Rebecca Randall, owner of Fontalbe luxury six bedroom villa in the Dordogne and criminal barrister in London.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I left university with a degree in history and, needing to support myself, ended up working in advertising sales and media. I spent the next 10 years working for various magazines becoming an advertising manager, launching a financial magazine and ending at Reuters with responsibility for all the national press accounts. I loved these years but became increasingly disillusioned. It took a comment from my now husband of “what do you really want to do?” for me to take a leap of faith and study law part time, go to Bar School and then qualify as a barrister in 2005. I undertook pupillage at 25 Bedford Row, was taken on as a tenant in 2007 and have been there ever since as a criminal defence practitioner. I have been featured in the Legal 500 as a leading junior for the last three years.
In 2016, much to everyone’s horror, we purchased a derelict paper mill in the Dordogne. After much blood, sweat and tears (and a caravan on the drive) it has been transformed into a 6 bedroom, luxury villa business, Fontalbe. After just two seasons in business we achieved the internationally recognised accolade of 5 stars. I now combine running Fontalbe with my career as a barrister in the UK.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Yes….but not the one I have now! Advertising sales was almost an accidental career choice but I have never regretted those years as I learned invaluable skills that I still utilise in both my careers now. The Criminal Bar had always been a dream from a very young age (reading too many Rumpole of the Bailey books) but was pushed to one side when I thought it was too expensive to qualify. I certainly never envisaged running a hospitality business in a different country.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
A few. Mastering my own self-belief and believing that I was good enough to do what I do. I still sometimes suffer from imposter syndrome when I’m in my wig and gown, but I’ve learned not to show it.
Establishing a business in France, whilst continuing to maintain my career as a barrister in the UK, has been challenging both personally and professionally. However, this has made me realise that both facets of my professional life are equally as important to me being happy and fulfilled.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Qualifying as a barrister and, as cliched as it may sound, making a real, tangible difference to the lives of the people that I represent.
More recently, establishing and running a successful business in a different country in a different language, in conjunction with my ongoing career as a criminal barrister.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
My desire to prove to myself, and those around me, that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to, combined with a large helping of sheer bloody-mindedness.
The people and the support around me; from my friends and my family to my clerks and my colleagues.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
Not formally. However, throughout my career as a barrister there have always been people that I have regarded as mentors and role models, always people that I respect to ask for advice or support when I have been faced with a difficult situation. One of the best things at the Criminal Bar is the level of camaraderie and support at all levels. I also hope that I have always been present for more junior people when they need a helping hand (or a glass of wine). It is more important than ever, with the changing dynamics of the Criminal Justice System and Legal Aid, that more women are encouraged and supported to come to and then to sustain careers as criminal barristers.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
Education and absolute intolerance of the everyday sexism that is bandied around without thinking – why should a woman be bossy whereas a man is assertive? In my very first years of practise as elderly Silk suggested that I was just doing the job for “lipstick money”. I was gobsmacked and, unfortunately, still kick myself for not answering back. Women should feel empowered to be able to call out this sort of unacceptable behaviour, whoever it comes from.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Stand up for what you believe in and don’t take any sh*t.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
To continue to grow my practise as a criminal barrister whilst making Fontalbe into the best, most sought after destination in the Dordogne. And to speak French so that I’m mistaken for a French person.
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