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Law as a second career...

28 November 2013

Some people know exactly what they want to do from a very young age and often it seems they want to be lawyers. Good luck to them. But if that’s not you, if you’re tempted by something else or already have a job, don’t write off law as an option for a second career. It’s not as hard to retrain as you may think. In fact, I’ve been surprised by the number of trainees at Browne Jacobson who have done something else before deciding to switch to law. That’s not to say the firm isn’t looking for law graduates but it doesn’t hurt if you’ve tried your hand at something else. For one thing, it should give you something to talk about in interviews.

Before I switched to law I worked as a journalist, first as a producer for radio and TV and later in print journalism. My last job was at a legal magazine that focused on international arbitration. It was there that I began to think seriously about pursuing a career in the law. Deciding to make the switch and go back to studying can seem like a daunting step. There’s the financial pressure of giving up a paid job to become a student again. If you get a training contract at Browne Jacobson the firm will pay for your GDL and LPC and give you a living allowance.

One option is to apply for training contracts while you’re still working and wait to see if you get an offer before committing to the GDL. If you don’t get an offer you can always try again the following year. However, if you decide to take that route, be aware that the calendar can work against you. It’s likely that you will have to apply for a place on the GDL before you hear back from most firms and you may find you are committed to paying some or all of the fees before you know whether you will have a training contract. You could argue that this is a financial risk worth taking.

Assuming you find a training contract and complete the GDL and LPC, what is it like to start over again on a second career as a trainee solicitor? In my experience it is both challenging and exciting to start again at the bottom of a different profession. Whatever you did before is likely to have given you some transferable skills. It can be humbling at times to realise that you know little about what you’re supposed to be doing compared to your more experienced colleagues (some of whom may be younger than you) but you soon get used to asking stupid questions. Everyone has to start somewhere and you’re never too old to pick up new skills. So if you are thinking about switching careers I would strongly recommend the law as a realistic and rewarding option.