Explore how Lisa Fitzgerald became an Ontra legal partner and is able to support her family while continuing her restorative justice work.
Ontra lawyer spotlight: Mario Christodoulou
Mario is a lawyer based in London. While he traditionally worked in-house at financial services companies, he’s recently taken an interest in training in psychology. Partnering with Ontra has given Mario the freedom and flexibility to plan his career change while retaining his legal skills.
Mario, tell us about yourself?
I studied law in the UK at the University of Bristol and then trained at a niche boutique law firm in London specialising in luxury assets, like superyachts and aviation. Other than that, most of my experience has been in financial services — working for insurance companies, reinsurance companies, and insurance brokers. A lot of my career has been in-house because I enjoy client contact and a good work-life balance.
In my spare time, I like going for hikes. We’ve got some beautiful mountains in England, so I’m constantly doing that in the summers. I’ve got a dog as well, who I take for long walks out in nature. I’m quite into yoga and meditation, and over the last few years, human behaviour and psychology have grabbed my interest. In the mid-term, I’d quite like to train in that field.
How long have you partnered with Ontra?
I joined in November 2021 but started my first engagement in mid-January. I think I’ve settled in. I’ve got a good relationship with the account managers and clients now, as well. So, it doesn’t feel new. I feel like I’m part of the furniture.
How does Ontra fit into your life?
It’s been great. I’ve got the flexibility, freedom, and autonomy to decide how to manage my time, so I can easily juggle my responsibilities. If there’s a period of downtime, I can squeeze in a workout or take the dog for a walk. It’s very easy to slot around whatever else is going on in my life — seeing friends, seeing family, studying as well, which I hope to do in the next year or so.
Are you working with another business or taking on other clients?
At the moment, I’m only working through Ontra, and I’ve got four clients. My mid-term view is, once I’m training for something else, on the psychology side, I’ll work with Ontra customers on a part-time basis. I enjoy having both the human and legal aspects of the work, so I don’t want to lose that. I can have the best of both worlds with Ontra.
So, Ontra is enabling you to shift careers?
Yes, that’s correct. At the same time, I’m keeping my foot in the door on the legal side, and not losing all the work and studying that goes into becoming a lawyer. Usually, when I think of a career change, it’s all or nothing. But with Ontra, I don’t have to shut that door.
Did the career change influence you to partner with Ontra?
It was definitely a big factor. I wasn’t aware that I could keep my foot in the door on the legal side. I thought it was either be a lawyer or don’t be a lawyer. When you’re looking for legal or other roles, most are full time, as well. If you want to do something part time, whether to study or practice in another field, you don’t normally get that option. When the opportunity with Ontra came up, and I had the option of doing both, that was one of the key factors for joining.
How did you learn about Ontra?
I had seen job adverts for InCloudCounsel at the time, and I remember thinking it was quite an unusual setup. I didn’t look too much into it, and I didn’t think I’d be suitable because many of the clients are M&A focused. But then I reached out and got through the process, and I’m glad I did.
What was the process like getting started with Ontra?
It was very quick. Everyone I spoke to was really approachable and friendly and made me feel welcome. Especially once I joined, I felt part of the team. Speaking to the recruiting manager or the account managers, even though I’m not part of Ontra, I feel like I am.
Also, on the technology side, everything’s streamlined. Using the platform helps me manage my workload and check where things are in terms of status. And it acts as a reminder for me — stops things from slipping through the cracks. I like the prompts, as well. For example, if there’s a particular restriction on an NDA, the lawyer gets a prompt on the platform. It’s all these things that go towards making my life easier.
What are the benefits of partnering with Ontra?
The biggest benefit for me is the freedom and flexibility to work on my terms. When an account manager reaches out to me with an engagement, I know what the volume is. I can decide whether it’s for me based on how much involvement the client requires in terms of the playbook and flagging terms.
Being able to make that decision for myself has been such a good shift of mindset. I’m working for myself, which, for me, is really motivating. Often I’m up early in the morning, ready to work. I’ve never been like that. I’m not a morning person.
The playbook process is another benefit, as well. The contract reviews are streamlined. You’ve got all the instructions in the playbook, and rarely do you need to seek further instructions. Having that playbook and being able to get on with the work saves time. I don’t have to reach out to clients all the time and I can get on with the job with the deal teams. It’s all there in one package.
The other huge benefit is exposure to Ontra’s customers. Without Ontra, I wouldn’t have the setup necessary to reach these businesses. It would be quite hard for me to find my own clients. I’m not sure whether I’d be able to invest time in that.
How would you say Ontra has improved your quality of life?
I’ve worked for quite a few years in-house, so work-life balance has always been huge on my agenda. That only further accelerated with Ontra because I don’t have to be tied to my office chair. Depending on the workload, I can run errands, go to the gym, walk the dog, and meet other commitments with family or friends.
I have the flexibility to manage my own time and there’s a lot of support, as well, from the other lawyers on the accounts. There’s a bit of a community. If I need or want to take a day off, usually the other lawyers are more than happy to pick up some additional work. It’s a nice, supportive atmosphere. It’s great to know that you’re not by yourself, whereas, if you were a traditional solo practitioner, it’d probably just be you.
And the fact that I don’t have to do any invoicing or much on the administrative side. I have more time for myself and more time to actually do work and generate income. That’s having a direct positive impact on my life and how much spare time I have.
Would you recommend Ontra?
Definitely. I think many lawyers, myself included, don’t realise that this type of legal work arrangement is an option. Once lawyers realise that they don’t have to work in that traditional setup and can have this type of flexible arrangement, especially post-COVID, a lot of people will be interested. I’ll certainly be shouting about Ontra from the rooftop.
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