Sporty lawyer goes part-time
This week we spoke to Rachel Joyce, who is in the enviable position of being able to combine her legal career with a serious sporting interest during the working week. She has negotiated a part-time arrangement with Taylor Wessing, which allows her to train as a triathlete and do personal coaching for two days a week, while still working as a solicitor for three days a week.
mtl: So tell us about working at Taylor Wessing before you came to this arrangement.
Rachel: I did law and politics at Birmingham and it was a natural progression to go to law school and apply for training contracts.
I trained at Taylor Wessing, enjoyed my training contract and then qualified into the Construction and Engineering Group in 2004.
I have always been very sporty. I swam to a national level at school and I took up running at university, mainly to keep fit. At law school I bought a bike and it was there that I took part in my first triathlon. Unfortunately I suffered with a recurring back injury for my first couple of years in London. I worked a lot with (and am still working with!) my physio Greg Savides (whose business, City Backs, focuses on injuries caused by postural and back issues and ways to prevent them). Greg gave me a programme which strengthened my back and allowed me to get back to cycling and running.
Last year I made a return to triathlon. My season went really well and in my final race, the Half Ironman UK held in Longleat, I qualified for the World Half Ironman Championships. These take place on 11 November 2006 in Clearwater, Florida. After this I began to wonder what I could achieve if I had more time to dedicate to training. In April this year my times weren’t far off those of elite competitors and it was at this point that I decided I wanted to concentrate on my sport more.
I was doing up to 15 hours of training each week but this of course had to fit in around the demands of my job. For about twelve months during 2005 and 2006 I was working three or four days a week at a client’s office out of London, so I tried to hook up with local running clubs and swim teams while I was away to keep some training going. However, while this was a great opportunity career-wise it wasn’t ideal for my training. I was very busy at work and with the training and competing I had a very hectic schedule!
mtl: So how did you get to the where you are now?
Rachel: Initially I thought the only way to pursue my sporting interests further was to resign from my job. This was a difficult decision to make as I was not sure at that point where my income would come from. However, when I talked to my supervisor and the head of my department about my plans, we came to an arrangement where I could continue working with the group and also have enough time to train.
To begin with this was on a month’s trial basis but that was in July and the arrangement has continued for 4 months now. I work for Taylor Wessing from Tuesday – Thursday. On these days I fit my training around my working day with early morning gym sessions and another 2 hour session in the evening. I then get my longer training sessions in on the other days. I have also been coaching individuals, mainly friends and friends of friends, with tailored programmes. This gives me some extra cash and I find it really interesting. It also fits in well around my training and work. I am planning to do a coaching course next year to build on this interest.
mtl: And how is the arrangement working?
Rachel: Taylor Wessing has been really encouraging. As I said, I initially thought I would have to resign but that hasn’t been the case. I feel that everyone has been behind me in wanting to give it a go and it has been seen as a positive move. For me it is an amazing help to have the extra time to train. I can fit so much more in and I have more time for recovery.
The type of work that I do has been adapted so that I am not working on high pressure deals involving late nights at work, so I can normally plan my days. I still have my own files but I work closely with other members of the team, so if I am not in the office someone else can deal with anything that comes in. I usually get my work done in the three days that I am in the office, so this isn’t really a problem. My clients are aware of my working arrangement and have also been positive about it and ask how my races go. They know my work is covered if I am not there. Also, if for some reason nobody can deal with an issue, then my secretary can always call me at home to speak to me about it, though this does not happen very often.
My salary and holiday have been pro rated and I have kept the same benefits. Obviously I have had to adapt my lifestyle as I am only earning 3/5 of what I was used to. Most of my money goes on training, equipment and travel to competitions so needless to say I am not eating out a huge amount these days!
However I am not missing the money as I am much happier with how my time is spent. Being able to divide my time in a way that allows me to do everything I want is great. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to have the time to dedicate to training and hopefully realising my sporting ambitions, while also keeping my hand in with the law.
The extra time is already starting to pay off. Since having more time to train, I won the Scottish Middle Distance Championship (1900 metres swim/ 90km cycling/ 21 km running) in August. I then came 5th in an international field in the Monaco Half Ironman in September, which gave me a qualifying spot for the World Ironman Championships, to be held in Hawaii in October 2007.
mtl: So you think that part-time work is feasible?
Rachel: Yes. It is something that I had never thought about before as I couldn’t imagine working part-time in a law firm. I wasn’t sure how it could work until I actually started doing it and in fact it works really well. I am sure it isn’t suitable for every kind of work but it is fine for the type of work that I am doing. I guess it is something employer’s have to judge on a case by case basis – I can only speak for myself and my own situation.
I tend to be able to monitor my work-load and I haven’t felt that I am trying to fit five days of work into three. I am usually out of the office by 6:30pm. Also, I haven't had any negative responses from my colleagues: everyone at Taylor Wessing has been very encouraging and people are always asking how my training/racing is going.
mtl: Do you think that this arrangement is realistic in the long-term?
Rachel: At the moment we review the situation monthly. The main issue for the team I work in at Taylor Wessing is to make sure that there is enough work to justify me working in this way. This hasn’t been a problem yet! It is great not to be compromising my training and yet I still get to progress my legal career. I will review the balance of work and training depending on how I do in upcoming competitions and when qualification races are scheduled.
mtl: Do you have any tips for people who think your situation sounds appealing?
Rachel: I thought my only option was to resign. I didn’t think it would be possible to work flexibly in a top City firm. However, for the time being this hasn’t been the case, so my advice is don’t be afraid to bring up ideas with your bosses. Try asking for a flexible working arrangement if you have a good reason. The worst that can happen is that they say no and then you can evaluate whether you will in fact resign as a result. If Taylor Wessing hadn’t suggested this part-time arrangement then I would have had to look at alternative ways to achieve the work/training balance I was after. It would have been a shame to leave my legal career at this point, especially as I was enjoying the work and being in the team I am in.
mtl: Many thanks for talking to us Rachel and good luck with your work and with your competitions.
Graduated from Birmingham University - Law and politics
LPC at College of Law, Guildford
Commenced Training Contract at Taylor Wessing
Qualified into Construction/ Engineering