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It's never too late to retrain in law: top tips and advice from trainee lawyers13th February 2018
This year, we conducted a widespread survey to find out from mature trainee lawyers what it's like to start out in the legal profession a little later in life.
From their answers, we've gathered together the very best tips and advice on how to take the plunge and begin your journey towards a career in this challenging and rewarding vocation.
Who becomes a lawyer later in life?
A very good question. The biggest group (47%) of our survey participants were aged between 25 and 29 when they first began their training. However, nearly a quarter (24%) were aged between 30 and 39, 19% were between 40 and 49, and 10% were over the age of 50.
They also came from many different backgrounds. A few (11%) were studying before undergoing a law conversion, but the vast majority (75%) had converted from a different profession.
These professions ranged broadly from veterinary care, public services, law enforcement, business, healthcare, retail and more.
From this, it is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all template for what a lawyer should look like, or what their previous experience should be. As such, the profession is open to all of those who have a keen interest in law and an ambitious determination to succeed.
Why become a lawyer now?
As with most things in life, the reasons our respondents gave for becoming a lawyer varied widely. However, a few common themes emerged.
A passion for justice
'I was always passionate about doing something about the injustices I have witnessed.'
Inspired by others
'Having experienced the legal aspects of working with intellectual property, I was inspired by the lawyers and litigators in the department and decided to further my skills and pursue a career in law.'
Wanting something more from life
'I felt like I was working to live and did not enjoy my job. I felt like I was stuck going nowhere, and was honestly feeling a little depressed with myself and what my prospects were.'
'Employees in this sector tend to receive generous salaries and this is also of interest for me moving forward in my life.'
Starting a new career has its challenges
Retraining has its own unique challenges, and choosing law for that new career can mean additional obstacles to overcome. If you're considering switching careers later in life, it's best to start with your eyes wide open.
'I was told by a large City firm not to bother applying as I wouldn't pass the application screening due to my age.'
'Interviewing alongside younger candidates, I felt a lot of pressure to 'be better'. I think I got fewer interviews generally, especially from bigger law firms.'
'Having responsibilities such as a family and owning a home, you have to consider the possible effects studying will have on your life.'
'I had to do a part-time degree due to childcare and my part-time job, which meant I was not able to take part in any extracurricular societies or activities.'
Getting back into education
'Being out of education for so long mean I had to readjust to an educational/classroom environment.'
'I didn't study law at college, so I feel I am behind those that did.'
But don't lose sight of the advantages
Despite the challenges, there are real benefits in choosing to wait until later in life before embarking on your law training. This was an area our respondents spoke most passionately about:
'I have work experience in other sectors and have already developed professional skills that can be applied when beginning a new career.'
'I've had experience in other areas, such as dealing with conflict, and have occupied positions of responsibility, giving me a broader understanding of working life and how organisations and businesses run.'
'The difference in perspective between myself and my younger peers is very evident. The angst of youth is absent and in its place there is the benefit of years of self discipline and extensive experience in a variety of differing commercial environments.'
'Building relationships with clients is vastly easier in your 30s than it would be in your 20s'
'Knowing how life works in the real world makes law much more applicable.'
'I can understand concepts and put them in perspectives based on my life experience.'
Confidence and determination
'I have an established work ethic, I have my priorities in the right order and I have more drive to succeed because I have had the experiences I have.'
'I've had the time to consider what it is I actually do wish to pursue a career in.'
Advice to those considering a career in law
We asked our respondents what specific advice they would give to those who were thinking about starting a career in law - here's what they said:
Love the law
'You have to love studying the law.'
'Be passionate and know why you want to enter the profession'
Be sure you want it
'Only proceed if you are fully motivated and prepared to dedicate a huge amount of time to reading and study. '
'It's expensive and a big commitment - be sure that law is what you want to do before doing so.'
Use your age to your advantage
'Age will undoubtedly be a handicap in certain instances - however, sufficient strategic forethought will largely negate any such drawbacks. It's essential to recognise that one's experience can be an invaluable asset with employers.'
Do your research
'Investigate and research the realistic consequences of such retraining, particularly in relation to different spheres of law.'
'Don't be put off from applying. Older people have a lot of experience to offer and in many ways are a safer bet than many younger people.'
'Don't let any of your insecurities stop you as you're just as good as those who are younger than you.'
And one last section - practical tips from our respondents to help you start off your new career on the very best foot:
'Look at the skills you already have and what sector of the legal world they will fit into.'
'Ensure you have some practical experience prior to commencing studies to ensure you are committed.'
'Immerse yourself back into the legal world. Don't mistakenly think that your previous understanding/point of view will be sufficient.'
'I'd definitely try and study it as a level/foundation degree if you haven't already, as you get a head start on your degree.'
'Apply for vacation schemes and mini-pupillages to gain experience.'
If you are looking to start a new career in law, visit our careers page for current job vacancies and trainee solicitor opportunities here.