Hooper Hyde: The latest addition to the Bamboo Platform
In May 2021, Catherine Hyde started her own law brand, Hooper Hyde, on the Bamboo Platform. Now, two weeks after her launch, our founder, Michael Burne has caught up with Catherine to find out more about her route to law, why she wanted to start her own firm, her hopes for the future and why she named her law brand, Hooper Hyde.
Michael: Tell us about yourself. Who is Catherine Hyde?
Catherine: Gosh, that’s quite a difficult question. “Who am I?” I’m just me. I’m a solicitor. I’m a Mum. I’m a wife. I like going to the gym. I love reading. I have a secret love for paint by numbers, which is really geeky, but I love it. I also do cross stitch, which is also extremely geeky. I suppose I’m a closet geek/secret wannabe artist. It’s such a difficult question to answer because I just am who I am!
Michael: Tell us about your career path? How did you come to be in the legal industry?
Catherine: My career path is a bit of a convoluted one. I left university with a degree in languages, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do once I graduated. I got my first job as an admin assistant at Britannic Group, then I moved to work as a legal secretary at Wragge & Co (now Gowling WLG) in the commercial property team. I really enjoyed being a secretary and learned a lot straight away. I worked with two great fee earners who were really encouraging of me progressing in my career. Within 12 months, I was promoted to paralegal within the same team. It didn’t take me long to realise that I wanted to pursue a career in law. I started studying law part-time in the evenings whilst working full time. I studied for 2 nights a week, firstly undertaking my CPE and then moving on to the LPC. Between studying for my CPE and LPC I moved to Shakespeares and joined the property development team. I was then lucky enough to be offered a training contract at Shakespeares, where I eventually qualified.
Michael: But you’re a litigator not a property lawyer, how come?
Catherine: On qualification I was offered a job doing defendant insurance fraud as there were no jobs for newly qualified solicitors in Property, which is the area I thought I wanted to work in, because the property market had crashed. However, I believe everything happens for a reason and I actually found I really enjoyed litigation and so have ended up as a litigator when I’d originally set out to be a non-contentious lawyer. I always thought I wasn’t bolshy enough to be a litigator but one of my training principals taught me that I did in fact have the right skill set to succeed in litigation.
Michael: How long did it take you to get qualified?
Catherine: It took me about 7 years from start to finish because I did my law degree and then the CPE part-time. I then took a year off studying before I started the LPC as I was so exhausted from working full time and studying part time. It certainly was not easy! My training contract was only 18 months because I was fortunate enough to have ‘time to count’ which meant my previous work experience counted towards the amount of experience required to qualify.
Michael: How long have you been qualified?
Catherine: 10 years this year in April. I qualified on April Fool’s Day in 2011! I started my legal career in 2004 when I was 24. It’s taken a long time to get here and I can’t quite believe I’ve been in the legal profession for 17 years. It doesn’t feel like that long at all!
Michael: So, it sounds like a real labour of love?
Catherine: I wouldn’t consider it a labour as such, as I’ve loved every minute of it. Of course, there’s been highs and lows. Points in my career when I have wondered if I wanted to do it anymore. Having children and navigating a career in law has its challenges. And litigation can be pretty exhausting at times. That’s why being a self-employed consultant solicitor works so well for working parents. It’s flexible and allows you to pick and choose your own hours and clients. So, I wouldn’t say it’s a labour as I have loved it. More a journey with some challenges along with way but I’ve definitely ended up in the right place.
Michael: So, you decided to start your own law brand, Hooper Hyde. Why?
Catherine: Because I wanted to leave a legacy. I wanted to be able to say, ‘I built that’. To be able to say that the business wasn’t just handed to me. Not that I’m playing down the traditional partnership route. It’s hard being a partner of a law firm. There is a lot of pressure and expectation. I just didn’t want to go down the traditional partnership route, in another law firm that I hadn’t built and didn’t have much sway over. I wanted to be able to build something that I was proud of and that reflected my core values, particularly around people and family.
I also wanted it to be me, which sounds a bit arrogant. But I don’t mean it in an egotistical way, more in a kind of “I bring something to the legal profession that many other lawyers don’t, through personality and a sense of lightness and friendliness”. A lot of the larger corporate firms struggle to get personality across and, to a certain extent, perhaps they don’t want to. I wanted my clients to know that lawyers are normal people just doing a job. We want to do the best jobs for our clients, but ultimately, we are human beings.
Michael: Did you struggle to show your personality in a large firm?
Catherine: Yes, I think that’s what I struggled with and that’s why I struggled to carve out a place in the larger firms. I do have a strong sense of identity and I wasn’t able to squeeze my square-peg self into the round corporate holes. I remember during my training contract, I was told I was over-confident and needed to dumb myself down, because I was coming across as arrogant. But I am the least arrogant person you’ll ever meet. It was a real shame because it really knocked my confidence for a while. I thought, why is being self-confident and self-assured a problem? Am I supposed to be someone I’m not? That was hard to hear and was probably one of the catalysts for starting my own firm.
I want people to feel like they can be themselves and I want that to be a good thing in the relationships they have with their clients. Not “don’t do that, don’t be that”. I want people to flourish and for them to play to their strengths not feel like they have to pretend to be someone they are not. That’s hugely detrimental to a person in the long run.
Michael: Starting a firm can be daunting and many people are put off by that. Why did you go for it and how have you done it?
Catherine: I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted my own firm. And I’ve been exploring it for a few years. So, I thought to myself, I’ll sort of leave it up to fate to a certain extent. I won’t over think it. I’ll just explore it and see how far I get. “If it’s meant to be it’ll happen and if it’s not meant to be it won’t”. So, I approached it very much with the idea that I’ll take each step as it comes and as I need to take it and see what happens on the other side. I won’t overthink it; I’ll just do it. So, the first stage was to try to get a PI quote and if I can’t get one then, that’s the decision made. So, I applied, and I got a PI quote, so I thought ok well the next step is to submit my SRA application and see what happens. But I never quite got that far, as you know.
Michael: You saw the Bamboo Platform, which seems to have enabled you to think differently. How?
Catherine: It became clear quite quickly to me that there were many benefits to using the Bamboo Platform to launch my firm versus going it alone. That was the biggest thing for me was not having to go it alone. Not having to learn all of the compliance elements, not having to worry about the accounts side of things. Someone in the background reassuring or advising me. Having someone holding your hand through the process. I’ve never run a law firm, so there was going to be a steep learning curve for someone like me starting out on my own. The time that takes was putting me off. If I am spending an hour or two a day dealing with this stuff, I am not spending an hour or two a day building the business or fee earning. There was a disconnect and a very steep learning curve ahead of me. The Bamboo platform eliminated a large proportion of that learning curve and concern.
Michael: Have you lost any freedom or control over the direction you take your brand in using the Bamboo Platform to start and run your firm?
Catherine: No. Absolutely none whatsoever. The only thing I don’t have freedom or control over is compliance which in all honesty I’m absolutely fine with! In terms of the look and feel of my brand, absolutely not. You haven’t said anything about the look and feel of the brand. You might hate it for all I know. So, the bit that’s important to me remains within my control, absolutely
Michael: We try very hard not to be the brand police. We want to allow you as the brand owner to express your personality and where your firm is coming from. Our job is to keep you safe.
Catherine: I definitely feel like that is happening, for sure.
Michael: Your brand is called Hooper Hyde and you can visit hooperhyde.com. Tell us what your ambitions for your firm and hopes for the future are as you set out on this journey.
Catherine: I don’t have aspirations to be this humongous law firm. But I do eventually want to have some employees, fee earners, paralegals. I would like to eventually have a trainee. Someone who I can train to become a solicitor, who I can keep within Hooper Hyde or send them on their way into their career. I have always envisaged being a team of ten people for some reason. I’ve got this idea that there are ten of us, I don’t know why, all working in Hooper Hyde in some way, shape or form and looking after our clients and being human beings whilst we are at it enjoying our work, and having a really great work/life balance.
I would like to service clients who, I suppose, are similar to me. Owner-managed businesses who are looking for a human lawyer and who want sensible, commercial advice. I think people often think that litigation is just about issuing a claim but there is so much that can be done way before that to resolve a dispute that doesn’t ever need to get close to court action. I’d like clients and prospective clients to see my firm as not just a law firm, but an extension of their businesses and team members.
Michael: You’ve started a law brand this week – how do you feel?
Catherine: To a certain extent I feel no different to before as I’ve still got work to do, still got clients to look after and on the other hand I feel quite excited and equally terrified as I am putting my ideas out into the world and I am going to tell everyone about it. That’s slightly scary and I feel a little vulnerable. It’s really exciting and terrifying in equal measure.
Michael: Finally, what’s behind the name Hooper Hyde?
Catherine: My surname is Hyde, but my maiden name is Hooper. Both of my parents have passed away, my Dad 18 months ago and my Mum 6 years ago. It’s a bit of a nod to them really, because I know how proud they were of the fact that I was a solicitor. They were more proud of that fact than I was until recently. I’d never really thought how great an achievement that is. So, the name is in memory of my parents and the support they showed me over the years. When your parents pass away, I believe it gives you a different perspective on life. For me it made me realise that all that matters at the end of it all is people. I believe Hooper Hyde will really reflect that in all aspects, from the inside and out.
If, after finding out more about Catherine’s journey to joining the Bamboo Platform, you’ve been inspired to start your own law firm, feel free to get in touch. We’d be more than happy to discuss how Bamboo can help you achieve your career goals, just as we have done for Catherine Hyde.