During a recent speech to aspiring lawyers at the College of Law, Cherie Booth QC mentioned age and how ‘we’ have not got our heads around the issue.
When using the word ‘we’, she was not only talking about the legal profession, but society as a whole. Booth conceded that new entrants to the profession are more often than not ‘fresh faced youths out of university’, but added that many firms are missing a trick in not realising what more mature entrants can offer.
Booth stressed that firms needed to recognise that a woman, who may have been at home bringing up her children, will have acquired valuable skills during her time spent with her family. Such difficulties are not confined to women. Both sexes face tough employment challenges if they are older, she added.
One organisation that takes this into account is the Government Legal Service. It encourages older entrants, recognising the advantages of offering training contracts to someone who has a bit more life experience.
One government solicitor told me that many practices like to ‘mould’ new entrants and that those who are not fresh out of college would never get a training contract at a City law firm. There may be exceptions to this rule – if there are let us know – but even if the observation is only broadly accurate, it’s a depressing state of affairs nonetheless.