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To ask your advice about re-training in law with a young family?

(85 Posts)
jinglebellmel Sun 08-Oct-17 09:59:35

Okay so first of all, sorry, I realise this isn't really an aibu or particularly interesting but hoping it'll get seen by more people here.

I'm 33 with 2 preschool children, currently on mat leave from a fairly unfulfilling but flexible/family friendly admin job, and am feeling a little as though life has passed me by! This isn't what I'd imagined myself doing, I'm reasonably bright but for one reason or another just don't feel I've made the right decisions or fulfilled my potential career wise. Law is something I'd always wanted to do when I was younger and I'm wondering if I should just bite the bullet and try to retrain.

I'm hoping that some of you might be able to give advice. From what I can see the pathway would be a graduate diploma in law (which I could complete via distance learning while my baby is so small), a lpc or bar qualification and then 2 year training contract.

So assuming I'm correct with the above my questions are,
Would doing the graduate diploma via distance learning be seen as less valid than attending university? Is there any financial help available or is this all self funded? How hard is it to find a training contract? Are all training contracts full time hours? Are they paid? How difficult is it to find a job once newly qualified? What is the starting salary? Is there much option for part time/flexible working in this profession?

I know that's a lot of questions sorry! Would really appreciate any insight at all.

SassySausageSupper Sun 08-Oct-17 10:02:57

I believe you need an LLB to be eligible to do a graduate diploma.

SassySausageSupper Sun 08-Oct-17 10:04:14

Sorry, I just checked - it does look like you need an undergrad degree of some sort. Not an LLB.

scaryteacher Sun 08-Oct-17 10:05:47

I thought you meant retraining your mil!!!

jinglebellmel Sun 08-Oct-17 10:06:00

Thanks sausage, I've got an undergrad degree in an unrelated subject smile

jinglebellmel Sun 08-Oct-17 10:06:50

😂 it's an idea scaryTeacher!

emsyj37 Sun 08-Oct-17 10:10:47

The graduate diploma is the 'conversion course' that you can do if you have a non-qualifying degree. Do you have a degree? How academic are you? Do you have outstanding A levels and a good (2:1 or better) degree from a good (redbrick/Russell group) university? If not, you will struggle.
I have quit law and am delighted to be out of it. If you want to do it then you will need to undertake some work experience - without it you don't stand a hope in he'll of getting a training contract, even with faultless academics.
Do some work experience then think further. Law is mainly about making money for the firm, not 'justice' or 'getting the right legal answer'. The hours will be long whilst you are junior. If you like the idea of legal research etc then may I suggest you look at the civil service graduate schemes? More family friendly although less money.
I would never go back to law and would never advise anyone to get into it. Most of the lawyers I know are looking to leave the profession. Gloom and doom, but that's the truth - sorry.

AnnDerry Sun 08-Oct-17 10:12:23

I'd look at the figures for the number of law graduates (GDL included) compared to the number of places on vocational courses (LPC/ BPTC) and then the number of training contracts and pupillages. Overall most law graduates do not become practising lawyers because although the number of places offering the vocational stage (LPC/BPTC) has been massively expanded in recent years, the number of professional training places has not. This is not to put you off, but it is worth knowing that the odds are not great.

An alternative route would be CILEX. Degree level apprenticeships are becoming more widely available and it means that you train on the job, whilst being paid. It's a recognised legal qualification which many people subsequently 'upgrade'. Some universities may be offering the CILEX/apprenticeship route as either distance or blended learning options.

emsyj37 Sun 08-Oct-17 10:17:51

CILEX is a career route in itself, you can do the LPC once qualified as a FILEX and then call yourself a solicitor, however you should be aware that in the firms I have worked at, that route to qualification would not be considered equivalent to the 'traditional' route and your salary and promotion prospects would be limited as a result. This may not be the case everywhere but it has been my experience. Think carefully about all the options before you invest time and money in retraining.

jinglebellmel Sun 08-Oct-17 10:19:02

Emsyj thanks for sharing your experience. I have A levels (not outstanding by any means) and a good 2:1 in English literature (not from a Russel group university though). I do think I'm academically strong but haven't really applied myself in my youth so don't have the qualifications to back that up unfortunately. It sounds very competitive, not family friendly and not entirely fulfilling from what you're saying, so definitely some things to think about.

Me264 Sun 08-Oct-17 10:23:19

How you do your GDL will not matter a jot. What kind of law do you want to go into? Big city corporate law will pay for your training if you get a training contract with them, but is totally incompatible with family life. Regional and high street firms are more family friendly (although not that much tbh) but are unlikely to pay for your training and the salary is much, much less.

jinglebellmel Sun 08-Oct-17 10:23:29

AnnDerry thank you for the advice, it's helpful to have a realistic view. I'm too old to make any more bad decisions so good to know the downsides!

Oldie2017 Sun 08-Oct-17 10:27:28

It depends where you want to work and what you want to earn. For me (and my daughters) it is very very fulfilling and very well paid but we did go to pretty good universities and have high exam grades, I was top of year, won prizes etc. Not showing off, just explaining the routes to earning a lot in the bigger firms. However there are less well paid solicitor (and barrister) jobs all over the country which take people with not quite so good exam results and all firms like people with life experience, sometimes work in other fields (I have done a lot of intellectual property work and we used to hire people who might have a PhD in biotech for example who would then requalify do the GDL etc etc).

Do look at the new route to qualification coming out in I think 2020. You will do a part 1 standard exam which presumably will be part of the equivalent of the GDL now and then a part 2 which could be done whilst earning a wage as some kind of trainee under a new system coming out soon. it might make things easier for you.

People who are academic and good with clients and good at marketing who start at perhaps not a great law firm but at least get qualified can then move throughout a long career gathering clients and moving to better and better firms and work up that way.

Good luck. I never put anyone off law. It's a wonderful career and life and also intrinsically interesting. I have yet to find an area of law I find boring.

emsyj37 Sun 08-Oct-17 10:30:07

I am now a civil servant in a technical role - it offers all the plus points of law (IMO!!) and cuts out a lot of the crap parts. It isn't perfect, but it is challenging, interesting and family-friendly. My work involves legal research, customer contact and no chargeable hours or billing. The salary is a lot less than I earned in a magic circle firm and a bit less than I earned in a large regional, but it is flexible and not stressful and I am in the north west so it is a good option financially.

pizzafrenchfries Sun 08-Oct-17 10:52:09

I've done this... well I did the lpc as I already had a law degree. I'm on my second/final year as I did it part time... I'm already regretting doing it! It was a rash decision I
Made when pregnant and I've realized I don't really want to work in law after all but have paid for it with a masters so may as well do it.

I have to say if you have two children then I really would do it all part time if you're planning on doing it.... the sheer amount of reading is incredible. On top of that a lot of the people on full time courses are 21/22 and so have a very different lifestyle- can be completely dedicated, live at home, can accept very poorly paid jobs/internships with no worry about childcare. Even on the part time course people are very competitive and tend to be early 20s. I have a legal
Mentor (based in the north east) who works in a law firm who basically said to
Expect a starting salary of 16-18k so
If you're expecting this is a way to enter into a high street firm earning £££ then think again!

I would say get some work experience in a local practice if possible just so you can see what it's like before committing £20,000 plus. You might find some practices will
Pay for you but where I'm based that doesn't seem to happen unless you're talking corporate law firms which really does not match family life at all. Hope that helps!

gingertigercat Sun 08-Oct-17 10:59:20

The lpc is around £10k most places on its own and I know a lot of people who have forked out for it and never secured a training contract. The types of firms that do offer to pay for this are generally big city firms where you're expected to work long hours.

I haven't yet seen a part time training contract I'm afraid, although I have seen one that allowed for condensed hours mon-thurs in order to have Friday off for extra study.

I would recommend trying to get into being a legal secretary first if you have a strong admin background as it will give you the work experience you need in order to secure a training contract if it's what you really want and will give you a good flavour of what life in a law firm is like. Cilex is a lot cheaper and easier to complete around an existing job as opposed to an lpc but it's a big commitment if you have a family as well, although I know people who have done it very successfully.

In terms of pay, unless you're going to a big big firm, it's generally not as much as you'd think.

Aridane Sun 08-Oct-17 11:02:44

TBH - you are unlikely to get a training contract unless you are outstanding- there is such stiff competition these days. Not trying to be a misery guts - just realistic

jinglebellmel Sun 08-Oct-17 11:10:32

Thanks everyone, some really helpful advice and lots to think about. from all you've said I think, sadly, this might not be for me. It's so tough, I desperately want a career I can be proud of, but it's very difficult with young children, I just wish I'd been more career focused at a younger age and already had this all sorted sad I know I'll be encouraging my kids to get a career started before settling down!

jinglebellmel Sun 08-Oct-17 11:12:55

Oldie, you must be very proud of your daughters! Thank you for your advice, really helpful.

Pizza, ahh sorry it's not turned out to be what you wanted. Amazing your are doing it with children though, a real achievement, I hope in the long term you'll be glad you did.

pinkdelight Sun 08-Oct-17 11:27:15

A friend's husband did this when they had very young DC. He did graduate conversion and went into corporate law with a training contract. It was tough but he managed and I wouldn't say he was all that exceptional, though he was very very detail oriented (and pretty dull) so it suited him much better than his previous work in marketing. He was London based, which may have helped with opportunities. And though he wasn't the primary carer he still did his bit and wasn't an absent father by any stretch. Just giving you the positives as no doubt there'll be plenty who'll tell you all the drawbacks.

Nikephorus Sun 08-Oct-17 11:30:17

I thought you meant retraining your mil!!!
I was expecting a "my SIL keeps bringing her rowdy young kids round - how can I change their behaviour?" thread. I'm disappointed.

Rhubbarbpieinthesky Sun 08-Oct-17 11:41:08

I would recommend CILEX to get into law. I'm currently studying at the same time as working full time and being a lone parent. Yes it is very tough but it is the most flexible way to get a law qualification imo as you can go at your own pace and choose when to study. I do wish I worked part time whilst doing it though.

summerbreezer Sun 08-Oct-17 11:50:41

Hi OP smile

I am a barrister, albeit one who went into it at as a first career.

This statement of yours really stood out to me:

it's so tough, I desperately want a career I can be proud of, but it's very difficult with young children, I just wish I'd been more career focused at a younger age and already had this all sorted

This to me is the crux - do you think that perhaps it is not a career in law that you want, but the things that a career in law represents? Achievement, status, money?

I am not criticising you wanting those things - many of us do. But there are other ways of achieving them. You should only go into law if you are 100% committed to every aspect of it - and that includes a good understanding of the many downsides.

Through mini-pupillages (barrister work experience) and scholarship interviews, I see many many women who are studying for the Bar as a mature student. Women who have spent years raising children and have now decided that it is now their time to shine.

In many cases they have spent many thousands of pounds (it now costs around £40,000 to do a degree and train as a barrister without scholarships or extra funding). The truth is that the Bar is romantic - the Inns of Court are beautiful, the job feels exciting, and I would not do anything different.

But there are many many downsides - self-employment sucks, it is ridiculously competitive, I regularly have to cancel engagements because I get a last minute case in for the next day I need to prepare.

I am just not sure that every entrant to the Bar really has a full understanding of these downsides - they spend the money and then find out the realities later on. I feel particularly sad about it when I see a mature student wtih children. These are intelligent women - why are they putting themselves through this?

I have thought long and hard about why that might be, and I think it is partly to do with the reasons you identify - people who perhaps did not fulfill their potential when young and now have something to prove to themselves. Law is a good marker of having "achieved".

But the fact is, that is not a good reason for going into law. My advice to you is to do some work experience and see if you actually like being a solicitor. A high street solicitor out of London has a very different life to an associate at a Magic Circle firm.

I would then suggest the CILEX route that has already been mentioned. Both the SRA and the BSB (the regulatory bodies) are very focused at the moment on creating diverse pathways into the profession. A CILEX qualification in a few years will probably enable you to do anything a solicitor can do. (Whether that is right or not is another question).

So, to sum up a ridiculously long post - I would have a re-think on your motivations. You can (and I am sure will) succeed and realise some of those earlier ambitions - but please do not do it at the expense of yours or your family's happiness.

NeverTwerkNaked Sun 08-Oct-17 11:59:01

I love my career in the law. I’m probably a rarity but I am a bit of a geek and love learning new things.

If it’s what you really want to do then I would definitely recommend you look into Ilex or legal apprenticeships rather than spending a fortune before you have had any actual experience of the day -job (academic law and law in practice can be quite different)

I’ve managed to find a way to have a decent career and work around school hours, but I get the impression this is still quite rare in the law (and I do spend all my evenings working to keep up the pace - if I didn’t I would be stuck on v boring work I expect!)

honeylulu Sun 08-Oct-17 12:27:14

Hi OP. Law was a second career for me and by the time I decided I had a mortgage and was no longer supported by my parents so it was part time or nothing. I had no kids though. I did a distance learning GDL over 2 years. It was quite tough going as I had to attend the uni for a long weekend once a month - taking thursday and Friday off work each time and as essay a week. plus exams as well as working full time. I stuck the fees on credit card and then applied for a career development loan but was turned down because I already had "other funding" ie credit card bill I couldn't pay off. (I'm not sure if GDP are still available but take heed.) I had to move banks before i could get a loan.
In the meantime I also changed jobs to get as much legal work experience as I could. I worked in the legal department of a water company and then for (what used to be) the Legal Aid Board.
Applied for loads of training contracts before starting LPC - a really wide range from City firms to small high street practices. Got lots of interviews but early on I secured a contract with a London firm (albeit one that did not agree to fund my LPC). The feedback I got was that my work experience made me stand out from all the run of the mill graduate applicants. Having said that the competion was nothing like it is now. In those days (late 90s) there were twice as many applicants for places available. Now it's something like six times as many!!!
Finally got a career development loan to do my LPC which I did over two years at evening classes at a College of Law branch about 45 mins drive away. It nearly killed me. It was soooo hard working full time and then travelling to college two nights a week and getting home at 11.30. On the evenings in between I had to do reading, coursework, study for exams. I felt like I had no life for 4 year although my partner was great taking over 100% of cooking and domestic stuff at exam times.
One good thing was that I was accidentally more successful in my LAB role than I'd planned and got promotee from admin to exec and then consultant in 3.5 years! So I was able to pay off all the loans thank God before i started my training contract (for which I actually took a pay cut).
The two years training was a doddle compared to the four years of work + study. I have no idea how anyone could cope doing it with children, though there were several in my LPC course who were parents of young ones.
Sorry that's probably but a tale of encouragement but it is tough. Possible though if you're a very resilient person.

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