Ed Garston of fee-sharing law firm Spencer West discusses balancing his role as a lawyer and father through a flexible working model.
A career in law is not one typically synonymous with having autonomy over your working hours or having family time. Here we speak to Ed Garston, a lawyer at Spencer West LLP, who successfully balances his role as a high-profile lawyer and an involved father of two.
Spencer West, a ‘fee-sharing’ firm, represents a modern shift in the legal industry offering a departure from the traditional law firm structure. It enables consultant lawyers to work flexibly, retaining 70% of their billings, while the firm provides the necessary infrastructure necessary for their practice.
The international firm has attracted 250 high-calibre lawyers wishing to take control of their legal practice and working arrangements, and to benefit from the strong pipeline of referral opportunities and culture of collaboration between experts.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your legal career and your family life?
Ed Garston: I’m a Corporate & Commercial lawyer with a prior career in banking and financial markets. I worked at a couple of traditionally structured firms before joining Spencer West in 2022. I am also a father and live with my wife, son (9), and daughter (6).
There were three key factors that led me to moving to Spencer West. The first was to do with lifestyle; working from home worked very well for me during Covid by allowing me to concentrate on client needs without the distractions of a traditional office. Second was the opportunity to be fairly rewarded for the work I do in terms of fee sharing and referrals. The third was being able to work as part of an expert team which brings a huge amount to my client offering.
Q: How does working at Spencer West help you to balance your career and family life? What challenges do you face?
EG: The ability to balance them now compared to at my previous firm is chalk and cheese. The structure at Spencer West is incredibly supportive because it’s not prescriptive, which puts me in a great position. The firm acknowledges that legal work is one part of your life and that other parts are equally as important, and the culture among my colleagues reflects that.
It does still take some work to balance one with the other, and I follow a fairly rigid timetable. The main challenge is how to work from home during the school holidays!
Q: Spencer West’s structure actively champions flexible working as part of the business model. Can you give some examples as to how this flexibility has been beneficial to your family life?
EG: A great example is that during the school summer holidays we spent five weeks abroad, which never would have been possible at my previous firm. While away, I was still able to log on to the Wi-Fi every morning to ensure that my client offering remained seamless.
I can also meet school demands during the day, whether that be accepting an invitation to join the school assembly, attending concerts, working around after-school activities, or even occasionally dropping off forgotten items. School timings are such that parents need to be fairly close by. My professional life now is such that I can be on hand rather in an office over an hour away.
Q: Apart from being able to spend more time with your family, how has achieving a whole-of-life balance positively impacted other areas of your life?
EG: I have been able to reduce my carbon footprint by travelling two hours less each day! I’m more involved with my local community now because I’m spending much longer in the local area. And that’s good for the local economy too.
Q: What were the reactions of clients and colleagues at your previous, traditional firm, regarding your decision to work flexibly at Spencer West?
EG: Clients and strategic partners wanted to make sure they would still be dealing with me in the way that they were used to and were very reassured when I explained that I would be, and that I’d be able to introduce them to more expertise within the wider organisation.
Colleagues and solicitors were very interested in the model, how it works, and how it’s going. A lot of them are nervous or uncertain about making the move themselves, as I was. The traditional model has been there for decades; you come to accept the restrictions it causes your everyday and personal life but are comforted by the safety and security of
knowing there’s a traditional structure and salary.
But the Spencer West model is completely different in ways that you only really discover once you’re working within it, and it works much better for me. So, feedback is overwhelmingly ‘keep in touch and let us know how it’s going!’.