Snapshot: Simon Frater, Obelisk Consultant

Working with Obelisk has allowed me to consolidate and also broaden my range.”

What were you doing before becoming an Obelisk consultant?

I was working as a general in-house lawyer in the marine engineering, engineering and defence sectors. To diversify, I applied to businesses broadly similar to Obelisk but found them to be restrictive or they would not take it further. Obelisk was not as restrictive and they were keen to value my experience.

Tell us about the jobs you have had as a consultant.

I have had five jobs, which have ranged from writing articles on legal issues, to covering for a head of legal during a vacation. On the way, I have supported a major, high-profile procurement for a household name,a ship refit for a cruise line and most recently supporting the head of legal in a tech start-up. I have worked both full and part time, at client offices and remotely.

How do you work and communicate with clients?

Many of the people I work with are younger than me and some can be quite nervous or wary of perceived differences in approach from a senior lawyer, so I emphasise that I am open and have the team and client’s interests at the centre of my focus. To do this, I am keen to establish their confidence by always allowing my supervisor access to my work, to the extent that technology allows. This tends to lead to a more hands-off supervision. However, if a client wishes to be closely involved, then that’s their prerogative and I work with that.

What has working with Obelisk enabled you to do differently from working conventionally full-time?

Recently I have managed to use some of my free time to become a jewellery-maker and silversmith. In some respects it is building on some basic skills I learnt many years ago, but much now is new ground. At a basic level Obelisk finds me more work, but also runs workshops on relevant ‘soft’ issues, ones that are traditionally neglected in the legal world. We are not all automata and professional life is complex and can present difficulties; it’s useful to discuss this with other consultants.

Have you been able develop skills or extend your experience into other areas?

Working with Obelisk has allowed me to consolidate and also broaden my range.  I have continued to work with household names and in growing sectors. I’ve expanded my skill set professionally e.g. becoming experienced in software licensing and IP issues which are critical to many businesses today.

How has the legal services market changed over the course of your professional career?

When I started, the solicitor with the best experience was seen as one who would retire from the firm with whom he (and it would generally be he) had started.  Over the last 25 years this has improved. The realities of the economic cycle have breached the legal sector’s rather rigid structures and moving around is more the norm and an acceptable career path. With that there has come a better understanding of what freelance lawyers can offer in terms of being experienced advisers.

What do you feel is the most valuable advantage you can offer clients?

My selling point is my breadth of experience. That means I have come across circumstances similar to the client’s at some time in my career, and most are glad to have this support and discuss the various options that are possible with some experience as to likely outcomes.