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.
At Pinsent Masons (PM) there is so much to get involved in beyond the day to day legal work. I have been involved in lots of ‘non-chargeable’ activities both in my current role as a trainee and previously as a paralegal. I would like to share with you some of my favourite experiences and the benefits of getting involved.
From driverless cars to Fintech, TMT clients are at the forefront of technological developments and this innovative spirit is reflected in the team’s legal work. Having spent some time at TMT, I wanted to share my experience of how the team embraces innovation and how the recent pandemic changed the way we work.
It is normal to feel nervous before starting a new job, and this nervousness reaches a new level when it’s your first graduate job. Therefore, the level of ease I felt after my PM induction was both comforting and surprising.