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Law or Teaching

(24 Posts)
MrsBee55 Tue 02-Feb-16 15:13:53

Hi all,

I've stalked mumsnet for a very long time but have only recent felt the need to post.

I'm at, I suppose what you would call, a bit of a crossroad in my life and I just don't know what to do. I have worked as a paralegal/legal assistant for the past 10 years and always knew I wanted to become a barrister. Due to family commitments (caring for parents, now passed), I attended uni late(ish) and achieved a first in English Lit. I then planned on studying a conversion course, the GDL, allowing me to apply for all of the funding I can find in order to study the BPTC, the course needed to become a barrister. I have since decided to take advantage of the new government funding for Master's degrees and applied to do a two year MA in Law, which will cover the GDL and has the added bonus of the MA.

However, for the past year since finishing my degree, I have been lecturing at my local college. I basically fell into the job and I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. It's such a different world to what I'm used to and I've quickly become quite comfortable in the teaching world! Now I'm wondering if I should give up the dream of becoming a barrister and pursue teaching instead.

I have an extremely supportive husband, we're both in our late 20s and own our house. We are looking to move soon and have based our search around my future studies (MA, BPTC, pupillage, etc.), this has narrowed our search area somewhat and the thought of being able to teach and train anywhere is also very appealing.

I would work part time through the MA and BPTC (studied part time), whereas I would be on a full time wage if I chose the teaching route. I know my oh would love to start a family soon and that is another factor that is looming over me. I had my whole plan mapped out and knew I wouldn't be in a good position to start a family until after my studies, putting me at 32ish, but I am starting to feel the pull of wanting to do it sooner.

Aarrgghhhh I just don't know what to do! I don't want to make a decision I regret later on in life but then I also don't want to feel like I've put my life on hold. Should I do the MA in Law or go straight into teacher training?

EssentialHummus Tue 02-Feb-16 15:25:50

Have you done any mini-pupillages or other practical experience of what barristers do? A) it'll help you make the decision and B) getting a pupillage is very competitive so a couple of mini-pupillages would be a help on your CV.

In your shoes, I'd be minded to stick with lecturing. It's local, you're good at it (by the sounds of things), they know and like you. Speaking from the sidelines (solicitor), qualifying as a barrister seems like a long, hard, risky journey - very few pupillage places, lots of very bright applicants, limited funding in some areas, low pay in most practice areas for at least the first few years, and in some cases for longer.

What appeals about the profession and what have you done career-wise to make a good candidate for it?

PurpleDaisies Tue 02-Feb-16 15:31:36

Now I'm wondering if I should give up the dream of becoming a barrister and pursue teaching instead.

Do you mean as a secondary school teacher or staying in fe? Teaching is both brilliant and awful at the same time. Pop over to the staff room board to see.

Racmactac Tue 02-Feb-16 15:46:25

there was a thread a few weeks ago about a teacher wanting to leave teaching to become a Solicitor.
It was very informative and you might find some assistance. Sorry but not sure how to link.

MrsBee55 Tue 02-Feb-16 16:41:53

Wow I wasn't expecting replies so quickly, thank you all smile

EssentialHummus - I have done mini pupillages and have worked as an assistant to in-house barristers so I'm aware of the work, competition and demands, etc. When I actually did this work I loved every minute of it, even the working late and weekends part. However, when I look back on it now I just think what on earth was I doing ha, and the thought of committing myself to that environment again does scare me as I just don't feel I have that passion. It's strange, I've wanted it for so long and without noticing it's seemingly just changed.

The majority of my friends are lawyers and they all encourage me to pursue teaching. But then my family and oh think I'm crazy to give up!

PurpleDaisies - I would like to stay in FE teaching, however, my current colleagues have advised me to do a PGCE/Cert Ed that covers secondary and 16+. It does sound like a safe option in terms of the amount of secondary schools to colleges, although admittedly I have no experience working in a school. I will have a dig around the staff room board, I just had a quick look and it didn't do much to ease my concerns that I might regret giving up on barristerville lol!

Racmactac - I think I know the thread you're talking about. I've been doing a lot of searching to find stories from people who are in a similar boat and I found a couple of old posts on here; one teacher wanting to become a solicitor and an experience solicitor who had made the jump to primary teaching. I think each had convincing arguments, so it didn't do much to aid my decision making but it's nice to know I'm not alone.

I think a large part of the fear I have is if I choose teaching it feels like I'm giving up on the thing I have worked towards for 10 years. But then in not giving up, I could be just chasing it for another 10 years and feeling like things are on hold! It feels like the last decade has disappeared without me noticing and I think my focus has changed. I'm feeling like I would just like to settle into a career and get on with life without having the constant chase on my mind, but then there's the possibility of future regrets!!

Indecisiveness is a tool of satan! angry

MrsBee55 Tue 02-Feb-16 16:42:40

Also, sorry to be so moany! I promise my future contributions to this site won't be as bleak smile

TeaT1me Tue 02-Feb-16 16:44:55

I worked in a sixth form college and was able to do a distance pgce whilst still keeping my job and just some time out in secondary. It might be worth looking to see if this is still possible.

PurpleDaisies Tue 02-Feb-16 16:45:04

You could give the barrister route a go and go back to teaching if you don't enjoy it. At least with teaching it really doesn't matter how old you are when you start training, and your experience will be really useful.

Good luck with whatever you end up doing. smile

noblegiraffe Tue 02-Feb-16 16:50:20

Don't go into teaching if you don't want to work late and weekends.

It's also not good if you are planning on starting a family.

MrsBee55 Tue 02-Feb-16 17:16:35

TeaT1me - I have been encouraged by quite a few teachers/lecturers who were able to study the PGCE alongside teaching. I know there are downsides when it comes to bursaries and funding though but it is the option I would go for if I decide to pursue teaching.

PurpleDaisies - thank you smile My oh has the same advice, he thinks I should get the MA and then it's always there if I change my mind in the future. It is good advice, I think I'm just feeling a little battered by the whole chase of it and the thought of staying in my current job and training on the side then being settled to start a family much earlier is very appealing.

Noblegiraffe - this seems to be the vibe I got from a quick visit to the staff room forum on here. The post that stuck out the post to me was 'teaching is a mug's game', although it did make me chuckle! I don't think I've come across a profession yet that is easy to do if you're starting a family, I know law is notoriously challenging to do alongside starting/raising a family. However, it is possible to find the positives in both.

I think I could talk myself out of just about anything at the minute. My new indecisive nature has spread to all parts of my life, tea or coffee, bath or shower, aaaarrrgggghh lol! A friend suggested doing some teaching abroad during the summer holidays, an English camp in Thailand for example, in the hope of achieving some sort of epiphany!

noblegiraffe Tue 02-Feb-16 18:02:56

OK, you want to go into teaching and then settle down and have a family. What if you realise you hate teaching and decide to get out (the turnover rate is very high, so this is a real possibility, our NQT and NQT+1 are both quitting this year)? What are your options then? I think it's something you need to seriously consider, education is heading for a meltdown.

MrsBee55 Tue 02-Feb-16 18:36:07

Unfortunately, this is precisely the thing stopping me from making the decision. Teaching is still very new to me so I obviously can't rule out the possibility of growing to dislike it years down the line and, in turn, regretting making the move into teaching in the first place. But I supposed there's just no real way of knowing if that will happen without doing it, I could love it!

I must say, both professions seem to be filled with horror stories and regrets. Some of my lecturing colleagues despise what they do and there are a couple who lecture part time because they find it too stressful doing it full time. I've met similar stressed out, miserable people working in law though.

I think overall, though, when I think about it I've had the starkest warning from teachers about going into teaching. Which has really surprised me!

TheClacksAreDown Tue 02-Feb-16 20:17:26

IT is enormously difficult to get a place at the bar. Really very hard indeed. I know quite a few people who have excellent cvs, degrees from Oxford/Cambridge etc who have spent a lot of money trying and failing to get pupilllage and tenancy. Have a good cold look at the stats of people who go into Bar school and how many of them become practising barristers - the figures aren't high. Even then, unless you're in a commercial set the pay can be poor and unreliable. I'm not saying you shouldn't or you wouldn't necessarily make it but you need to be realistic about your chances here. Otherwise you risk being another person who wastes several years of their life and tens of thousands of pounds chasing an unobtainable dream.

JizzyStradlin Wed 03-Feb-16 16:09:08

I'd stay in FE. Trying to become a barrister is incredibly tough, I can't imagine how you'd do it if your heart wasn't 100% in it. Solicitor here, if that helps.

You're also potentially looking, if it doesn't work out, at trying to re-establish yourself in FE around the same time as you'd need to be thinking about starting a family. After all, you'd need to allocate 3 years to do the necessary further study, then realistically 2-3 years trying to get pupillage before giving it up as a bad job if you didn't get one. Which would put you about 35 from what you've said. Not sure how many kids you want, might be viable if you know you'd only like one, but personally I wouldn't fancy having to re-establish myself in my old career knowing I don't really have a couple of years to bed back down before TTC. Alternatively, you might be successful in getting pupillage after a couple of years, in which case time still not really on your side! Maybe if you were to go GDL and BPTC full time and only allocate 1-2 years tops to try and get pupillage?

MrsBee55 Wed 03-Feb-16 19:00:04

Hi Clacks & Jizzy! Thank you for your replies. I really do appreciate everyone's input and I'm finding it extremely helpful.

I am aware of the dire stats around achieving a career as a barrister. I have worked alongside many who gave up after several unsuccessful rounds of applying for funding for the BPTC, and an even larger number working as paralegals after completing the BPTC unable to get a pupillage. I have never seen myself as a stand out candidate and have always been realistic about things, however, I always believed I would succeed simply because I would never give up.

I guess, Jizzy, you have hit the nail on the head by pointing out that if my heart isn't in it 100% it will be almost impossible. If the one thing that has kept me going is my determination, and this is now faltering, I think that pretty much answers my question sad

The GDL and full time BPTC are just not financially doable for me, unfortunately. The MA will be covered by a government loan, rather than the bank loan needed for the GDL. We wouldn't be able to manage with the pay cut I would have to take if I studied the BPTC full time, as it is 4 or 5 days a week.

I'm now wondering about going ahead with the MA as it will take away the possibility of regret in not doing it and it would be useful to have a Master's in a teaching career anyhow. I would then apply for all the funding I can find for the BPTC, if I get it - super!!! If not, I could apply to do a PGCE (or equivalent). I would be 32 by the end of the BPTC or 31 upon completion of the PGCE. Either way, I'd be in employment and could attempt to start ttc then. Admittedly seeing it laid out in facts and figures, this doesn't look good for the barrister route as I would either be ttc and applying for pupillages or putting it off for another year, so 33, if I was lucky enough to get one straight away.

Hmmmmm, PGCE here I come... I guess confused

AnthonyBlanche Fri 05-Feb-16 22:57:07

If you enjoy law why not qualify as a solicitor instead? generally much better paid than teaching and if you choose your area of practice carefully can be very interesting.

EssentialHummus Fri 05-Feb-16 23:07:05

...but she'll just be getting valuable to firms when she may want to start planning a family (looking at OP), and most are not, ime as a junior lawyer looking for work/life balance, good with junior lawyers looking for work/life balance.

I really try hard to counsel people considering law to think very hard before committing to it.

AnthonyBlanche Sat 06-Feb-16 00:32:13

I think it depends where in the country you are and the type of firm Hummus. I know plenty of solicitors who have good work / life balance. Admittedly they're not working at magic circle firms, but they are doing work for Plc's, big corporates, banks, financial services cos etc.

JizzyStradlin Sat 06-Feb-16 09:40:59

Mine is decent, though not especially lucrative. Teaching money rather than legal money, really! I also had my first child at a very non-optimum time, career wise, although it all worked out fine in the end. Helps to be in an area where there's a shortage of qualified and experienced people.

I think OPs issue, though, is that she's about 28-29 and looking at a minimum of 2 years full time study or 3-4 years part time study, probably unfunded, plus two year qualifying period to qualify in either of the legal professions. Whereas if she were to teach, in theory she could get PGCE funding for next year or the year after at least, and then do her NQT year. Could be a qualified teacher in less than 3 years. Time would be a lot more on her side for the teaching, and she'd be more likely to get an NQT job quickly than a training contract or pupillage. For the legal career, as she's going to study part time she'd have to have everything go her way in order to be in a position to TTC before about 35. Because you don't want to be up the duff during your TC or pupillage, you really don't. You'd have to be very sure it was what you wanted to do to take that kind of risk.

AnthonyBlanche Sat 06-Feb-16 10:58:27

But the potential for earning more as a solicitor rather than a teacher is there. If the OP thinks of only the short term she may regret in later life when she's stuck in a low paid teaching job.

JizzyStradlin Sat 06-Feb-16 12:26:06

Depends entirely on what kind of law OP wants to do. If she aspires to and could realistically both get into and stick at City, sure. If she wants to do criminal legal aid, she'll be doing very well to match a teacher's salary. I guess if OP has worked with in house barristers before, this was probably commercial work unless she was in eg a council care law department?

And TBH there are a lot of us in law who are never going to outearn a senior managementy type teacher. I take the point that as a qualified solicitor you have the potential to earn more. And indeed when I do the very occasional bit of consultancy/freelance type stuff the hourly rate is reasonably lucrative, more so than tutoring which I guess is the equivalent for a teacher. But the reality is that most people starting out trying to train as solicitors now aren't going to earn megabucks. It's really only worth factoring in the big money options if the person is definitely interested in that area.

redhat Sat 06-Feb-16 12:29:48

Find the other thread. It was over christmas and new year and got very long. You really need to read it carefully before making your decision.

Personally I think you're mad to think about law and even crazier to add another year to your studying by doing an MA. What is the point of that?

JizzyStradlin Sat 06-Feb-16 12:36:53

MrsBee55 Tue 09-Feb-16 12:37:52

Sorry I haven't been back to this in a while, I couldn't for the life of me remember my login details (I promise this has no reflection on my intellectual abilities, just in case any of you think my OP is now redundant).

The discussion that's gone on since my last post is basically the conversation I have with myself in my head every day! Jizzy, though, again, has hit the nail on the head with it all coming down to the timing of things. I do want a career in law but the length of study involved has recently become off-putting when pitted against the prospect of entering into a much shorter study period and subsequently being in a full-time career much sooner.

AnthonyBlanche - I did consider taking the LPC route, however, through the experience I have gained I know I am more suited to the BPTC & working as a barrister. Having said that, the work is not greatly dissimilar when working in-house, but the TC is a year longer than the pupillage. However there is the option for the Paralegal Shortcut with LPC, so this adds another brain pain. I agree with your post about the location playing a large factor in this too, I am in the North West and have no plans to move to the City. I have seen plenty of contented solicitors with a great work/life balance working in small high street firms and in-house but I haven't met anyone just starting off their studies/NQ years and planning on starting a family either alongside or straight after. So it does come down to the age & timing thing again.

I certainly don't think it's impossible to start a family alongside starting a career, like Jizzy pointed out - it worked out in the end. I do, however, think you have to really want it to make it all work though and this is my worry. I'm feeling exhausted with the chase of it all and the teaching option is fresh, new and certainly less stressful with much quicker results. My biggest concern though, like Anthony Blanche stated, is regretting it later on in life.

If I did choose the law route, I would ideally want to continue working in-house for a previous employer. It is commercial based but there's also some immigration/child law too, which keeps things extremely interesting. The pay would not be anywhere near the City equivalent for commercial solicitors/barristers, however, it is perfectly comfortable and there would always be the option to go on and earn more.

With teaching, I don't see that much scope to work in different areas and increase earning potential. There's teaching different subjects or in different settings, but this seems to be a huge issue for the teachers I have met (and those I stalk on the staff room board). There seems to be a lot of NQ teachers, and plenty part way through their career, who now wish they had something else to fall back on and instead take positions as teaching assistant or school administrators to get out of the classroom.

The same can be said for a large number of lawyers I have met too, though. So I suppose it is a case of horses for courses, for every person unhappy & discouraging in either career there will be someone who wouldn't dream of doing anything else.

There have been a couple of developments since my OP. The college I work for recruited a large number of new staff in January. Since then, 40% have handed in their notice/left. I thought this was shocking but upon speaking to the administrative staff, apparently this is the norm and they have always had a high turn over and are no different to other FE institutes in the area. I'm now wondering if I do have blinkers on and if it all might become reality once I've settled in properly but there is no way of knowing without continuing.

I also have an interview for a scholarship to find the MA. If I got this, there is no way I would turn it down so I would most definitely be going through with that stage of the studies, however, who knows after that! I also had a good chat with my OH about all of this and he admitted he was really excited at the thought of starting a family sooner than I had planned and being settled without the career plans looming over us. This would make me feel a tad guilty now if I were to say 'oh, actually changed my mind. Soz.'

Thank you for finding that other post, Jizzy. I did come across it in my early, late night anxiety induced Google sessions but it was good to have another read through. Thank you to all of for your replies, I do appreciate the help.

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