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solicitors/legal recruitment people - what's on your wish list for a tc application from a career changer?

(7 Posts)
KnitFastDieWarm Tue 07-Jan-14 16:38:25

I'm 26, and am in the process of moving from a much-loved but not long-term career as web editor for a finance firm to becoming a solicitor.

I considered law when I graduated but, I will freely admit, I was a rather airy fairy early 20 something and spent the next few years travelling/trying a variety of jobs/working out what I was good at. I fell into publishing, then into copy editing in the financial services field, where to my utter astonishment, I discovered that I found compliance, property law and other things my 20 year old self had deemed boring, to be just my cup of tea. I enjoy combining my attention to detail and methodical mind with the intellectual rigor of legal issues and their application to the business world.

I've done a day's shadowing at a local solicitors (thanks, ex Dbf!) and am currently taking some undergraduate courses with the university of London alongside my full time job. I can now use westlaw, write a case note, and explain the difference between English and Scottish property law (I'm a riot at parties, I tell you...)

anyway, the point of this rather long post it to ask recruitment partners et al; what can I do to make myself stand out amount a sea of keen new graduates? I'm looking at West Country firms in particular.

many thanks in advance for any hints!

KnitFastDieWarm Tue 07-Jan-14 16:40:39

amount = among
iPhone keypad = not conducive to proofreading!

HungryHorace Tue 07-Jan-14 22:31:46

What's your first degree in? If it's not law, are the undergraduate courses you are doing going to give you the equivalent of a qualifying law degree? If not, I assume you'll be doing the GDL followed by the LPC?

Do you know if the firms you're targeting have a preferred law school?

The firms will need to know you're serious and you've thought it through carefully. That you know about the legal climate and what's affecting firms at all levels at present. What do you know about the Jackson reforms, for instance? Commercial awareness is a biggy too.

What can you bring to law? What skills from your previous career are relevant?

I don't really think being able to use Westlaw is a selling point, or knowing the difference between English and Scottish property law, sorry.

If you're applying now in the hope of getting sponsored through law school you'll need to be outstanding on paper and in person.

Apply for vac schemes too. Or at least do more than a day's shadowing.

I'm a career changer currently doing a TC and the climate is TOUGH. You'll need to be exceptional to be successful as there aren't enough TCs about.

AmandaCooper Fri 10-Jan-14 20:16:13

Where are you in the process? Have you completed the graduate diploma? You are around the age I was when I converted to law. My 'in' was to apply to train in something very niche. I then changed track to something more mainstream once I qualified by networking hard. The landscape's changed a lot since I was applying but someone's got to make it so be realistic but don't be totally discouraged. With your tech knowledge particularly with you being web savvy you should be an asset - lots of firms are struggling to get to grips with social media and establish an online presence. You should think about blogging or even just retweeting legal info. Make connections online; get lawyers to follow you. Showcase your marketing skills.

HelloBoys Mon 13-Jan-14 10:15:09

You can get into legal firms but I work in a small South London practice and our workload has dropped a bit in the past year. not as busy as year before etc.

Conveyancing, wills and POA are quite popular right now in our smaller firm. the rest not so much. we have taken on 2 immigration solicitors in past 6 months, one who's Iranian (concentrating on that market) and they get work but it's certainly not a lot and is hard work to get. having said that one guy is 64 and seems to have hardly any work despite advertising. he doesn't seem to have get up and go TBH.

Litigation and dispute resolution is where a graduate friend of mine works for a big firm in Bristol and I think intellectual property I was told by a colleague is big too. You really need to concentrate on bigger cities for work especially in SW England. My grad friend was working for a magic circle firm as an intern and competition is high and she wasn't taken on after she qualified. hence the Bristol job she now has.

Smaller firms are great but it can be very much like wading through mud re progress in 21st century. The firm I work for has a very dated 90's website etc and is on twitter etc but doesn't use it at all.

You could quite easily train to be a paralegal/legal executive and do things that way, in fact a colleague of mine (civil lit) said rules have changes re firms doing that and training.

CheshireSplat Sun 19-Jan-14 00:08:12

Hi Knit.

I started my training contract at age 27 after a first career as a computer programmer. So a similar age. I don't think my precious experience helped me from a specific skill point of view but the maturity did help me get through the assessment centres. I'm not sure I would have done at 21.

I think the most important thing is to get as much work experience under your belt as possible. Apply for as many vac schemes as you can - you may have to take annual leave to be able to do that. Also work on any contacts you may have.

You've said you are interested on West Country firms. I'd stress any links to the particular locality. Forms do not want to go to all the hassle of training someone just for them to disappear soon after their training contract.

Lots of people get training contracts now by having worked as a paralegal so that could be something to consider. Although some firms do seem to use that as a way of getting overqualified people in as paralegals with no real plans to give them training contracts.

Feel free to PM me if you have any more questions if that would help.

SoozleQ Sun 19-Jan-14 00:50:26

I've spent the last 13 years at a large international corporate firm in one of their regional offices. I'm not a partner but I do carry out first stage interviews for training contract positions.

We want people who are genuinely enthusiastic and interested in working both in the relevant areas of law we practice and in our firm itself. We want you to demonstrate you fully understand the skills required to do the job well - attention to detail, commerciality, ability to work in a team.

For a mature applicant changing careers, we would want you convince us that you had really thought through your decisions and that this was genuinely the right career choice for you. You are likely to have more confidence and present yourself better than a 19/20 year old 2nd year law student but equally we need to know you would be willing to do the menial tasks that as a trainee it is more cost efficient to be delegated to you - we've had our fingers burned before by a career changer who had been head of a department previously but just did not get that if someone younger than him asked him to make some minor amends to board minutes that evening he was expected to do it, not walk out at 5.30 on the dot. He was an exception, I hope, but only lasted 11 weeks into his training contract notwithstanding that he had aced the interviews.

Vacation schemes really are the best way to showcase yourself and firms take on a lot of their trainees following a vacation placement - it's how I got my two training contract offers many years ago. Fill your application form with good examples of team working, problem solving, good people skills analytical thinking. Application forms these days are set up with questions to try and draw those examples out of so make sure your answers are detailed yet not verbose, contain no spelling or grammar errors and, most importantly, are relevant.

Do research on the firms you are applying to. One of the questions I always ask is which firms are our competitors in the local market. If an interviewee names firms that work in a different sector or are clearly lower down the rankings, we would not consider that that applicant was sufficiently serious about working for our firm. We also often ask how you would sell our firm to a client at a marketing event and what differentiates us from our competitors.

Competition is tough. I'm not sure I'd get my job now if I was going through the system at this point in time. Good luck and if you want to know anything else, feel free to ask.

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