In the last 20 years, a career in the law has become ever more uncertain. Law schools produce more graduates than there are training contracts and pupillages. Aspiring solicitors work in suspended animation as paralegals. Student debts are stratospheric. The economy is uncertain. The chances of partnership are reduced. And a close government interest in cutting litigation, legal aid and the court service make for a daunting backdrop.
These are not just lurid headlines worked up by the legal media – this is the context in which the Gazette launched its ‘Careers Counsellor’ webpage. We have already fielded many emails from solicitors and wannabe lawyers seeking help, a selection of which we will print each month.
The counsellors are drawn from across the profession and range from sole practitioners, to in-house lawyers, to partners in international firms. Some have had long and varied careers and now wish to ‘put something back’. Others are junior lawyers at the start of their career.
Personal debt and the pressure of demanding targets feature, as one would expect. One notable source of stress is the increasingly specialised nature of practice. With the working environment proving so volatile, a perception that they are too specialised is knocking lawyers’ confidence in their own abilities.
The law can still offer a rich and rewarding career, of course. But never before, perhaps, have solicitors needed so much guidance and direction on how to thrive within it.