“The Bar requires a long-term commitment of difficult hours and high levels of stress. I didn't feel sufficiently driven by it to make that commitment.”
From Barrister to Garden Designer
What was your role in your old job?
I was a self-employed barrister at a set of Chambers in London specialising in public, property and planning law.
What is your new role?
I'm a self-employed garden designer. I design outside spaces and planting schemes, advise and project-manage. After graduating from KLC's Diploma in Garden design, I set up my own business. I've done freelance work for other designers, created a garden for the Chelsea Fringe and I'm currently working on several private projects, which are at various stages.
Why did you change?
The Bar requires a long-term commitment of difficult hours and high levels of stress. I didn't feel sufficiently driven by the law, legal process or financial return to make that commitment. I wanted to find a career with more personal satisfaction, creativity and which involved working with nature, and one that would be flexible, enjoyable and manageable with a family.
What do you miss and what don't you miss?
There's very little I miss; I have never regretted my decision to leave. Obviously the income was greater than I currently enjoy, but this has been manageable and the benefits far outweigh this aspect.
How did you go about making the change?
I left the Bar in 2009 and then took a break before jumping straight into another career. I did voluntary work, work experience and various projects, just to allow myself the time and space to reach what I wanted to do.
Once I had the idea of becoming a garden designer I did some research, went to an open day at KLC and my mind was made up.
What was the most difficult thing about changing?
The process of leaving the Bar after working so hard to get a place in Chambers, realising that it was not going to work for me in the long term was very hard.
What help did you get?
I had some help from a career coach, but predominantly I have received support from my family, particularly my husband.
How did you handle your finances to make your change possible?
I was lucky in that my husband and I were able to manage on his income alone. We hadn't overstretched ourselves financially in terms of a mortgage or lifestyle and this, combined with a fortuitous fall in mortgage interest rates around the time of my career change, made things easier. One of the reasons I decided to make a career change when I did was that I knew the more I relied on the increasing income I had at the Bar, the harder we would find the adjustment financially if I left. In addition, I was able to use some savings.
What have you learnt in the process?
Too much to write down! The main thing is that I was absolutely right to make the change.
What do you wish you'd done differently?
Gained more horticultural experience before training as a designer. Since starting out as a designer I have worked hard to build my knowledge of plants and their care as well as my design skills. I believe both are key to being a successful designer.
What would you advise others to do in the same situation?
Do not be put off by what you perceive to be the stigma of 'giving up' what you are doing. I think this can be a common problem where people are in professional jobs that they don't like. My experience is that people very much respect and admire my decision to take a leap into the unknown.
What lessons could you take from Angela's story to use in your own career change? Let us know in the comments below.