Guest blogger and career changer Clio Togni explains how signing a modelling contract aged 12 and life as a circus artist inspired her to pursue a career in law.
People from all sorts of backgrounds regularly change careers to re-train as lawyers, but have you ever heard of a circus performer making the switch? I appreciate it sounds like a long-shot and somewhat bizarre, but that’s precisely what I’ve set out to do. And here’s why.
Coming from a circus dynasty, performing has been in my blood from birth. I have been fortunate enough to travel the world with my parents, allowing me to experience different cultures, values and customs, as well as, learn multiple languages. This has shaped me into a truly global citizen.
Meanwhile, my curiosity with the law started at the age of 12, when I signed my first ever contract with a modelling agency in Italy. Though I had absolutely no idea what all the complicated phrases contained in the contract meant, it was intriguing to discover how a few pieces of paper could have so much power over a person’s obligations and indeed freedoms. From there on in, I started to teach myself some of the key principles of contract law.
Then aged 15, after having attended the circus academy in Italy, I started travelling on my own as a hand-balancer artist for Cirque Du Soleil and have won several prizes, including ‘Best Artist of the Year’ in 2015 and ‘Silver’ at the Princess Festival in 2016.
I have always loved performing and being able to transmit to the audience is something unique. It has taken years of hard graft to arrive at the point of artistry that I am at. As a performer, you have an immense sense of responsibility to both yourself and the co-performers as well as the audience. Making a mistake on stage can physically hurt me, injure my colleagues and ruin a performance in less than a heart beat.
There’s tremendous pressure, stress is a constant factor, and you hardly ever get a proper vacation. What’s more, being a specialist act like I am, or even the main character of a show, means no one can replace you. That’s meant dragging myself onto the stage on many occasions whilst suffering from pain and even sickness.
Some contracts I’ve entered into in the past have been tough both mentally and physically – for example, performing four shows a day for two consecutive months with no days off.
Having now given you a better idea of my performance background and how the entertainment industry works let me return to law. Over the years, my work has seen me review, re-draft, negotiate and then sign over a hundred contracts on my own behalf. And though it might sound nerdy, I really enjoyed the process and consequently aspired to pursue a legal career in which drafting and negotiating legal documents would be a central feature.
My wish was to go to law school, but how could this be achieved when I was changing countries every six months? My solution was to continue working full-time whilst studying law part-time online with the Open University.
Combining travel and daily performances with my studies was immensely challenging but I was determined to succeed and kept at it. Thankfully, five years of hard work and determination eventually paid off and in 2019 I obtained my law degree. This was an especially proud moment for me because I was the first in my family to graduate and attend university.
I am currently studying the Solicitors Qualifying Exam prep course with BARBRI and will be taking my first set of exams in November. I still have a long and windy road ahead, but feel confident that I will soon be able to fulfill my long held ambition of qualifying as a solicitor. And I hope my story inspires others to follow my lead.
Performing in a circus ring and working as a lawyer may on the face of it feel like being worlds apart. But working as a contortionist with Cirque Du Soleil has gifted me with endless transferable skills, which I’m sure will prove invaluable in my next career. Here’s to the next chapter!