’I am in my mid 40’s and have been qualified for 20 years in personal injury. I specialized in EL/PL including VWF/hand arm vibration syndrome before having 4 years out at 6 years PQE. I worked for both national and regional all firms.
I returned for 2 1/2 years doing defendant RTA fraud with a national firm before taking another career break. I returned to law in 2015 again to RTA fraud before becoming a team leader in 2016 of a mainstream fast track RTA team. I work for a large national firm.
I feel de-skilled due to the lack of complexity and work in an office where the vast majority of people are not qualified. I feel bored and unchallenged and remuneration is poor. I would like to practise in a more technical area where I could utilise more of my skills and knowledge but I am concerned about how easy this would be due to my age and career breaks. Which areas could I transfer to?’
Elizabeth O’Mahoney, solicitor, BL Claims
I note that your reasons for wanting to change area are mainly that you feel the work you do is unchallenging, the pay is poor and your team are not up to scratch.
My first question is whether, in fact, it is not the area of law that is making you disillusioned, but instead it’s more a case of finding the right firm to provide the challenges and support that would best suit your work expectations.
Perhaps you should take stock of what attracted you to the PI arena in the first place and concentrate on those things, to see if another firm would be able to offer you what you are currently lacking. The RTA/fast track personal injury area has indeed changed in 20 years, and of course, just like anything, will continue to evolve. But with change comes opportunity and maybe your firm just isn’t providing you with the opportunities you desire, rather than the actual area of law itself.
That said, your skill set, although you haven’t described exactly what your USPs are, would surely fit other related areas that may offer more of a need for technical analysis. Certainly, the Clinical Negligence and child abuse (personal injury) arenas which I am part of, provide legally and factually challenging high level work. But this too comes with the usual red tape headaches of funding and proportionality as well as some seriously harrowing stories that you must experience. The marketplace is saturated in these areas, with high level candidates far outweighing the number of positions available, so it will be a real challenge for you to change areas and is very unlikely to happen overnight.
Your age and your career breaks should not be a bar to moving roles, but your experience will be. You need to show a genuine interest in changing areas instead and doing your research is key. Just like any other candidate you will need to set yourself apart from the rest, your prior experience may go to show a deeper understanding of the PI arena and a proven legal track record, but employers will also be looking for a genuine interest in these areas and evidence of a commitment to the field, such as pro bono work, extra qualifications or the contacts you have made.
There are many child abuse and clinical negligence charities that I am sure would welcome your time, if this is a route you are interested in pursuing You may also benefit directly from this by meeting relevant people and developing the contacts you need if you are serious about moving to a more challenging PI environment.
I note that you are a team leader at present and I think it is unlikely that you will walk into a similar level role in a different area. You should be prepared to work your way up again and possibly even expect a reduction in salary, whilst you learn this new area. You will need to factor this in.
As an interim, have you thought about applying to study a course that you could complete in your own time? Perhaps this would provide you with the challenge you are looking for? It might even present you with useful ideas on how to enhance your existing role or benefit your team or firm in general The firm may even assist with fees. I am currently partaking in ongoing study backed by my firm as it will undoubtedly assist our client offering. Alternatively look for a course in the areas you wish to move to, which can present you with a taste of whether that area is for you. You certainly do not want to end up achieving a move only to discover the same issues of being unfulfilled in your career.
Perhaps a friendly chat with a recruitment consultant might be useful, as they might be able to guide you more in terms of your skills and aspirations I recommend Daniel Lewis, who is an excellent recruiter for the clinical negligence sector. I am sure he would welcome contact through linked in.
The Gazette endeavours to feature as many of your questions as possible but regrets that our careers counsellors are unable to reply personally.