I’m a mature candidate hoping to become a solicitor

Dear Oracle

I’m thinking about a career change and have always wanted to be a solicitor. However, I've heard that recruitment at the big firms is geared toward younger candidates and that smaller firms won't be able to afford to take me either – is there any hope that I can achieve my ambition?

The Oracle replies

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 actually 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 FulbrightHogan LovellsDLA Piper and the Government Legal Profession. Meanwhile, firms such as Addleshaw GoddardShearman & Sterling and Irwin Mitchell welcome applications from career changers and put on open days for mature students. Attitudes toward mature students and career changers seem to be changing in 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 will need to consider how to finance your studies as you complete the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC), as well as how to balance these considerations with any other financial or family commitments you may have – both the GDL and LPC can be studied part time.

Gaining some legal work experience will also be important. 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 the Citizens Advice Bureau is also a great way to gain valuable legal work experience.

Remember that your previous experience is an asset, not a hindrance. 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!

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