A Day in my Legal Life – Caroline Matthews, Setfords consultant

Leading licensing lawyer Caroline Matthews has handled work for many of the biggest brands in the UK. She previously worked in traditional firms including Harris Hagan and Blake Morgan.

How does your day begin?

I’m up before 7am, I then bring the dogs upstairs and then get my daughter up – she’s eight. Once I have taken her to school I head back home and after that the day is very flexible. I am able to work my day around what’s happening – I work when I need to and do other home-related tasks too. I am busy all the time – it’s very productive.

Caroline now gets to spend more time with her daughter.

What prompted you to become a consultant?

Part of it was about the relationship with my clients. The way licensing works you do build very good relationships with your clients. You often end up best friends. And I really like that side of the job – the personal side. But you can’t bill for it. And when I worked in traditional law firms you felt this pressure and frustration that you weren’t billing for that time. But of course you couldn’t – most of the work in licensing is set-fee. As a consultant I no longer have to worry about that. I can have the relationships with my clients that I want. I like chatting to people.

I also wanted better control of my hours. I had been on a fixed salary working part-time, three days a week, since my daughter was born. But in truth it felt more like full-time, especially if you are plugged in at home, which I was. For me working part-time was always brain intensive. I was always trying to get something done. But if you work from home it’s much more stress-free to be able to organise your day without having to commute or be seen in an office. I like the idea of being in control of what I do and when I do it.

Has consultancy been what you expected?

I’m a couple of months in and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. It has been a very smooth transition. The induction process was brilliant – I’ve never come across anything like that before. The IT guys were so hot on things – it was painless. When I worked remotely for two other very large firms the whole process was so painful.

I also like the great feeling of support at Setfords. If you have a query and put out an email to other lawyers someone will always respond. That is not my experience in big firms where there is so much competition and politics. In fact, the whole firm has been so refreshing. In traditional firms so many lawyers are bored and disillusioned by office ties and time recording, which frankly is outdated. Clients don’t want that. We are a service industry. It’s very refreshing.

Less time commuting means Caroline enjoys more time outdoors.

How did your clients react when you left a traditional firm?

Most people work on their mobile or laptops so they don’t think it’s a big deal. If you are there and get the work done that’s all they care about.

What have been the greatest benefits?

The benefits for my clients are very noticeable and that means better business for me. There is often a perception when a client is dealing with a big firm that a large chunk of their fee is to cover overheads. That isn’t the case when you are dealing with a consultant and clients like that. I certainly like not having targets. It means I am free to fix fees where I think they should be fixed, what I think is fair. My clients also like the idea that I am more available – they don’t have to worry about opening hours. From my perspective not a great deal has changed – I am effectively doing what I’ve always done but without the noise and distraction and politics of office life.

How does your day end?

School pick up is at 4pm. If my daughter has homework she does that with me in my office whilst I’m working. I like to finish around six but my mobile is usually on – if someone is doing a deal and you know you are needed that can be factored in.

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