GB triathlete and City finance lawyer working part-time
Jill Parker is a 5+yr PQE real estate finance lawyer at BLP. She is also a GB triathlete who has competed at several World Championships. She now works the equivalent of a flexible four day week so that she has enough time to train, an arrangement first suggested by the partners she works for... We spoke to her about how she combines a serious outside interest with an equally serious City job.
mtl: Hi Jill, please can you start by telling us about your legal career?
Jill: I studied law, with an Erasmus year in France, and then trained at BLP. I qualified there and am now 5 ½ years PQE in the real estate finance department. I love being a lawyer and have never considered any other career!
mtl: Where did your interest in triathlons come from?
Jill: I ran competitively from the age of nine but then didn’t do much sport while at university. During my training contract I ran the London marathon and ended up with a knee injury. My rehab involved swimming and cycling instead of running and someone challenged me to do the London sprint triathlon in 2004. Unfortunately I got a puncture during the bike course, so vowed to do it again the next year, and I ended up winning the sprint distance in 2005.
From there I thought I would try the longer Olympic distance. In my first race I fell off my bike at 40km/hr and in my second race I qualified for the British team at the amateur level. In January 2006 I began to compete seriously and went to the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, where I came 20th. I’ve found that I’m good at triathlons and I like the variety of the training as it keeps my body balanced. I also enjoy the camaraderie of the competitions and just competing full stop.
mtl: How on earth do you find time to train when working in finance in a top City firm?
Jill: In January 2008 it became clear that I had to work fewer hours at BLP if I was going to take competing seriously, as I had really stepped up my training. The partners I work for were very supportive and didn’t want me to miss my chance to progress my triathlon dream and didn’t want me to burn out trying to do it on top of working full-time. They therefore suggested a flexible working arrangement, where I am able to work more steady hours, so that I can juggle training with law.
1996 - 2000
Law with French Law, Lancaster
2000 - 2001
2001 - 2003
Training contract, BLP
Qualified into real estate finance, BLP
Won London and Salford sprint triathlons
Cut back to four days a week at BLP
Went to World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Vancouver – came 2nd in age group and 9th overall
I now work the equivalent of four days a week and this varies each week – it can involve for example two half days or a whole day off. I also try to leave at 5:45pm every day. I currently train twice a day every day, for a total of twenty hours a week. I get up at 6am to swim for 90-120 minutes and then I run at lunch time or cycle in the evenings and at weekends.
The arrangement works because my colleagues trust me and know that I won’t abuse the situation. I have to be very efficient and organised and just get on with the work when I’m there. I enjoy both so much though that it is never a chore to be at work or to be training.
My main advice for making an arrangement like this work is to be focused on what you want, efficient in your day and to be open and honest with your team – good communication is key. Of course whether your firm is amenable to a part-time arrangement depends on your relationship with your partners. Mine knew that I work hard and that I am loyal to the firm and in return they have been very supportive. I also have a mentor at work and she checks that I am staying balanced!
mtl: How are you doing as a triathlete at the moment and what are your plans for the future?
Jill: I came second in my age group at the World Age Group Championships in Vancouver last year, which is my best result at an amateur level. I also won the London sub-2:30 triathlon and came first in the National Age Group Championships. I then entered an elite professional race in Austria and I plan to do more of them this year. I need to work out my race strategy for the year and have to do an immense amount of swimming training at the moment to be able to compete effectively at an elite level.
Triathlon is not a well paid sport unless you do really long distance races in the USA, which I don’t want to do. It’s also not the market to be selling my house and giving up my job and as I enjoy law and the current arrangement works well, I will continue working part-time while I train. Partnership is not something I am thinking about at the moment, but when my triathlon career ends or if I get injured, it is something that I would then try to pursue. In the meantime, while I am still competing, I am going to switch into more of a business development role so that I can cut my hours further, something which has again been suggested by the firm in order to support my training schedule.
mtl: Thank you for your time Jill and good luck with your elite racing.
If you know any other lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives or who have a great work/life balance then please get in touch.
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