Parents in business: family lawyer Paula Rhone-Adrian

Your name and age: Paula Rhone-Adrien, 45

Tell us about your family:

I live in an extended family; Grandmother (my mother), myself, husband and three children ranging in age from 3 to 10 …oh and Lola the Cockapoo puppy! We also have a large extended family with someone regularly sleeping somewhere in the house! My husband has always appreciated being surrounded by family as he comes from a small one. It was actually his idea to move my mother in to live with us.

What did you do before you were a Barrister and how was it making the transition?

I have been a Barrister for over 20 years, all of my adult life has either been spent training to be a Barrister or practising. So to get through very expensive higher education (which my parents could never afford) I worked in various department stores, shops and at night doing the admin in big city offices. I always knew I wanted to be a Barrister, that or an astronaut! I tick practically every box on the minority survey and so my transition (in every sense of the word), was from one where I was told I would never make it to one where I now tell those who are also given the same message that they most definitely can.  Yes, it was hard, and at times I did question whether it was worth it. I had to rely on the charity of friends and family to feed and clothe me, you definitely can’t be proud if you have a vision.

How did you get started?

So I finally managed to finish Bar School (where you undertake the first stage of your training to be a Barrister after your degree) and had no idea what I was going to do next. I didn’t know anyone in the law who could help me obtain pupillage (the on the job training that you need to complete to become a practising Barrister and it is very much still ‘who you know’). I was also far removed from the circles in which most Barristers kept. One day I had gone for a walk pondering what on earth I was going to do to start moving in the world I wanted to make my career. I picked up an Evening Standard and there was a tiny two line advert for a PA to a Barrister. I applied and lied my way through the two interviews. Of course the Barrister knew I was lying, but he gave me the job anyway and 23 years later I still refer to this man as my Guardian Angel. When I was awarded the accolade of The Times Lawyer of the Week I made sure his name was referenced more than once.

What’s your favourite thing about running your own business / working for yourself?

Freedom. I have the power to say yes or no to anything. That to me: self determination; is priceless and empowers my self-esteem and confidence.

What’s the thing you least enjoy about running your own business / working for yourself?

Not understanding everything or having the time to apply the energy to everything that I think it deserves.

What has worked well about your business?

In my business you are only as good as your last case. A Barrister who goes to Court has to have the dogged determination to build a solid reputation, whilst at the same time having the ability to move easily between the competing needs of so many: the Judge, the client, the solicitor, the clerks (my members of staff) and your opponent. My character really suits this role…and I like to talk, lots!

What’s been your biggest business mistake?  How did you deal with it?

Allowing others to manage my money. I dealt with it very badly and really took my eye off the ball, this meant I fell into debt which I had to work incredibly hard to drag my way out of. I now ask questions all the time, even if I think I know the answer and even if it may annoy the person I am asking.  

How do you fit in work with the family?

I have no idea! Sometimes I look back on a week and wonder how we made it through! My husband is a Barrister as well and he works up to 90 hours a week. My mum helps a lot, but it wasn’t her choice to have three children and so I make sure I am still the ‘parent’. I work a lot in the evening or very early in the morning to make sure the children see me at the school gates (when possible) or at least I’m home by 6 and so I am there to care for them. I also had my children ‘late’ and so I was already established in my career and had the confidence to manage my work in a way that suited the change in my lifestyle.

Are you working towards a financial goal for your business?

Absolutely, after going through a difficult debt period, brought about due to me not having my eye on the ball, I am very clear what my financial goals are for my business: liquidity, sustainable debt, and a strong cash flow which will allow my family to live the life we want.

Would you ever give up your business to do something else?

Probably, but I suspect the new venture would have a connect or flow naturally from my current career. Life is about experience so I would never say never.

Do you have an exit strategy?

Not specifically, but my eyes are always open to opportunity and so if one arises, I will be ready to take it on.

Have you had your ‘I’ve made it’ moment?  Tell us about it.  If not when do you think it will come?

Waking up and getting to the end of a successful day is the ‘I’ve made it’ moment and I mean that sincerely. My background meant that my chances of successfully becoming a Barrister were incredibly small. However, I made it, and I am forever grateful for that. I am also always humbled by my client’s thanks and appreciation. Going to Court is a harrowing experience and knowing I have ably assisted someone to navigate through that is humbling. 

Having said that being awarded The Times Lawyer of the Week was a refreshing ‘I told you so’ to some of my doubters!

Where do you hope to be in five years time?

I have a vision board that I work with and at the top it says: Everyday and in every way I am getting better and better and for that I am truly grateful. So watch this space!

Find out more at www.lambbuilding.co.uk

Paula Rhone-Adrien is an award winning family law barrister and trusted BBC expert voice. Keep up to date with her on instagram – @familylawguruuk

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