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 to just 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: 

Catherine wasilewski

It is fantastic that you have ambitions to change direction and work as a solicitor - 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 I would give is not to limit yourself as you try to get your foot in the door, both in terms of the types of firms you are approaching and the possible routes into becoming a solicitor.

You have stated that you want to work for a major firm, but it is important to have a Plan B in place, as it is not likely that everyone will be able to achieve their dream role at the first time of asking following a career change. Look at smaller firms too, 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 in order to get into the sector.

Use resources like the Legal500 and Chambers guides to research firms that you might want to work for, as well as simple web searches to add to your shortlist.

As to spotting those firms who prioritise experience and maturity, it’s just a matter of asking the question. Make as many enquiries as possible, both in terms of applying to live vacancies and training contracts, but also taking the initiative in approaching the HR departments at the firms in question to ask speculatively if they would consider you for a position. If you are unsuccessful, where you can, ask what they would recommend you do in order to stand a better chance – you may not always get a response but it is definitely worth an ask!

The other thing to consider is whether a training contract is the best way for you to gain the experience necessary to become a practising solicitor. There are now 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 some experience in a legal setting as a magistrate, I would advise you to 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.

The key thing is not to be disheartened if things move slowly. You are entering a competitive market from a speculative position, but you should always remain optimistic. I myself was at a top tier firm when I was practising, and came across colleagues who had come into law later on in life after a successful corporate career, so it is not impossible, but it does require resilience. Good luck!