HerStory 3 - Cath Brown @Skilful Conversations
Happy Monday loves! Today we're talking to Cath Brown from her very new and exciting brand Skilful Conversations. She's just made the nearly unheard of move of walking away from a career as a Barrister! Find out more about how she's finding life after leaving the legal world, the passions in her new work, and the joys in being your own boss.
Hey Cath! Thank you so much for joining us! So, tell us a little about what you're up to with your new business...
I am a Professional Coach and Trainer, with a particular focus on where the legal world meet the civilian! I specialise in helping lawyers make their businesses more efficient, and their lives more fulfilling, and training those who have to come into contact with lawyers in the courtroom so that they know what to expect. I also use my decades of experience in the legal and communication fields to provide training in skills such as "Managing Difficult Conversations", "What your clients don't know about the legal system, that you think they do" and "How not to get sued".
One of my passions as a coach is helping people returning to work after having children, or those who, for whatever reason, want to benefit from flexible working. I can coach them as individuals, or as part of their workplace team, and encourage employers to sponsor this coaching to get the best out of their staff and improve their commitment to diversity. It's because of this passion that I am really please to be part of the team at Kennedy Siddall Legal Recruitment, working with their candidates to help them be clear about their next steps.
WOW, that's a phenomenal job! We are all for empowering others to live the life they want to lead and really reaching their potential. I know you've recently left the legal world - tell us a little more about that.
I practised as a barrister at Kings Chambers, Manchester for 14 years or so, specialising in personal injury work. I had a great practice and loved being in court but became frustrated at the lack of work/life balance and the next usual steps in that career (becoming a QC or a Judge) didn't really appeal, so I took the (almost unheard of) fairly drastic step of leaving.
From the minute I left, I enjoyed being outside the constraints of my very traditional former profession. I embraced the opportunity to have professional coaching to work out what I wanted to do, I started going to networking events that I really enjoyed and gradually infiltrated the business world outside law whilst training as a Professional Coach Mentor.
As I needed to keep earning, I made a list of all the things I might want to do and one of my more practical paths was "sorting out expert witnesses"* because, as a practising barrister, I had become frustrated that, in the world of personal injury work, and many others, lots of experts are getting very well paid and not doing a great job. I did some research into the training of such experts and then began to work as a freelance trainer for the market leader in that field (a company called Bond Solon - I still deliver this type of training for them).
I then spent a few years training experts and non-experts who wanted to know more about how to conduct themselves in court or when dealing with lawyers. I gained a much greater understanding of the gulf in communication that often exists between lawyers and non-lawyers. I had previously only seen it from one side of the fence but now have the benefit of having crossed the fence and many people have opened up to me about the challenges they face in our legal system. This is one of the things I want to address through my training and coaching business, Skilful Conversation Limited.
*One of my less practical ideas was opening a kebab van in Vegas.
Having recently broken away from a traditional job and now running your own contemporary business, what impact has this had on you personally and mentally?
Apart from temp jobs, I've always been self-employed, so I'm fairly used to some of the things that often surprise others, such as the uncertainty and delays in getting paid. The one thing I initially struggled with was the practical side - business development, sales and so on, because, as a barrister, clerks do most of the hard work on that front. Someone said to me fairly early on that you should build your network before you leap and, in adding coaching to my portfolio, I made sure I followed that advice.
All the other aspects are positive and are the reason I'll probably never have a boss again - I love being free to run the business the way I want to, work when it suits me, and plan as much time off as I need.
Being in the legal world must have been super stressful, and now you're helping others manage their difficulties. How do you keep your own self care in check?
Would it be too self-indulgent to say - hire a coach? I find it hard to over-state the difference it has made to my life. I really think it's important to take time out, regularly, to stop and think, and decide on the way forward with a skilled sounding board. At the very least have people around you who will listen to you and provide support when needed.
No! We love that answer! We honestly believe having a coach or even a mentor can make all the difference to a business. What's your favourite part of coaching others?
I love making a positive difference to people's lives. I could sometimes do that as a barrister but it's a much more frequent feeling at the end of a workshop or coaching assignment.
Job satisfaction is paramount, and it must be so worthwhile getting to help others be their own successes. Having just started out, have you got any big goals or vision for the future of Skilful Conversations?
I'd like to have a significant impact on many aspects of the legal profession, helping it to become more diverse, with stronger leaders, better communication skills and more future-proofing.
Love this! What's one bit of advice you wish you'd had before you set Skilful Conversations up?
I do wish I'd done it sooner, so I guess I wish that someone had convinced me I could before I convinced myself.
Speaking to people, that really does seem to be one of the most common bits of advice self employed folk have. OK, flipping it - what's one bit of advice you'd give to someone else thinking about going self-employed?
I do believe that if you leap the net will appear, but I'd have to acknowledge that I've been able to do what I've done by having some savings behind me and by being prepared to live on a lot less than I earned at the Bar, so I would say avoid having a massive mortgage or anything else that ties you in to a life you don't want.
Really sound advice. We started with nothing and took the leap. We didn't have any huge financial commitments outside of rent so we've been pretty lucky in being able to get set up and being self sufficient quite quickly.
One last question - standard silly one to end on. What's your go-to motivation song?
My Shot from Hamilton: An American Musical
Incredible! Love a good musical to belt out tunes from! Thanks for chatting to us Cath.
Check out all of Cath's links below and be sure to get in touch for any professional coaching you might be needing!
Website - www.skilfulconversation.com