So, you’re an experienced professional considering swapping to a legal career? Here’s how to go about getting work experience to help you consider what type of legal career you might want – and whether to try and make the jump!
‘Career changers’ can have a lot to offer law firms, and many will be glad to hear from you. However, as you might have realised, it’s a tough career to get into, both in terms of retraining and how competitive the hiring process is.
What do you want?
The first step is to know what you want. Why is it that you want to change job? What are you not getting from your current job, and what are you looking for in a legal career?
Have a good reflection on this, including talking it through with some people, because knowing what you want is key to finding it. You can start looking without figuring it all out, but bear this question in mind as you do.
Reflect on your career
Your career so far is part of your narrative and (hopefully) a strength of a potential future application. As part of your preparation, think about all you’ve done throughout it, what you’ve learned and the transferable skills you’ve developed.
If your career has involved legal elements, or otherwise relates to the area you want to work in as a lawyer, great! But if it hasn’t, there are still plenty of relevant soft skills and experiences you can find and things you will have that a recent graduate is less likely to.
Understand legal career pathways
There’s plenty on the AllAboutLaw website about law career paths. Make sure you understand the different careers and pathways available to you, starting with the difference between a solicitor and a barrister!
Be aware that the route to qualifying as a solicitor is about to be reformed with the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). It’s scheduled to be introduced in 2020, initially overlapping with the current system, so this might affect your timing.
Explore the legal world
Learn about different types of law firm and areas of law. Check out law firms’ websites to see what they do (and how they market themselves) and read interviews with lawyers of all types. There’s a lot of variety: while all legal careers involve the law, that’s about all they have in common!
Commercial firms are different to high-street firms and boutiques, and areas of law can be vastly different. What are you interested in: litigating, being in court, or giving some variety of advice?
Craft your narrative
Have a full version and a short version that explains you in one or two sentences, like you might use to introduce yourself at a networking event. Who are you, what are you after in a law career, what type of work are you interested in and, most importantly, why.
Talk to people
See if there’s anyone in your network who is either a lawyer or would be happy to introduce you to one. Reach out to people to see if they would be willing to meet up and share their experience. Law careers fairs and targeted ‘career changer’ events will all be useful, as well as talks and seminars, often at law firms, which you can attend to both learn more and meet people.
Look for work experience!
Now you’re ready to begin the arduous task of looking for work experience. It won’t be easy, but now you’re very well prepared!
• Look on law firm’s websites to see if they have work-experience schemes that you can apply to.
• Find relevant people and contact them. Contacting the HR department at a firm is a good start, but if there’s a type of law that takes your interest you could also contact a lawyer directly. Sometimes it’s easier to get some sort of work experience sorted when someone can vouch for you internally!
• Attend law fairs or other careers events and ask for work experience there.
• Make sure that your online profiles are up to date and tailored to this transition.