In this post we’ll be providing some advice to overcome some of the (perceived) obstacles to pursuing law as a change of career.
The decision to change careers is not one to be undertaken lightly, especially when your proposed new career is law. Not only do you have to find the time and energy, alongside working, to break into the legal profession, but you have the additional pressure of being certain that the decision to leave behind your existing career is the right one.
Here are my top tips:
Research the profession
Changing career can feel like it comes with a weight of responsibility to make the right choice. You may not feel like you have the time to dedicate to the process of getting a training contract, you may already have a job that you enjoy and don’t want to give up readily, or you may just be worried that you’ll be considerably older than or different to your fellow applicants.
While none of these is a barrier to pursuing a career in law, it is important to do as much research as possible to fully understand what your prospective new career will involve.
You will probably have some idea of what area of law interests you; be it family, criminal, commercial or something else. Nothing can give you an insight into the day to day work better than obtaining work experience within a firm though. Vacation scheme placements and work experience are difficult to obtain for any applicant, but it is by no means impossible even while already in full time employment.
Once you are certain that a career in law is for you, the next step is to find the right firm in which you can see yourself flourishing in your new role.
Researching firms is important for any applicant, but possibly even more so for career changers. You may have additional responsibilities outside of work, or just be more certain about what is important to you from your employment.
For me, work-life balance was very important when choosing which firms to apply to. I also knew that i needed to find firms that were looking for candidates from diverse backgrounds, as it was important to me to feel valued as an individual and not just another “faceless” trainee. Law fairs, online research, insight evenings and vacation scheme placements are an excellent way to really get a feel for a firm. All firms will talk about their “cultures and values”, but spending time within a firm is the best way to see if this really translates into practise.
Finding a firm that’s the right fit is crucial because, as a career changer, you bring a wealth of experience that you want to know is going to be viewed as an asset.
Capitalise on your previous experience – it’s an asset!
Don’t underestimate the value of your previous work experience. Even if your previous/ existing career is completely unrelated to law, you come with a wealth of transferable skills that will stand you in good stead to succeed in the legal profession.
From the very first stages of the process, your existing career will be something that sets you apart from other applicants. In the competitive legal arena, this can and should be used to full advantage.
So, once you’re sure law is for you, and you’ve identified the firms you want to apply to, don’t let any concerns about the alternative path you’ve taken to get to that point hold you back. A lot of what you may consider to be irrelevant will make you unique and, in a firm that prides itself on collaboration and teamwork, you will soon be reassured as to the value of what you bring to the table.
For further advice on how to research firms, please read our post 'how to start researching a firm'.
If you have any questions about a career at shoosmiths you can email us at [email protected] or have a look at some frequently asked questions here.