I am over 50 and have completed the GDL. I have had a full career and have leadership, management and a host of other skills and experience to offer. I work full-time in the City and am also a magistrate. I am willing to take a pay cut just to get my foot in the door with a major firm for a sponsored LPC/training contract. How do I identify firms that will value my experience?
Catherine Wasilewski, principal consultant at Sellick Partnership and a non- practising solicitor, says…
Your complementary skills and experience should definitely mean you have something to bring to the table at a law firm.
As you may expect, achieving your goal will not necessarily be easy – the market is very competitive – but it is far from impossible.
The first piece of advice is not to limit yourself as you try to get your foot in the door, both in terms of the types of firm you are approaching and the possible routes to becoming a solicitor.
You have stated that you want to work for a major firm, but it is important to have a plan B because it is unlikely that everyone will be able to achieve their dream role at the first time of asking following a career change. Look at smaller firms and make a shortlist of a range of different options, understanding that your expectations should be realistic and you may need to start out at a rung lower than you had originally planned.
Use the Legal 500 and Chambers guides to research firms that you might want to work for, as well as web searches to add to your shortlist.
As to spotting those firms which prioritise experience, it’s just a matter of asking the question. Make as many enquiries as possible, both in terms of applying for vacancies and training contracts, but also taking the initiative in approaching HR departments to ask speculatively if they would consider you for a position. If unsuccessful, ask what they would recommend you do to stand a better chance.
The other thing to consider is if a training contract is the best way to gain the experience necessary to become a practising solicitor. There are a number of other less expensive and challenging routes into the profession, which you can find out more about on the SRA’s website.
Given that you already have experience in a legal setting as a magistrate, I would put that front and centre on your CV and any covering emails you send to firms. It is not easy to make sure your enquiries are noticed due to the volume that hiring managers have to deal with – make sure any covering letters you send are succinct, snappy and get to the point quickly.