From Barrister to Butcher
Lucianne Fleming only started working full-time for Aubrey Allen this year, having spent 10 years at the bar as a successful barrister. Carina Perkins asks why she swapped the courts for the cold room
While many little girls dream of dressing up as models or actresses in later life, Lucianne wanted to wear a wig for a different reason. “I knew I wanted to be a barrister from the age of about 12, even though I didn’t really know what it was,” she laughs. “I read about it in a children’s guide to careers, which said it was for people who like talking and dressing up and I thought that sounded like fun.”
It was not until she did work experience at the age of 16, however, that her dream looked set to become a reality. “I still wasn’t really sure what the job would entail, so I did two weeks’ work experience at a chambers in Northampton and absolutely loved it. Then I knew it was definitely for me.”
Lucianne was advised to do a degree she loved, so she studied joint honours languages at Leeds University and spent time living in France and Spain. Having completed her degree, she did a law conversion course at Guildford College of Law, before moving to London to study her bar vocational course. Following her training, she returned to the Midlands to sit at the criminal bar in Birmingham.
Although the work was hard and the hours long, Lucianne has happy memories of her time as a barrister. “I absolutely loved it – it was an amazing life, which was quite unique. You never knew from one minute to the next what sort of case you would be doing, or how long it was going to last,” she remembers. “You need such self-discipline and you work long hours, but the friendship is great. Dealing with crime is a stressful job, but the uplift is that you have that necessary relief – a laugh with your friends.”
Lucianne left the bar when she became pregnant with her son Jack. Although she always intended to go back to work, when she eventually returned to the bar, she did not feel the passion that had driven her career to date. “I really wanted to get back, but when I got back I just didn’t feel fulfilled, I didn’t feel that passion,” she says. “There are a lot of changes going on at the bar at the moment, many of which are not popular, and the sense of camaraderie had gone.”
Unhappy at work, but not one to sit at home all day, it was not long before Lucianne turned to her family business, which is now run by her father Peter. “It was a natural choice; it’s our family business and, in many ways, I have been working here on and off since I was six,” she remembers. “When I was little, we would go with mum to the office or to the shop with dad and sit at the back, making burgers or cups of tea and sweeping up. Pete very kindly sponsored me through university so, in return, I worked every single holiday in the office and, up until two years ago, I worked every Christmas serving in the shop, even when I was a barrister.”
Lucianne initially became involved with organising the business’ 75th anniversary and it wasn’t long before her brother, Russell, director of retail and catered events, asked her to work for him on the retail side. Her sister Debbie also works in the business, making it a real family affair.
Now head of marketing, Lucianne has never looked back. Although she only started working full-time in April this year, she has already set up competition entries, organised the 75-year celebrations, redesigned the product brochure and worked with EBLEX on beef projects. She is currently organising a chef’s butchers school, where chefs can learn butchery techniques that colleges no longer teach.
She says that her skills as a barrister are “totally transferable” to her new role, and give her the edge during business meetings. “At the end of the day, being a barrister is all about communication – being persuasive and keeping things really simple – which actually is what marketing comes down to,” she says.
Although one cannot help but feel sorry for those engaged in financial negotiations with her – “I approach each job as a case and prepare a sort of cross-examination,” she grins – Lucianne’s affable nature and efficient enthusiasm are no doubt an asset to the industry. Used to gleaning every last detail of a case from clients, she tirelessly researches the background of any project she becomes involved in and has a clear understanding of the issues facing farmers and butchers in the UK. After just a few months in the industry, she has already been asked to present a veal seminar to the Royal Agricultural Society. “I am due to speak at the end of October, so I am doing a lot of homework about veal,” she laughs.
Despite the troubled times faced by the industry, Lucianne feels confident about the future of the business. “The meat industry has weathered many a storm over the last 15 years and the recent feed price crisis was another one,” she reflects. “But if you stick to your philosophies and let your customers know what is going on, then you come out stronger.”
Looking After People
Aubrey Allen’s philosophy – one that has seen it through 75 successful years of business – is to strive to be the best and to look after people. This means that it sources only the best meat and looks after the producers that provide it.
“We have developed relationships with our farmers,” says Lucianne. “By paying them a premium for the product plus an uplift – and not passing that uplift on to the customers, but keeping margins low – we have been able to source the very best meat, because we get the top 5% of every yield.”
The business also looks after its customers, taking chefs on farm visits and providing educational materials with information about different cuts and how to cook them. “The chefs even visit the cutting plant and we have interactive demonstrations with our butchers to see how we do it and realistically how many cuts they can order from a carcase,” says Lucianne, who has just finished producing a comprehensive brochure with details of the ‘story’ behind each product. “It includes lots of information about the source of the meat and snippets to put on menus.”
Lucianne’s enthusiasm is infectious and a welcome relief from the doom and gloom pervading much of the industry at the moment. “We are lucky, because we are busy and successful, but I think it is an exciting industry to be part of,” she says. “I particularly enjoy working with butchers and chefs; they are a great bunch of people to work with – so energetic and full of life.”
She is clearly happy in her job, and says she loves the closeness of working in a family business. Importantly, it also gives her the flexibility to spend time with Jack, who “absolutely loves sausages” and often accompanies her to work.
She has no regrets about her time at the bar, however, and would encourage anyone to follow their dream. “I loved it because it was my first love and my passion,” she smiles. “And you can’t live your life without passion.”
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