A Day in my Legal Life – Nigel Cragg, Setfords consultant

Nigel Cragg is a consultant lawyer for Setfords and heads up the firm’s personal injury department. He lives at home in Cranleigh in Surrey with his wife Debbie. Their 20-year-old daughter Fiona has just gone to university. Nigel joined Setfords in 2015.

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Nigel’s view from his home-office

How does your day begin?

I am in the gym by 7.30am every morning, which is just a three-mile drive away. I’ll do forty-five minutes of weights and 30 minutes in the pool and make sure I’m back home at desk with coffee and toast by 9.30am. My study looks out onto the garden and a beautiful view – there’s nothing quite like having the patio doors open in the summer whilst I’m working, watching the natural world go by. I tend to spend the morning reviewing e-mails, preparing documents using remote dictation or dealing with court paperwork. I’ll then break for lunch around 1230 – a light one so I don’t undo all the work I’ve done in the gym! Although working from home I’ve definitely found it easier to keep on top of what I eat. It’s so easy to just rush out and grab the nearest bag of crisps when you work in a normal office. But now I stock up the fridge with healthy foods so I’m not tempted.

Why did you become a consultant?

I was the operations director at Pinto Potts which was then taken over by Quindell and later Slater Gordon. That ultimately led to my redundancy. I then had to make a choice about my future. What I had found within personal injury roles in traditional firms was they were generally extremely pressurised and not particularly great pay. And the good jobs tended to be in major cities which meant a long commute. But ultimately I wanted a greater work-life balance and a shorter commute. Consultancy seemed to offer that.

So did the dream turn out to be the reality?

Yes. Pretty much. At the start there was a bit of a wake-up call. I was working, taking on cases, but the cases hadn’t yet settled. This meant I wasn’t earning and that led to some nervousness in those first few months. I had however built up a buffer which was very important. But I remember when I completed my first case successfully and the cheque came in and the client was happy. I thought wow. That’s a good result. I’ve got good feedback. I’m going to get paid. It gave me a warm feeling. I knew I’d made the right decision. In a large firm the salary hits your account every month, whether you’ve delivered or not, or settled or not. You get used to it. It’s not the same as delivering and instantly seeing the result in your back pocket. It’s a much greater feeling of satisfaction. I started from zero 15 months ago. I now have 35 clients and I’m on a roll now.

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Nigel taking time-out for a game of golf

What have been the greatest benefits?

Without doubt for me it’s been work-life balance. I love cycling and there’s a bunch of us guys who go out every Sunday morning. One works away all week. Another works very long hours in a top-six accountancy firm. And they all say the same thing: you have a great life there. Sometimes we’ll book cycling trips abroad and they’ll struggle to get time off. But for me it’s not a problem – I take holiday when I want to take holiday. I love the flexibility.

I’m also a keen golfer and sometimes I’ll take the afternoon off and play a round and then pick up messages and do further work in the evening.

It’s also very nice not having someone breathing down your neck asking why aren’t you at your desk? I am my own boss and as long as I’ve got happy clients and I’ve delivered a good service then everyone is happy.

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Nigel with his wife Debbie in Japan.

What impact has it had on your family life?

Before I became a consultant my wife and I would cross paths very briefly in the morning and then not see each other again until 7pm when I got home. But my wife also works as a management consultant, so at least two days of the week we both work from home. We’ll share a coffee and a chat throughout the day. It’s been a massive improvement in that respect.

Fiona has just gone off to University but over the past year it’s meant if Fiona wanted me to come and see her play hockey or ride a horse I could say: yes, I have an hour, I can come and watch you. It’s been very nice to have that with a teenager before she goes off to university and comes back as an adult.

Do you miss anything about working in a traditional firm?

Initially I missed the responsibility of running a big department and literally sitting next to colleagues that I could run something past, like exchanging views on a case for example. But I’ve made consultancy work so that I still have that. I will get second opinions, but rather than do it by turning to the person next to me, I’ll simply do it by phone or by email. Because there are so many consultants within the firm there is always someone you can turn to for a second opinion. That’s not to say I don’t miss face-to-face contact – which is why I’ll go into the Guildford head office once a week. I head up the personal injury department for Setfords so it’s a good chance to keep across that work and have a chat with everyone. There are nice people to work with at head office.

How have clients reacted to you being a consultant?

Often it doesn’t even come up that I’m a consultant or that I’m working remotely. But what they do notice and appreciate is that they are getting me throughout the process, an experienced personal injury lawyer. I’ve been around the block a few times. In a typical high-street firm it tends to be juniors who work on cases day-to-day and yet they charge the same fees I’m charging. This way of working is a great plus for the clients and I get some terrific feedback.

How does your day end?

I usually finish work between 4.30pm and 5pm. I might have spent the afternoon at home or used the Guildford office for a meeting with a client. In the evening Debbie and I will either eat-in or go to a local pub or restaurant for dinner. Occasionally we might go up to London to see a show. I have always been a fairly level person, I never really got stressed that easily – but even saying that, it’s been a noticeable swing-change to be able to work in such a flexible way.

To find out more about becoming a consultant lawyer at Setfords visit www.consultantsolicitor.co.uk.