updated on 30 March 2021
I’m in my 40s and thinking about retraining as a solicitor, but is there any point? I have heard that recruitment focuses on young graduates.
The application and recruitment process at many firms can seem geared toward candidates who are trying to get into law as a first career soon after finishing university, but the reality is that many firms go out of their way to welcome career changers and value the wider experiences and perspectives that they bring.
Commercial firms that have attended the Law Society’s workshops for mature students and career changers in the past include Norton Rose Fulbright, Hogan Lovells, DLA Piper and the Government Legal Profession. Meanwhile, firms such as Addleshaw Goddard, Shearman & Sterling and Irwin Mitchell welcome applications from career changers and put on open days for mature students. There is a welcoming attitude towards mature students and career changers at many firms right across the legal profession.
However, the competition for training contracts is intense, so pursuing your ambition will take a lot of hard work, compromise and perseverance.
You must think about how to finance your studies as you requalify. If you have a non-law degree, you can complete a law conversion, which makes you eligible for the Legal Practice Course (LPC). Or, from September 2021, having a degree in any subject (not just law) will make you eligible for the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) and optional SQE preparation courses. Balancing the process of changing careers with other commitments will be important. The law conversion and LPC, plus any new SQE-preparation course you might decide to take, can all be studied part time and through online learning only or a mix of online and face-to-face teaching. For more information on the benefits of virtual study, see LawCareers.Net’s guide to online learning.
Gaining some legal work experience would be hugely beneficial. Begin your research into law firms that interest you early and then use this research to help you apply for a vacation scheme placement at a firm. Volunteering for a pro bono organisation such as Citizens Advice is also a great way to gain valuable legal work experience.
Remember that your previous experience is an asset, not a disadvantage. All your previous employment experiences are evidence of valuable transferable skills, while it is even better if your previous role has some relevance to the firm you’re thinking of applying to (eg, a previous career in finance or business will stand you in good stead if applying to a corporate firm).
You may encounter obstacles and be passed over unfairly by some lawyers, but keep at it as there are many employers that welcome career changers and mature applicants. Attend law fairs, open days and other events, and network as much as you can – your local Junior Lawyers Division will also be able to help you in this regard. Good luck!