Working life stories: embracing the portfolio career

Lorna Valcin speaks to about moving from a full-time, all-hours job as a solicitor to a portfolio career including legal work and coaching, where she can work from anywhere and get the work life balance she needs.


Lorna Valcin spent years working long hours in the legal profession until she decided in her fifties to branch out and embrace a portfolio career which means she can still do legal work, but can also run her own coaching business and have time for other interests – and she can do at least some of them from anywhere in the world.

She has come a long way from when she left school, with a dream of having her own office and working as a secretary in a bank. She initially did an office studies course on leaving school, having taken shorthand and typing lessons in preparation. One of her teachers had told her you had to be 100% perfect to work at a solicitor’s. That put her off, but her first job turned out to be at a solicitor’s firm in London’s Chancery Lane.

She had her own office and was a secretary and, once she had tasted the profession, she fell in love with law. At first she did conveyancing and probate law before discovering a legal executive course which meant she could study part time and carry on earning. By then she had met her partner and had a mortgage so the ability to keep earning was crucial. It took her about 10 years to qualify as a solicitor.

She then began specialising in employment and immigration law and found she loved dealing with the kind of issues that most people come across. She realised over time that she was not only dealing with clients’ legal issues, but with the effects these were having on their personal lives. “We spend so many hours at work. If that relationship is going badly it reflects on everything else,” she says. At some points she felt like she was coaching them on what to do, how to break away from a bad relationship and move on. “It’s almost like accepting that this relationship is over,” she says, adding that she found herself in the role of convincing people that they could take control of the situation in terms of how they deal with it.


She saw how for some people’s tussles with employment law – cases such as discrimination and bullying – could take over their lives, leaving them reluctant to let go and move on. “It can take someone from outside to say what do you want to feel after this,” she states. She found lots of her clients wanted to have that discussion and she enjoyed helping them and getting them to look at things in a different way.

So in January 2020 she made a big decision and started an eight-week coaching course, four weeks of which had to be done online due to Covid. Soon after her daughter Lauren also did an online coaching diploma, having been inspired by a book Lorna gave her, having worked in hospitality where she informally coached her colleagues and having spent lockdown caring for elderly people and listening to their stories.

Mother and daughter decided to go into business together, setting up their own coaching website. The two are based in different cities, however, Lauren lives with her partner in Oxford and Lorna lives in Woking, having recently separated from her husband, although they maintain a very amicable relationship.

Having taken the “leap of faith” to set up a business and do something different – while continuing to do some legal consultancy work, including offering free advice to readers of our sister site – Lorna recently made the decision to go all out for a better work life balance. In January she travelled to Sicily to stay with her best friend and has been working from Italy since then, although she will be back home soon. The experience has shown her she can work from anywhere.

During her time in Italy she has taken on two new clients and has been zooming into rehearsals with the Eclipse choir in Kingston. Their latest song is Nessun dorma, appropriately enough given Lorna’s current location. She has been in the choir for several years and in March will be in the recording studio in London. She has also written and recorded her own song in the past and hopes to do so again. Having a portfolio career has given her the headspace to do other things, she says.

New ways of working

Lorna, who is 56, says many of her clients are older people who are looking to change their lives in some way and need someone to discuss how to do this and to keep them on track. Covid has also had an impact, showing people that their lives can be different. “A lot of people say Covid has opened their eyes up to different ways of working and a greater sense of work life balance,” she says, although she admits that a lot of people hated working from home.

She likes her new way of life, although she still gets pleasure from her legal work and from helping others. But Lorna, who is also a school governor, knows that there are many ways to give back. She thinks coaching is a vital skill that could benefit many people and she would like to see a broader diversity of coaches. She knows of a school head who is keen to encourage teachers to be coaches so that the teachers can coach the children they teach. The possibilities are endless.

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