Michelle Carnegie had a successful ten year career as an M&A tax lawyer before taking a break to raise her children. She had never envisaged returning to the legal profession. That all changed in 2021 when she found that she could combine quality, challenging work at a prestigious law firm, with family life. We spoke to her about her experience.
Tell us a little about your early career
I trained and then worked as a tax lawyer at Clifford Chance until I was about ten years qualified. It was exciting, fast-paced and very interesting work but the hours were very long. I had my first two children whilst at the firm and CC supported me to come back part-time. I did this for a few years until I had my third child. At which point I decided the long hours and the commute were no longer sustainable.
What did you do during your time away from the law?
I took almost 9 years out to raise my family. As you can probably imagine, bringing up three children was pretty full on. During this time I worked on a pro bono basis as an advocate for families of children with SEN, as a school governor and for a local start-up company. I was kept very busy and at the time had no particular plans to return to work. I couldn’t imagine going back to private practice as the hours just weren’t compatible with family life.
What made you consider returning?
As my children were growing up, I began to think about going back to work. There seemed to be so many initiatives out there to try to attract returners to the city and a number of them referred to remote working, so I thought I’d give it a go.
I decided that I would update my CV which had been a stumbling block for years as I really struggled with the concept of selling myself. I immersed myself in the process for a couple of days and was surprised at how many examples of soft skills that I had from my career break as well as from my original career.
I applied for a returnship with the Bank of England and also sent my CV to Reignite.
How did you find your current role?
Within a few days I had three interviews lined up. The opportunity at Travers Smith looked perfect. From the minute I first saw the role I was very interested. It allows me to continue to do the bits of the role I enjoyed at my previous firm, dealing with clients, working with junior lawyers, negotiating etc without the long hours. The role is predominantly remote working although I have been into the office a few times to meet colleagues and socialise.
How did you find the transition?
The transition back was made very easy by the comprehensive inductions, all the friendly calls, the buddies and mentors. Working remotely also means that there is considerably less upheaval for my family. Travers Smith is known as the friendly firm and I have certainly found that to be true.
What advice would you have for others thinking about a return?
Go for it. Take the plunge. A return to law doesn’t have to mean returning to exactly the role you had in the past, there are lots of options for qualified lawyers and different ways to use your skills. You’d be surprised how much flexibility there is now. And the support on offer from the Reignite Academy team and at their member firms means the transition back is really smooth.