I started my working life as a lawyer, working in the music industry in London. A lot of fun in some ways, but a never ending grind in others. In this post I share my experiences and also share why I am so passionate about helping lawyers, doctors, engineers and other professional people who feel trapped, escape the Rat Race, just as I once did.
Why I became a lawyer.
I was fortunate (in some ways) to go to one of the top grammar schools in the country.
But I was always a bit of an outsider, especially after I quit the football team and stopped doing other extracurricular activities after the age of 14.
I wasn’t an active trouble maker – I just didn’t like what I felt were nonsensical rules. I had a strong desire just to be myself and hated being told what to do or how to look.
But despite my lack of interest and mediocre results during term time I was still able to do well in exams.
That pattern continued at university and I ended up with a very good degree, a distinction from Law School (something that still amazes me 30 years later 😊) and subsequent offers from several top law firms.
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I had in the back of my mind that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry probably as a film producer, and law seemed a potential route to get into that. In retrospect it was actually a pretty good plan as several of my contemporaries ended up doing just that… And some of them have produced BAFTA award-winning TV series. I must admit I feel slightly envious of those accomplishments at times.
So, I accepted a job with an entertainment law firm, partly because I told myself, even if I wasn’t that interested in the law, it was a means to an end, and partly because they gave me a big lump of money to go fund a gap year…
And I willingly accepted their bribe.
Meandering around the world for a year with my girlfriend at the time was amazing. We stayed in cheap hostels and existed for a year off just a few thousand pounds – but it was more than enough.
We had the time of our lives: Scuba diving, white water rafting, skydiving, safaris, nights spent in the desert under a billion stars, surfing, ancient temples, elephant treks through the jungle and a lot of partying.
I remember landing back at Heathrow a few weeks before I was due to start my new career and feeling utterly deflated… like my life was somehow over. I just wanted to get back on that plane and carry on travelling.
It never occurred to me that was entirely possible… Especially, if I was prepared to do a bit of work here and there. But in hindsight I’m not sure if it was that I didn’t think of doing this, or I did and I just didn’t have the courage to reject what everyone expected of me.
So like most people I knew, I moved to London, bought some suits and joined the rat race.
My Time In The Rat Race
One thing I will say about lawyers, which I may not have appreciated at the time, is that the people I worked with were by and large really good decent people especially if you compare them with the people I’ve encountered in the property industry over the years where ethics can be in very short supply.
However, despite working with nice people, I realised very quickly that this was not something I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I looked around at the partners in the firm – those in positions we were meant to aspire to – and saw how stressed and unhappy they were; how hard they worked, never seeing their families; and how grey and tired they looked.
It really cemented the notion in my head that money was not everything. And even if I could earn a 7 figures income as a partner in a big law firm I valued by freedom much more than money.
Anyway, though I found it dull, I was reasonably competent at the work. But unlike many of the other young lawyers I really resented having to work much longer than the contracted hours often being expected to give up weekends at a moment’s notice and sometimes working through the entire night.
The firm seemed to want my entire life in exchange for a pay check, and I wasn’t prepared to sell it that cheaply.
I lasted six years working mainly in the music industry which admittedly had lots of perks like famous clients, free tickets to gigs and VIP passes. But no amount of celebrity parties with free alcohol could compensate for the fact I hated going to work each day.
So much so, that at times, when walking down Fleet Stret on the way to work with all the other besuited ‘rats’, feeling trapped and miserable, I seriously considered walking in front of a bus.
Then one day, after a meeting where I had told a favourite band of mine that I loved their new album, my boss said to me, shaking his head with a wry smile, “Frazer, love isn’t a word that lawyers use.”
Something in me just snapped. I decided enough was enough. I could not spend my life doing something I had no passion for alongside people who, although pleasant, bottled up their emotions and seemed unable to express any real joy or pleasure.
I didn’t really have a plan at the time, my girlfriend was head of promotions of Virgin Records, my best friend was commissioning editor at Loaded magazine, and I knew lots of people in the media who seemed to like me.
Based on that I figured, “Oh well I’m sure I can work something out.”
So, I came back after the Christmas holidays and handed my notice in. Even though I wanted to move on with my life, I always think it’s important to stick to what you’ve agreed and so I stayed and worked my three month notice period.
My boss was a lot more understanding than I thought he would be and in fact we ended up agreeing a deal where I would stay on as a consultant and do 10 hours a week for the next year.
That helped the firm to find and train somebody new and it certainly helped me by providing a financial cushion whilst I got my new business off the ground.
So along with my friend Adam who decided to go part time at Loaded, we started an artist and event management company. And for a couple of years, before we decided to go our separate ways, we had a really great time whilst making a decent amount of money.
Since parting ways with Adam (still a great friend), I’ve started various different companies. Some have been successful. Some have not. But it’s all been a great and useful learning experience.
And apart from a difficult period around 2010, when I was completely broke, and I ruefully imagined how much money I would be making had I remained a lawyer, I can honestly say I’ve always been glad I made the decision to leave the law.
So, I’ve had many ups and downs. I sold one company for a few million, sold a couple more for a lot less, franchised another.
And using all the lessons I learned from bootstrapping previous companies, I started one company in 2012 and built it to a valuation of £30Million by 2019. It subsequently collapsed due to a series of adverse Covid-related events.
I’d spent nine years working seven days a week to build that business never even paying myself much in the expectation of selling it or floating it for a big pay day. To see it collapse after what could be described as a perfect storm of adverse events and being left with nothing was pretty devastating – and it took me quite a while to recover from that.
Still, I’ve spent a long-time studying psychology and personal development over the past few decades, and one of the big lessons I’ve learned is to really focus on being grateful for all the good things you have in your life.
It changes your whole mood and your attitude when you do that.
So, I am now grateful that I don’t have the burden of 30 employees (which I found very hard despite them mostly being lovely people).
I am grateful I am free to spend my time as I like, that I have very flexible working hours and can basically work when I want.
I am grateful I had a period of owning the car I always dreamed of (a DB9 if you’re interested).
And I am very grateful that, shortly, I’ll be moving abroad, where I’m intending to build my perfect, eco-friendly, home.
And, at the end of the day, despite the ups and downs, I’m grateful for the fact I’ve lived life on my own terms for the past 23 years and for the valuable experiences and insights I’ve had during that time.
I now know what it takes not only to find good ideas, get businesses off the ground and scale them quickly and structure them so they can run on autopilot – leaving the business owner the free time they want and the money to enjoy it.
I know what works and what doesn’t and I’m now able to share that knowledge with others, guide them on their journey… and make a good living from doing so.
It’s a good place to be.
So, no regrets.
Want Some Help Or Advice?
Whether you are a lawyer or other professional who would like to quit their job, escape the rat race and live a free-er more enjoyable life, then why not register for a free trial membership of my website The Freedom Code, where you will find a community of like-minded professionals at various stages of planning, transitioning out of their careers and starting their own businesses.
As a member, you will receive education, tips, advice, support, mentorship and accountability.
So come and crack the freedom code and create a life you love