updated on 30 March 2021
Getting into law as a mature candidate and career changer can be a difficult path to navigate. As a career changer myself, I previously wrote an article for LawCareers.Net offering my advice on where to start if you are a mature entrant or career changer looking to launch a career in law.
Having qualified as a solicitor in 2014, I want to share some further insight on how you can improve your chances of success in the legal profession.
In-house shadowing opportunities
At the risk of stating the obvious, the pandemic has fundamentally altered working practices, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your chances of switching career have diminished.
For example, if you are fortunate enough in the current circumstances to still have a job and your employer has an in-house legal department, consider asking them for any shadowing opportunities. Now that everyone is pretty much meeting over Zoom/Teams, there may be a chance for you to observe a meeting that isn’t confidential or sensitive.
Find virtual opportunities
If you have been furloughed, you are permitted to undertake training (although discuss this with your employer first). Many training courses aimed at lawyers have moved online and some are even free – now that you may have the time to actually take part (assuming you don’t have any caring responsibilities of course) it’s worth researching opportunities that could help to enhance your skillset.
The pandemic has also changed the way that law firms recruit trainees. Some firms, such as Linklaters, have launched virtual vacation schemes so that it is no longer necessary to take time off of work to participate. Have a look around and see whether there are any that suit you and your career aspirations.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses to create successful applications
Be really honest with yourself and identify your biggest strengths and weaknesses. For example, my biggest weakness was my A-level results so I targeted firms who did not absolutely insist on a specific set of grades. If this is applicable to you contact the firms that you are interested in and explain your circumstances; ask them whether you should still take a chance and apply. Every firm wants to know that they are special and contacting them will only ever stand in your favour, as long as it’s conducted in an appropriate and professional manner.
Thankfully, the legal profession is slowly starting to recognise that it is a person’s abilities and not their past academic performance that is the chief factor in future potential success and an increasing number are running their own aptitude tests and/or ignoring A-level results.
My biggest strength was assimilating information and then explaining it to the end user, so I made sure that I drew parallels with this and used it as an example when answering competency-based questions. Analyse what you do you in your current role and consider how it relates to a lawyer’s skillset. This will also help you to establish a bank of answers to these types of question.
Update your LinkedIn profile
Also, now that you may finally have the time, make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Join relevant groups and read some of the discussions. This is a really good time to build a virtual network of likeminded people who might be or have been on a similar journey to yourself. It’s also a great place to learn about firms as well as trending topics that might benefit your commercial awareness.
In my previous article I recommended looking for a firm that already recruits career changers. I would now expand on this to advise candidates to identify the firms you are potentially interested in and see what their current trainees are like. Look carefully at the language they use to describe their ideal trainee. When I was searching, it wasn’t unusual to see terminology that suggested that trainees were mainly recruited straight from university and/or where under 25, but this isn’t as widespread now.
Finally, there can be an air of desperation or panic when it comes to finding a training contract. Try to quiet that inner voice and resist the temptation to apply anywhere and everywhere. Select 10 or fewer firms using the principles set out above and really dedicate the time to writing a good, strong application. It can feel daunting doing that but I am proof that it pays off in the end.
Adele Edwin-Lamerton is the former chair of the Junior Lawyers Division and a specialist employment and discrimination lawyer at Pattinson & Brewer Solicitors.