Solicitors - career break

(12 Posts)
rac79 Wed 17-Oct-12 21:28:07

Dear Mummies

I am heading towards being a full-time mum but am currently a solicitor. For various reasons, going back to work full-time isn't an option and there are no part-time opportunities where I work. This has meant to me that I won't be employable (in any practical sense) until I can honestly say that my family is complete and by then (maybe five year s down the line) my skills will be weakened and my experience stale.

This got me to thinking that I can't be the only (almost) ex-solicitor to be in this position. It can be a tough job designed for full-time+ commitment. I have looked at maintaining my CPD through LawWorks or similar but it requires actively seeking employment.

I believe that there are mummies out there, locally, who may need or want a career break from law for a while for the various, complicated, reasons that are involved in this job which precludes them from the LawWorks and PLC options.

If you are one of those mummies, how do you feel about the idea of volunteering your time in a law centre especially designed for your situation? What would you need to have to be interested in doing so? CPD? Practising Cert? Childcare? Etc.

I'd be really grateful for your feedback. I'd like to try to meet the prevalent concerns and see if we can find something co-operative that will help us all out.

Thank you.

MummyBeast Thu 18-Oct-12 09:00:42

I'm a non-practising solicitor. I am still on the roll, and may consider going back to it practice I need to (although I hope not as I have started a different business from home and hope to get that off the ground).

In the past, I have taken a break and gone back before. As my break was only for two years, I found another job quite easily without having to do any formal extra CPD. I just picked up where I left off, but being a swot mugged up for hours and hours on my practice area and read industry magazines etc.

Have you looked at the Association of Women Solicitors' website? They run a course for returners who have taken a few years out of the profession. I looked at their course but it was not really appropriate for me as I had not been away from the profession for long enough.

During my career break I did lots of voluntary work (governor for local school, trustee of local charities) which gave me extra skills and kept my brain ticking over. They were not related to the Law but were interesting and were valued by my employer.

Hope that helps and sorry for the essay!

rac79 Thu 18-Oct-12 09:39:53

That's really interesting thank you!

Looster Sat 27-Oct-12 08:11:47

Have you considered teaching in one of the law schools? I taught the LPC for 5 years part time whilst my kids were young and got back into practice from there - although getting a job took a while, I think part recession and part having been out of private practice. They sometimes use freelancers to teach weekend courses which might be another option if you want to be at home in the week. I'll be honest, I had to argue the case quite strongly with a couple of interviewers as to why they should consider me as 5 years out of practice was a long time. I think if you have a total break, whether you can get back into practice depends to a degree on your area of work and how many other candidates there are (who might have more recently worked). It's not always easy. Do you work in an area where you might get part time PSL work?

rac79 Thu 15-Nov-12 22:33:02

Thanks Looster. Yes, I think that the practice area is a problem area. It is flooded with new blood twice yearly and I can't see that it would need out of date solicitors. I did think about the LPC but it came up in my area as part-time on a yearly basis - so working full time then taking the holidays off. That's not quite what I want when I say part-time - although I can see that it would work really well for some people. I am interested in whether people in my position may be interested in doing something that maintains your CV in the absence of a paid opportunity. So, if there is no viable paid alternative (teaching or PSL are both good alternatives) how about volunteering in an advice role to keep advisory skills going (even if not strictly relevant to practice area), show willing, maintain contact with the outside world, etc. What other requirements would people have to do that - would work be during the day and so childcare needs to be free to volunteers, would it be during the evening (research/evening phone lines) after kiddies are in bed, would hours need to be flexible in those cases, would local law firms need to be involved to offer CPD/general training/back to work initiatives?

Mandy21 Fri 16-Nov-12 11:42:29

Hi there, when you say there are no part-time opportunities, is that in your particular specialism / firm / region? I only say that as I'm a part-time solicitor (luckily managed to stay within my specialism) but have friends / colleagues who do p/t roles in other specialisms and in PSL roles (admittedly we are few and far between but there are limited opportunities out there in my experience.

To answer your question, I think there are limited circumstances that would encourage me to volunteer. Firstly, the whole point of me giving up the career would be to spend time with my children and if I was volunteering, I wouldn't be with them. Also, I wouldn't be able to afford to volunteer (ie without pay) but still have to pay for extortionate childcare. I would potentially consider doing a weekend drop-in clinic or evening clinic if that meant my H was at home and I didn't have to pay for childcare, but then realistically, would a couple of hours a week (dealing with a mixed bag of consumer / family etc disputes I'm guessing?!!) really make a difference to my employability after a 5 year career break? I don't know, its really difficult.

rac79 Tue 04-Dec-12 10:12:20

Thanks Mandy. Yes, I think that part-time is an impossibility in some specialisms. Going into something like PSL work sounds great in theory but it depends on opportunity and also, quite heavily, whether it is in a new firm or not. PSL roles are generally filled in house. Although not always.

Thanks for your input on volunteering. My thinking is that if people are left out in the cold career-wise then having a regular commitment to advisory (or other) opportunities will show dedication, engagement with clients, analysis, general transferable skills and that could never be a bad thing. I think it would help a CV that otherwise has a massive gap in it. The childcare issue is very pertinent. Volunteering would have to be from home on an evening or weekend (research, phone advice etc) or childcare simply would have to be paid for. The problem there is that there are so many legal aid charities set up for various areas who are struggling with funding just to cover the rent etc. that adding an extra requirement of childcare reimbursement might be unrealistic. I'd be inclined to think regular volunteering will boost a CV and provide a reference that would be helpful in getting back into work and would be more effective than a one or two day retraining course. What do you think would be the ideal beyond that? E.g. training across different areas (possibly leading to re-training?), guaranteed interviews with local partner firms after a set period of commitment, other?

Mandy21 Wed 05-Dec-12 14:11:18

As I said, its very difficult. I think the vast majority of solicitors who take a career break to raise a family do other things during that period (whether that be organising the local toddler group, running the PTA, even having a little business) so they still have something to say about what they've been doing in that period of non-employment and maintaining at least some generic skills. I don't necessarily agree that someone volunteering in a legal capacity during that period has an advantage over someone who has applied themselves to something non-legal - unless that volunteering is compatible with their specialism, or a specialism they'd want to get into i.e. a family lawyer / consumer rights / employment / housing etc. If you're at the corporate end of the scale, then I can't see that it would offer anything that an employer would be interested in on returning to work.

kerala Wed 05-Dec-12 14:22:42

I have been out 6 years and am just starting to look for something now so this is quite timely for me.

Personally thought the AWS Return to work course looked like a con - playing on womens insecurities about returning to work by encouraging them to pay to go on that course. No thanks. Surely after all the exams taken and years worked it should be possible to refresh your skills yourself (LPC text books/recent publications etc) so you are employable? I can't believe that by taking 6 years out of a potential 35 year long career you are rendered unemployable confused. Still I will let you know should be writing my application form now!

GreatUncleEddie Wed 05-Dec-12 14:27:27

Some women (I don't really like you addressing me as mummy) won't need childcare as their children will be in school. So they could happily volunteer in such a centre during term time without needing reimbursement.

kerala Wed 05-Dec-12 14:30:34

I considered CAB when my second DD started pre school and looked into it. If I am unsuccessful getting a paid job I might go down that route to bolster current experience but frankly if I am working I want to be paid for it blush

rac79 Thu 06-Dec-12 12:17:54

All brilliant feedback thanks. I completely understand about wanting to be paid for work if possible, I am thinking more about occasions when it doesn't seem to be possible. Also, I agree that volunteering off-specialism (just because it is advice based) isn't better than being paid off-specialism, or indeed volunteering off-specialism. Ultimately that would demonstrate the same skills of communication, responsibility, organisation, dedication etc. So, for example, doing PTA meetings is a great idea too.

Also, apologies for any offence in my use of terminology!

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