'I invested in myself and it paid off'

Can you tell me a bit about you and your life?

I’m 30 years old and live with my wife, daughter and two dogs, with another baby on the way. Life is chaotic but I love it. I originally studied biology at uni but then converted to law and trained as a solicitor. I’m currently an associate at a large national firm, specialising in renewable energy and sustainability projects . I earn £87,000 plus bonuses.

What’s the story you’d like to share?

You asked for positive financial/career stories. My dad passed away when I was a little boy and left me and my brother both some money which we got when we turned 18. I chose to use mine to pay for a law conversion and gambled on myself to make it a success. I found the first few years of my career really difficult and it exacerbated issues that I have with my mental health. However, eight years after converting to law, I feel like I have come out the other side of it. I earn more money than I ever thought I would (I don’t come from a particularly affluent background), doing a job that I feel has a positive impact on society.

How much did your dad leave you?

My dad left me £80K which was half of the value of his house. My brother had the other half. I spent it all on education, living costs whilst studying, and some on my wedding.

Why did you decide to switch to law?

While studying biology at uni I thought about going into research, but realised that I was looking for something where I could have a real world impact. Initially I planned to do environment law, but ended up transferring into renewables and low carbon projects law projects instead.

Can you talk more about the difficulties you faced in your first years in a career?

I have quite a hard time with my mental health at times and didn’t adjust very well to being in quite a high pressure environment, which really began to affect my anxiety. It took me a while and a bit of therapy to get to the bottom of where that all came from, but my firm have been really supportive and I’m genuinely in a much better place now.

Do you think you would’ve made the career switch if you didn’t have that money?

I think I may still have pursued the same course in the end without the money, but I would have had to take a much longer route in. There are still so few opportunities that are easily attainable for people without family backing or some kind of inheritance - which is a huge problem for representation and diversity in a lot of fields, including law.

What has the impact of the conversion and new salary been?

The impact on my life has been really significant. I have been able to achieve all the things I wanted to with my life so far, including buying a house and getting married. I think like most people in my generation, I thought that these things would be much easier to achieve than they are, and it’s only because of my high salary that I’ve managed it. My wife also grew up in really difficult circumstances and it has allowed me to support her in building a better life for herself - which feels great!

Because the cost of everything has spiralled so much, and my wife is currently on a fairly low wage, I don’t actually feel that affluent a lot of the time. But it has helped me to achieve all the things I wanted to, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without earning the amount that I do. I felt a huge pressure to use the money that I inherited for something worthwhile and I feel that, by investing it in education, I’ve hopefully bought a better life for my family - which is the best use I can think of.

What does the future hold, any plans, worries or hopes?

I feel proud to have used my dad’s money well and to have invested in myself. Hopefully I will survive being a father of two and eventually move to a bigger house. Career wise I’m relaxed at the moment, and enjoying the stage I’m at!

Would you have any advice for those looking to switch into a different industry?

Think about how your current skills can be leveraged to move into a new area. I had no legal work experience when I got my training contract, but was able to use other examples from conservation volunteering and working in food services to help me.

However, it’s important to be realistic that the transition is often a long road. I got very lucky and got a training contract straight away when I applied, but it still required 2 years of additional uni and a further 2 years of on the job training before I was even qualified.

If you’re pursuing the law, it can be really hard at first, but if you think it’s right for you, it’s worth sticking with it.