’t have a specific plan. This is working currently and I will see where it takes me. My family are all happy with the arrangement and I have found stimulating and challenging work, whilst I haven’t had to sacrifice too much time with my husband and kids.
If I were to advise others that find themselves in my situation I would just say go for it and believe in yourself. I’m really happy and love my work and home-life balance. It’s not always easy to juggle, I’ve needed to be disciplined and organised to manage the two, but it’s very much worth it. The support that I received from the Vario team was and remains invaluable and I’m looking forward to the next steps in my journey.
Trying to return to the world of work after a period out? Contact Vario to see whether it could be your route back into Law.
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.