William Dougherty Profile Shot

William Dougherty, former City lawyer

Name:  William Dougherty

Job Title: Co-Founder and CEO at Capacity

Backstory: I grew up in a small, rural town in Scotland. I was the youngest of four children and in the first generation of my family to go to university. Thankfully, university is free in Scotland and I had the opportunity to not only study in Glasgow but also to go on exchange to Australia. Since finishing university, in stark contrast to where I grew up, I have been living and working in London. I moved down here to start a career in law, but after four years left to go full-time on the LegalTech start-up I co-founded, Capacity.

Who or what influenced you to train as a lawyer? Back in school, I saw law and medicine as the “best” subjects that you could get into at university, as they had the highest entry requirements. I wasn’t interested in science, so medicine wasn’t an option. School itself didn’t much interest me, and the notion of following an interest or passion didn’t enter my mind at the time. With the exception of jurisprudence, I hated studying law too – but I’d heard that the job was nothing like the degree, so I went for law anyway. On graduation, it felt easier to remain on the conveyer belt than to engage in some proper soul-searching. There was also an idea of the “prestige” of law – and the pay – which helped draw me in. But as I got older and reality set in, I found limited value in those things.

What was your reason for quitting? I enjoyed many aspects of legal work, but was ultimately left frustrated by the culture in “Big Law”, which can be incredibly hierarchical and bureaucratic. I craved something more creative, innovative, and modern. More than anything else, I needed more autonomy. I decided that, instead of subscribing to the system, I’d dedicate my career to changing it.

What does success mean to you? Living a healthy, balanced and purposeful life. For me that necessitates finding meaning in my work, pursuing my passions, and spending quality time with loved ones.

Imagine a time when you felt like giving up. What helped you bounce back?

In one of my trainee seats I made a bad first impression with someone in my team who I ended up working with every day. This negative relationship made me dread coming to work. It felt like I was being treated poorly and was unjustified. If I hadn’t been doing a training contract, I’d have most certainly have quit during this seat. The only thing that kept me going was the sense that I’d invested so much time into getting where I was and, no matter what, I needed to press on to become a qualified solicitor.  In times like these, the limits of your resilience is really tested and your mindset becomes the most powerful tool at your disposal. I managed to flip my perspective from that of a victim to that of an underdog. I consciously tried to put myself in this person’s shoes. They were under immense pressure and prolonged periods of stress. I actively decided to set myself the challenge of winning over my colleague – not through any falseness or games, but through hard work, sincerity, and showing empathy for their situation. It took many, many weeks and many long and hard days that ran into the night, but after about four months we had a really solid relationship.

What advice would you give to your younger self?  A Socrates quote springs to mind: “The only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing”.

And what about advice to anyone reading this who is also considering changing careers? Read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s around 200 pages but it informs a lot of the decisions I make in my life. My take-away was that by embracing change we can only add to our current skillset, and that we can’t lose what we’ve already gained. If you’re not completely satisfied in your role, I believe you’re taking a significantly larger risk staying put than you are moving on. There’s something out there that you will be passionate about – so go and find it! You can always come back to your old career if your new one doesn’t work out – though I doubt many people do.

If there was one skill you could’ve excelled at during your formative years as a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur what would that be? To be honest, I’m still in those formative years – so maybe I can update this answer in a few more years!