A portfolio career which is where an individual has multiple works strands, is a fast growing trend, with the majority of people predicted to have one by 2020. (Source: Professor Lynda Gratton, London Business School). I help professionals and executives to create, manage and market their portfolio career and sharing current portfolio careerists’ stories in their own words is a great way to inform and inspire aspiring portfolio careerists. Could you be one of them?
This is the first in a series of three guest blogs by Nigel Haddon about his portfolio career – this blog is about how he created his portfolio career. The second two guest blogs by Nigel will be about how he manages and markets his portfolio career.
The rest of this blog is in Nigel’s own words.
The start of my career
I qualified as a solicitor back in 1981. Then, it wasn’t unusual to be a generalist, a ‘jack of all trades’, and that was my first career in the law, working out of a market town in Cheshire. Specialism caught up with me eventually, and I became a Family lawyer. It’s too long a story to go into here, but by the turn of the millennium I’d morphed into a Construction lawyer!
In the mid 2000’s, the opportunity came my way to assume the role of Managing Partner at the firm – I’d been with since 1995. I took the firm through a merger in 2006, and became Managing Partner and later CEO of that firm. Leading over a hundred people across a number of sites and through the worst recession of our lifetimes was no ‘walk in the park’, and one of the first things to suffer was my legal practice – which I gave up in 2008 to concentrate on my leadership and management roles. My fourth career in the law was under way, and it was one which I knew full well would end at some point with me probably either unable or unwilling to revert to practising as a solicitor.
So when the end of my time as a law firm CEO came, what next? Well, like so many people, I initially sought out the comfort blanket of the familiar. I talked to a number of law firms and other businesses about CEO and other leadership roles. That talking process went on for several months, involving some interesting challenges and potential opportunities. But nagging away at me was this question, do I really want to do that again? Being CEO had been in many ways the most rewarding of all the positions I’d held, but it was also at times the most difficult and frustrating. And that’s saying nothing about the relentless, 24/7 nature of the job, that sense of being permanently responsible.
My present portfolio career really came about by accident. As months went by, I had to do something to ‘earn a crust’.
Deciding what next
I began to discuss with my contacts in the law how I might be able to use my experience to their benefit. I launched a management consultancy for the legal sector which is now my principal occupation. My experiences of and interest in law firm mergers then led to the formation of Mosaic Legal, a joint venture with a Chartered Accountant to help professional services firms acquire or be acquired by other firms. And then my experiences of and keen interest in pricing for lawyers led to my teaming up with the UK’s leading Pricing & Costs consultancy Burcher Jennings to deliver pricing training to law firms.
Transferable skills give options
Many former law firm Managing Partners try their hands at consultancy, but most will have more to offer than that. They have transferable skills which are valuable not just to law firms but other professional service firms and indeed former client businesses. I am also an executive committee member of the Law Management section of The Law Society and a chartered arbitrator.
The pros of my portfolio career
My fifth career is the most varied since my first general practice role. Variety is without doubt the principal joy in having a portfolio career. There is a profound sense of liberation to be enjoyed from the lifting of the burden of full time management responsibility. And you’ll have time for other pursuits, e.g. family, friends, hobbies or trying new things. I’ve managed to re-engage with a voluntary role which had become a chore but is now a pleasure once more. And I’ve gone back to school, where I test the teacher’s patience with my terrible attempts at Latin & ballroom dance!
Guest blogs parts 2 & 3
I will look at the challenges of managing and marketing a portfolio career in later blogs. For now, when I’m asked what I do, I reply that I wear a number of hats, and then sit my interlocutor down for a cosy chat…
Contact Nigel Haddon
Nigel Haddon, Management Consultant, Haddon Consult
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Nigel Haddon, Principal, Mosaic Legal
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Pricing & costing Consultant, Burcher Jennings
For insights and tips on pricing & costing issues, follow Burcher Jennings on Twitter: