Kara McLaren - Returning to legal work after raising children.

Not many people can boast a stint in Toronto, a successful legal career and raising four children all born within four years of each other, but Kara McLaren has managed it. Here she describes her journey to become a Vario in her own words.

I studied at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and completed my degree and diploma there, before being fortunate enough to land a training contract with W & J Burness (now Burness Paull). I moved over to Edinburgh to complete my traineeship and then enjoyed a fantastic five or six years working for them in their corporate department. My husband and I then had the opportunity to move to Canada, which we duly took and ended up living and working in Toronto, where I spent two happy years at Stikeman Elliott completing M&A work and enjoying all that Canada and the US have to offer.

Although it was great to live and work in Canada, we both wanted to start a family and after a couple of years decided it was time to return home to Glasgow. I had intended to have three children (which as any parent knows would be stretching in itself!), but my third pregnancy turned out to be twins. At this point, I took the hard, but right decision to leave work as an in-house solicitor in Glasgow and concentrate on the family. Having four children all aged under 4 was challenging and it was right for me to leave work at this point.

I took seven years out to focus on our family and although I completed some work during that period, such as committee work for the Law Society of Scotland, I didn’t practice law at all. However, after seven years, my children were all starting to grow up and my thoughts turned to practice again.  I missed some of the intellectual stimulation and wanted to use the skills I had spent so many years developing. I also wanted my children, and in particular my two daughters, to see me still as their Mum, but also as a professional completing demanding work.

In truth though, I didn’t know where to begin. I couldn’t seem to find much interest in employing me and there wasn’t really a support network for returning to work. Some people laughed when I said that I wanted to have a balanced career of stimulating legal work and providing a home for my family! My confidence was low and although I knew I had the skills and enthusiasm, I just couldn’t find a starting point.

I was passed Vario and Geraldine’s details through a friend and reached out to her purely as a way of looking for advice and some ideas. I didn’t expect that freelance opportunities would exist for people who hadn’t practised for seven years. However, Geraldine looked at my career as a whole and wanted to talk to me in greater detail. After discussing at length with her, I applied to Vario and after passing the assessment process, I was accepted. An assignment shortly followed and I’ve been working three days a week since March 2019.

It’s amazing how quickly it has all come back to me. You don’t lose your skills or ability and since starting back I’ve been involved in a vast array of challenging commercial work. Every day is completely different and with the right support your experience, self belief and confidence really grow.

What’s next? I don’t have a specific plan. This is working currently and I will see where it takes me. My family are all happy with the arrangement and I have found stimulating and challenging work, whilst I haven’t had to sacrifice too much time with my husband and kids.

If I were to advise others that find themselves in my situation I would just say go for it and believe in yourself. I’m really happy and love my work and home-life balance. It’s not always easy to juggle, I’ve needed to be disciplined and organised to manage the two, but it’s very much worth it. The support that I received from the Vario team was and remains invaluable and I’m looking forward to the next steps in my journey.

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