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Pinsent Masons Consultant Solicitor Henry Burkitt has a fascination with the northern lands and waters of this world. So much so that in 2016 – aged 34 at the time – he decided to start an adventure sailing travel company in his free-time.
Back-to-back sailing trips to Arctic Norway and then Svalbard were the catalyst, but as a lifelong sailor and qualified yacht skipper, the desire for the high seas was always there.
Now he juggles full-time work through Vario from Pinsent Masons and overseeing the growth of Kraken Travel, an e- market place connecting adventure seekers with sailing adventures all over the world, with a focus on the icy, majestic waters of the far north.
At Legal Geek, we wanted to know how it all came about, and how Henry keeps the whole show afloat.
What led to you starting a sailing business outside of your legal career?
“In 2012, I left the legal profession to sail full time with no intention of going back. I had trained at Hammonds and did three years with them before moving briefly to Reed Smith. Having left Reed Smith I went to work for Neilson as a yacht skipper in Greece for a year, putting my Yachtmaster qualification to use.
“That year left me with the impression that a lot of people do the same type of sailing trip each year; two weeks in the Med, repeat, repeat, repeat, but actually there’s so much interesting stuff out there.
“After returning to the legal profession in 2013, I went on two epic sailing trips over two consecutive summers.
“The first was to a music festival on Traena island, in the Norwegian arctic, where in mid-summer it’s constant daylight, so no-one really sleeps. It’s mad. When you arrive in Norway you take part in the Traena Ocean Race to get to the festival. About 40 yachts race the 36 miles course through a rocky archipelago to be the first to the festival. I was the only English skipper and was put in charge of a yacht with 6 guests on board. We explored the fjords afterwards, including climbing a glacier and sailing with a pod of Orcas – it was incredible.
“The following year I ran a joint venture, again to the arctic, providing a vessel supporting international scientists on a five-week marine mammal research trip at Jan Mayen, a volcano roughly 300 miles north of Iceland which sits on a whale migratory route, before taking the vessel to Svalbard and doing a circumnavigation of Spitsbergen. On that trip the boat got as far north as the ice cap and a Polar Bear was spotted.
“These experiences led to me forming Kraken in November 2016, with the mission of making trips like these accessible to anyone with an adventurous spirit.”
How did you get back into the legal profession in 2013 after a year away?
“It wasn’t the easiest thing, but it was certainly easier than getting a training contract!
“On my return from Greece, I still didn’t expect to be going back to the law. I actually started painting and decorating, but I didn’t enjoy it and it turned out I was rubbish at it as well! So, needing a job, I took the first thing that came along which was a document reviewer role. I was over-qualified and not paid much but I took it and it soon led to me joining Pinsent Mason’s Vario as a legal freelancer. That tripled my salary overnight.
“So it turned out that it wasn’t too difficult to get back into the legal world, albeit I work as a consultant rather than a private practice lawyer. But that is something I have chosen to do, which I really enjoy and which supports the flexibility to run Kraken as well.”
How do you juggle working as a lawyer and running a business?
“I am full-time with Pinsent Masons with no time set aside to work on Kraken. I work on Kraken in my free time. It’s detrimental to my downtime. I have a daughter now so I’ve got to be careful how I divide my time. It got a bit out of hand last year but now I just segment my time better and it’s working fine.
“During Kraken’s start-up phase, I allocate some of my legal income to pay someone to do the work on Kraken which I can’t do myself. It’s swapping money for time I guess. One of the other benefits of doing both is that my legal work gives me headspace from the worries of running a start-up business, such as why hasn’t the phone rung in 4 days or why has something cost me another several thousand pounds?!”
What are the benefits to your legal career of also running a business?
“At Pinsent Masons, I work in the Financial Products and Payments team and we deal with a lot of start-up FinTech companies. I have found it much easier to talk to the founders of these companies, than if I hadn’t started Kraken, because when speaking to these guys it’s from a position of knowledge as a business owner. Knowing what it’s like to be an owner stands you really good stead.
“It also seems to be a good thing for Pinsent Masons. My boss, Tony Anderson, will often introduce me to a new client by describing what I do outside of work as well as what I do as a lawyer. Pinsent Masons’ Vario have used me as a case study to attract freelances by highlighting that I manage to run a business outside of work, something which would be much more difficult as an employee and which lots of freelancers also do.”
Henry Burkitt is a Consultant Solicitor working through Vario for Pinsent Masons’ Financial Products and Payments Team; and the founder of Kraken Travel.