It’s quite surprising how friendly law is when it comes to welcoming more mature people and career changers. Many law firms and chambers look for the wider life experience and transferable skills that second-career people bring with them, so if you’re thinking in this direction, keep on reading in this direction!
A large number of older first-time lawyers :
In 2017, the average age of people admitted to the Law Society’s roll of solicitors was 29. This, when you think about all the youngsters in their early 20s, means that there’s quite a few people in their thirties and even forties getting into a career in law.
It’s not a cake walk, though. You may well have to pay for your tuition fees if you’ve already got a degree and if you’ve also got a family and an existing job, then you have to find even more time! That’s before you have to compete with all the other candidates looking for training contracts and pupillages. You have to impress recruiters.
The academic part :
If you already have an undergraduate degree then you must do the one-year Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course. If you don’t have a degree then you’ll have to do the three-year LLB (it can be accelerated, but this won’t suit everyone). If you do the LLB part-time, it’ll take longer and there’s also the option to do the GDL over two years.
Then comes the vocational stage – for solicitors it’s the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and for barristers it’s the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). These can both be completed in one or two years depending on whether you’re full or part-time.
Realistically, you need a 2:1 at least if you want a training contract or pupillage. Competition for places is tough so employers will look at academic grades to help them to filter out candidates. If your A levels were a while ago then they’ll diminish in importance, but your degree will always matter. However, if you’re looking at the more prestigious law firms in the City, then you’ll need a decent crop of A levels to even get an interview, so make sure you aim your applications at realistic targets.
Your work experience :
If you’re a mid-life career changer, then you’ll already have valuable experience and this can help to set you apart from younger candidates, so make the most of it.
It helps if your previous experience is somewhat related to the legal field – a job in finance, for example, if you’re looking at a firm that specialises in corporate law. This is not essential, though, because you should be accruing legal work experience.
This can be tough if you’re a career changer because you probably have lots of other commitments, but it’s essential. You may need to be patient and book two weeks’ holiday several months in advance so you can do a mini-pupillage, for example.
You could also, if finding time for a pupillage is difficult, volunteer at a pro bono law facility for a few hours each week, thereby building up your experience (and exposure to the rock face of legal practice). You do have to face it though, it’ll involve some sacrifices, but the very fact that you’re prepared to make them will tell potential employers a lot about you.
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