On episode 8 of The Phenomenal Career Podcast, I sat down with Egbe Manton of Manton Legal to explore mentorship, entrepreneurship, legal practice and more. Catch the full episode here and enjoy the interview below.
Who are you? What do you do? What do you get up to?
Well, I am a corporate lawyer. And I also run a consultancy for startups and small businesses. That’s why I do. That’s what I love to do.
One thing that we have in common is that we have a full-time job and a business outside of that. how did that happen? What inspired you to start your own legal agency?
It was by accident, and I wasn’t planning it. The pandemic had hit and a lot of people were reaching out to me saying that they couldn’t get good quality, legal guidance. They didn’t know what to do with all these clients that were terminating their contracts, and what were their legal positions. And so I was giving out that kind of friendship guidance and advice. So you should do this, should you know that. Then I thought there are loads of people coming to me, why do I not do something? There’s clearly a gap here, and people are needing this. So why not step into that gap?
How did your legal journey begin?
I was one of those annoying children that just knew what they wanted to do. I didn’t look for it, it came looking for me. I think the earliest memory was of Stephen Lawrence and the Elephant and Castle inquiry. For me, that whole episode of Stephen Lawrence just blew my mind. I was just like, how can someone be at a bus stop, and then they just lose their life. And then the people that perpetrated that crime, are just walk in the streets. Like, What is going on? It was the 20th century, so I couldn’t understand that. And that’s what intrigued me about law, how it sometimes could be so right and yet, so wrong. So that’s why I fell into it. Then events kept happening, like the Mona Tina, and other key events that just reinforced to me, that I needed to get involved and be part of a change in the justice system.
What’s your favourite thing about working in law?
That it’s ever-changing? There’s never one correct answer. There are always six different answers, depending on how you look at it. So it’s always changing. And I love that.
What keeps you practising it and using it as work in the world?
In my day job, it’s very simple – I do it day in day out. I know what’s going to come across my desk. When it comes to small businesses, you guys are pushing all these boundaries, and then you come to me and say, Okay, I need an agreement and I’m like, right? It makes me think, right, it makes me be a better lawyer. It makes me push myself in terms of legal knowledge and skill. And that’s what I love about it.
you can answer this as an employee or entrepreneur. what is something that your career is teaching you right now?
As an entrepreneur, anything is possible. Sometimes, when you’re in a corporate lifestyle, your career is nine to five, and there’s a hierarchy, right? But with entrepreneurship, it’s just way more exciting. It’s not plotted out. There is no limit on your ability. If you want to go into the product line, or you want to get new class customers in any market, you can. It’s just thinking about what’s the best way to do it. There’s that limitless belief. It’s just so exciting.
I understand for you it’s always been law; did you always know what you were good at? Or has it been a process of understanding your skills and your strengths?
I think it’s been a bit of both. I’ve always been an extrovert and I’m able to easily be personable with clients and understand their challenges and get right down to the crux of an issue, understand the problem etc. Taking on this business, I realised that I have a lot of weaknesses. When it comes to the creative element of my business, I’m just not wired that way. I’ll try my best, but it won’t look as easy and as faultless. When I’m getting a presentation together, the presentation I’ll nail, but the actual slideshow or making something beautiful – that’s not for me.
Going back to your experience within the law and legal practice. Your business works with younger people carving out their career. I’d love to know why?
It was a bit of a trial for me to try and get into law. It was the wrong time to graduate, it was the time of the recession. And I found it really hard. I’ve always had this thing that I don’t want other people to find it as hard as I do, right? Because sometimes law can be seen as elitist and only for a certain type of person which I think is a load of codswallop. To be honest, if you’re switched on, or you have a passion for it, it is possible to teach those young people the skills they need to be able to be successful in their career. I suppose when I started the consultancy, I wanted to be able to have that outlet for young people to be able to come aboard, get good quality work experience and be able to use that on their CV so they could approach other employers who could give them that formalised training that they need to become a solicitor or lawyer or barista. That was my outlet – it’s just a personal thing. I don’t want people to struggle as I did. 21st-century law should be accessible. And whatever I can do to get those people on board or make that journey easier then I’m going to do it. Sometimes it’s someone telling you something, it tweaks and you get it.
Thinking about your own career, what have been those moments for you where somebodies metaphorically pulled you to the side and given you that gem?
I had what I would call informal mentors. I think sometimes it’s important in your career to have somebody that you can touch base with and knock ideas around with. I remember at the start of my career, I didn’t know that I could be really confident and assertive in my opinions.
So I’d sit there and research something for hours and hours and hours and I’d be scared to go and tell my boss this is what I think. He would come and ask me Why haven’t you come to my desk? What is this case saying? I wanted to make sure I got it right. But the thing is, cases are not always right. Sometimes there are different interpretations. And there are different points of view. It was so important for me to get things right and make them perfect. And when he sat me down and said, Look, it’s not about being perfect, you need to just be more assertive, have an opinion and tell me that opinion – let’s debate it. I didn’t realise I could do that.
Do you find feedback important?
It can literally change your life. I always ask the paralegals I work with, the consultants I work to give me feedback because it’s a continual thing. They will see things that I won’t spot because I’m too busy doing A, B or C. I love the fact that they are open and honest with me. Having that open honesty and transparency is so important because then everybody’s growing.
What are the things you wish you knew at the beginning that you’d now love to share?
Put yourself forward. It’s so important to know that your opinions are valued. If I knew that my opinions were valued, I probably would have put them forward earlier. Whatever the situation is now, whether it’s a recession or a pandemic, the world will change, so don’t stress about the fact that you’re not where your peers are. You have a gift. Everyone has a gift, it just looks slightly different in each person. It’s important not to try and compare yourself to other people because you’re made differently and that’s a good thing.