Karen Bailey – Principal Solicitor at Bailey, Wright & Co

Karen Bailey – Principal Solicitor at Bailey, Wright & Co

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Karen Bailey the Principal Solicitor of Bailey Wright & Co. solicitors. The firm’s motto is “Where the underdog comes first”. Before they set the firm up, Karen was a partner in what was then a medium-sized law firm, although small by today’s standards. As a partner, she made it her responsibility to understand the workings of the business inside and out, becoming a manager as well as a lawyer.

The firm specialises in her favourite areas of education, employment and children’s law. The firm are constantly striving for excellence and supporting those who often do not have anyone to give them the backing they need in a legal crisis. Karen know’s what it is like to be bullied and oppressed, to have your abilities going unrecognised, unrewarded, or even denigrated. Whether it is their clients, staff, work experience students or mentees, they want people to understand that they are stronger and better than they think.

Karen’s mother had bought a poster of Malcolm X, which says, “To be truly free, we must first create our own economy and agree to work towards its development for the good of us all”.

“Our community talks about such things a lot, and I decided I could and should step up and make a difference. I wanted people to see me and think, “Well, if she can do it, so can I”. That is one of the reasons why speaking in schools, colleges and universities and providing work experience is an essential part of what we do.”

The firm have been honoured to receive several awards in their 26 years in business including the Birmingham Law Society Sole Practitioner of the Year and the Association of Jamaican Nationals Seven Heroes award to name a few. Karen is a trustee of WAITS (Women Acting in Today’s Society) an organisation for empowering women, particularly those who have survived domestic abuse – and the Ladywood Community Project, which helps to improve the lives of families in Ladywood experiencing poverty or financial hardship.

The future plans for Bailey Wright & Co. is to continue to be known as a centre for legal excellence for its contribution to improving the community and supporting those legally disadvantaged. Based on this, the plan is to be known as a successful business which grasps opportunities and adapts to meet the changing needs of its client base.

Tell us about your childhood/ teenage years and any experiences shaping your entrepreneurial journey.

At an early age, when I was around 10 years old, I was told that I would have to work twice as hard to get half as far in life because I was black. I thought this was grossly unfair and resolved to get as far as possible with the least effort, but that work ethic was instilled in me anyway.

I was inspired by the experiences of my parents, uncles and aunts who came over from Jamaica in the 50s and 60s. They did not let barriers stand in their way; they climbed over them and got better at what they did. This led to them being successful and respected – fantastic role models.

When I was 17, I had the opportunity to do a day’s work experience in a law firm. I loved it and decided that this would be my career. I kept in touch and spent my holidays going to work there; by the time I was ready for a job, I had my feet well under the table. It taught me the importance of forging strong relationships in the work world as early as possible.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced running your own business?

It is hard to do everything. We provide a large proportion of our advice to clients who are on a low income and, therefore, eligible for legal aid.This is not conducive to great wealth. I have to pay a massive tribute to our Practice Manager (and my husband), Eddie Bailey, who keeps a firm grip on the finances, leaving me to focus on all other aspects of the business, such as the direction of the firm, supporting our staff, improving service delivery and generating more income.

What have been the highlights of your entrepreneurial journey so far?

The freedom of owning your own business is great, despite the challenges. I consider myself unemployable now. We have had cases that have helped change things for our clients and others involved in similar cases. We have had a case in the House of Lords (now the Supreme Court). Many lawyers can go through a whole career without achieving any of these things. One of our cases was made into an award-winning film – the Whistleblower. Our success, in that case, meant that our client and others involved were able to achieve global recognition of the issue of human trafficking by some of those UN peacekeepers and other agencies who were supposed to be protecting vulnerable people, not exploiting them.

If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?

Focus more on commercial awareness, so that side easily came to me.

The Importance of Mentoring

Our Practice Manager, Eddie, was in business before we set up the firm, so he provides a lot of advice. I also really rate Daniel Priestley, having done his excellent Key Person of Influence course. Besides that, I like to see what others in the business community are doing and learn from them where possible.

If there is one piece of advice you could give to someone who wants to scale their business beyond six figures, what would it be?

Learn from those who have done it successfully.


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