Work/life quiz

Name: David Sims
Role: Contract Lawyer
Organisation: Pinsent Masons' Vario

Worklife quiz


2013-present: Contract lawyer at Pinsent Masons' Vario
2000-2013: Team Leader and Senior Civil Servant, Treasury Solicitor's Department
1985-2000: Partner and Head of Litigation, Camerons
1979-1980: College of Law, Chester
1976-1978: LLB Law, University of Sheffield
1973-1975: Business Studies,  South East Derbyshire College

What was your first ever job?

In my teens, a newspaper deliverer

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you have been? 

I have always enjoyed studying law and would have liked to have become a law lecturer

I do feel as a contract lawyer I've been able to blend my  personal life with my  professional one - rather than living two lives in conflict, at times,  with each other.

My first year as a partner in private practice  coincided with getting married and starting a family very soon afterwards. Being a father to two small children, whilst at the same time heavily committed to developing and growing a law practice, and contributing to the wider firm, created personal challenges.

Over the whole 15 years as a partner in private practice there were also constant concerns about maintaining profitability. Given that I, with my fellow partners, was personally liable for the firm’s debts and liabilities, I could even lose  the roof over the heads of my wife and children. Added to this, daily time recording and monthly billing were not my favourite activities and  the long hours and some weekend working, just to stay on top of things, left me feeling that I was compromising on the time I should be taking with the family.

Today as a contract lawyer, (I started this new phase of my career in 2013 as one of the very first Pinsent Masons’ Varios), all my work time is now spent on doing actual legal work and interacting with colleagues (lawyers and other professionals in the construction industry) on shared projects. I have gained a really good work/life balance. What’s worked best for me has been to work four days a week (Monday to Thursday) and to therefore enjoy longer weekends. And there’s plenty of scope to take holidays as and when I choose. Other Vario colleagues work flexibly in many other ways.

What was the first record you ever bought?

Desmond Dekker - The Israelites

Who’s your hero and why?

I don't have heroes because I'm of the belief that we all have the potential to do something special in our lives, and it's unhelpful to single some people out as being beyond what we can all achieve. Also we all have our faults too, which is a very good reason for not putting anyone on a pedestal, just so they can come crashing down when reality takes over from the fantasy.

What’s the best thing about your job? 

Well work/life balance is right up there at the top of my list and  this was my main motivation for becoming a contract lawyer. But now that I have experienced this first hand, with Pinsent Masons’ Vario, I’d say that an on a par with this  is the variety and quality of work I now have, and the time I can devote to the core job and interaction with colleagues, whether lawyers or other professionals in the construction industry, freed as I am from admin and other business management burdens.  In this respect I'm on all fours with a recent survey commissioned by Pinsent Masons’ Vario, by research agency Bretom, which revealed that the top benefit cited by lawyers going freelance, was the increased variety in their work.

What’s your biggest work/career mistake and what did you learn from it? 

I honestly can't say that I've had a work/career mistake; on the contrary 15 years in private practice, as a partner, with a reputation as a recognised expert in my field (construction law) and then a further 13 years as a government lawyer in the Treasury Solicitor’s (now Government Legal) Department, including my appointment to the  Senior Civil Service, leading a 30-strong litigation team has, I think, been a career success . But living that successful life was another matter, wrestling, as I was, with the endless conflicts  between work and  family responsibilities. 

Why did you make your last career move? 

Whilst my work as a government lawyer released me at least from the stresses and strains of life as a partner in a very progressive law firm  - the need to keep finding new business, meet  billable hours targets and worry about how the rest of the business was doing and the impact that might have on my own financial position - they were replaced by a new pressures, not least those  associated with leading a busy team of 30+ people. And with this management responsibility, I found I was becoming much less involved in direct casework – which was the one aspect of the job I most enjoyed.

Stepping into the world of contract lawyering  in 2013 was undoubtedly the best career move I ever made. I just wish I'd made it sooner!

What book are you reading?

I'm not. Instead I'm studying a series of instructional lectures on DVD, one set relating to Great Artists and the other on DNA. And from these I'm carrying out some further  research on the  Internet.

What’s your favourite children’s book?

The Railway Children E Nesbit

What do you do at weekends?

Tennis - table tennis - fell walking - attending my local church and socialising with wife and friends

If you were stranded on a desert island what two luxury items would you take?

-A multi-ball table tennis robot - to keep up my table tennis practice. This way, when I'm rescued I can get back into playing league table tennis - and it will keep me fit in the meantime!

- A DVD player with my favorite instructional DVD's  including especially,  'Earth Story' by Professor Aubrey Manning. In a very informative and entertaining manner, it tells the story of how the earth became what it is now, and how the earth is forever changing.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a junior lawyer just starting out in the profession?

I would say to such a person:  think about what   you really want to achieve  in terms of legal experience and acquiring expertise.  And think about this, not just in terms of your career, but what you hope to achieve in your life overall. Realise that there are  more options than just the one route ending in a  private practice partnership, such as  working as a lawyer in the public sector, and of course working as a freelance lawyer. Be bold in finding a path that  keeps your whole life together, pursue the life and career you really want - and start as you mean to go on!

In the words of Steve Preston, author of "Winning through Career Change":

"You spend more waking hours at work than in any other activity. Life is too short so why be unhappy? Take 'the leap of faith' and do what you love! "

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