Ex-City lawyer heads south-west
Aman Hart trained in Birmingham, before moving to London on qualification. She practised in the City for four years as a real estate lawyer and now works in Bristol. We spoke to her about life in the south-west.
mtl: Hi, how did you find working in the City?
Aman: After training at Eversheds in Birmingham, I joined Theodore Goddard on qualification as a real estate lawyer. I stayed there for a year before moving to Herbert Smith for a further three years. I loved living in London and worked on big ticket deals. I enjoyed doing high value projects that you could read about in the press.
It was very much a work hard, play hard lifestyle, with long hours, and a culture of going out after work with colleagues. As a single person, with no attachments and a large salary, it was a great lifestyle. However, as I got older, I realised that I couldn’t burn the candle at both ends so easily anymore and that I no longer really wanted to.
I then became involved in a serious relationship, at which point my priorities changed - I decided that I wanted more of a balance in my life. I think that you can get a bit jaded when you see the sacrifices that so many people make for the office and this can result in wanting to weigh up your own options.
I thought about moving to a smaller firm in London, but my boyfriend was based in the south-west. We discussed where would be the best place for us both to live in order to achieve the best balance and decided on Bristol. I chose Bond Pearce as it came across as a really friendly and open firm. My first interview with them concentrated on my interests and personality and I immediately felt comfortable there. The second interview was then more technical and I realised that it was a significant commercial firm similar to those I had worked for previously.
mtl: How is it different working in Bristol?
Aman: The nature of the work is very similar and I use the same skills. One difference is that I don’t necessarily do headline work. I have also found that the client has changed in that I used to act mostly for landlords but now I do more tenant focused work. I also do a great deal more development work.
At Bond Pearce we can make of our careers exactly what we want to and people often move because they see themselves having more prospects here than in the City. There are also more female role models and there is generally a bit more diversity among the staff.
When I think of working in London now, I remember the feeling that you had to be the first in the office and the last to leave, especially when more junior. If you left at a decent time you could be ‘playfully’ nicknamed a part-timer. It isn’t like that in Bristol, despite the work-load.
training contract, Eversheds, Birmingham
2002-2003 assistant, Theodore Goddard
2003-2006 assistant, Herbert Smith
assistant, Bond Pearce, Bristol
We seem to have our own perimeters more here and as long as you meet your deadlines you are left to get on with it – the ‘first in/last out’ culture doesn’t appear to exist. If I have to work late I don’t begrudge it because I need to be there rather than being expected to be there. I generally start at 9am and leave at 5.30pm though. There is also a flexible programme so that if you need to work from home, you can access the office systems externally.
There was obviously a big drop in salary – you can’t get away from that. However the pay-off is the much improved lifestyle and, to an extent, the cheaper cost of living (a change from £10 for a round of drinks!). The housing market isn’t cheap though, so I would suggest working on a ‘healthy’ price basis before moving here.
mtl: Is there anything in particular that people should consider before leaving London for Bristol?
Aman: The main thing is don’t expect the houses to be as cheap as you might think, especially given the drop in salary. Also don’t be surprised if the culture difference takes a while to get used to. Despite the easier hours, it is still a culture shock, even if this is only in the nicest possible way.
I can’t think of any reasons why not to move to Bristol other than it rains a lot and you don’t get as much snow as in London! I think that it is only when you make a lifestyle change that you realise what you have missed out on until that point i.e. time for yourself. It is great to regain perspective on life which some people can lose.
Bristol really is a lovely city. It has lots to offer without being overly commercial – it’s more like an overgrown village. The nightlife is great, with a good late-night bar scene and wonderful restaurants. Each area has its own feel. It is great to be able to walk to work and to be in the countryside so easily. I can also see friends who live in different areas of the city much more easily as it doesn’t take forever to cross from one end to the other. I would really recommend it as an option if you are no longer convinced that the London lifestyle is for you, but you still want access to high quality work and the benefits of a cosmopolitan city.
mtl: Thank you Aman and we hope you continue to enjoy it there.
Bond Pearce has over 700 staff in offices across London, Bristol, Southampton, Exeter, Cardiff, Plymouth and Edinburgh. Click here to see the firm’s website.
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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