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Please talk to me about changing careers to law

(39 Posts)
HairyPorter Wed 17-Feb-16 16:46:09

I'm thinking of changing careers and have always been interested in law. However I know nothing about it. I have a medical background but don't like the way things have been going in the NHS which is why I am consider leaving. I am actually most interested in medical negligence as that would just be the most straightforward option, and I think I would do a decent job of it... Anyone have any advice on this? How easy/difficult would it be to get a job? And what are salaries likely to be? Would a law conversion course suffice? Please help...

DeoGratias Wed 17-Feb-16 17:30:07

If you want to be a solicitor then you do two years at law school - the GDL (conversion) and the LPC. Ideally you apply before then to a law firm for a training contract and they pay for those two years for you. If you cannot find that sponsorship then you are taking a risk with incurring the fee of those courses.

Things that will help you assess if you will get a job are things like A level grades and subjects, which university you went to (ex poly going to be hard, Oxbridge a lot easier etc etc). You then do 2 years as a trainee solicitor. In London in the good firms that pay is about £40k a year. On qualification is is about £60k and then rises year by year for the first few years. Partners if you make it are likely to be on £200k to £2m depending on the type of firm. Lots of lawyers though cannot get into those better firms so end up at firms which do not sponsor them at law school and end up with much lower pay. My local authority in outer London is advertising for lawyers up to abou £50k so it is very very variable. I adore it and earn a lot as do my daughters. I recommend it to everyone. Go for it.

redhat Wed 17-Feb-16 17:33:57

I'd recommend you look at the other recent threads on this. There was one over Christmas and one a couple of weeks ago.

Deo is famous on MN and a very highly paid lawyer who runs her own firm. Not all lawyers are similarly paid. In fact the vast majority are not.

SueLawleyandNicholasWitchell Wed 17-Feb-16 17:37:11

My friend who works for a London law firm said trainees this year were being paid £48k.

She did say that they would be expected to sell their souls for that.

fastdaytears Wed 17-Feb-16 17:38:33

I run my own firm and am not highly paid! Early days though...sad

Anyhow, it's a great career in some ways. If you're interested in medical negligence then you won't be at the top end of any pay scale, but people enjoy it (weirdly if you ask me...)

Where in the country are you?

How would you feel about going in as a trainee with tons of 22 year olds (not exclusively) and being given crappy training jobs (again not exclusively unless you're really unlucky!)

fastdaytears Wed 17-Feb-16 17:42:08

My friend who works for a London law firm said trainees this year were being paid £48k

They're not doing medical negligence for that. The only London firm paying their first seat trainees £48k (according to the oracle that is Roll On Friday) is White & Case who are a US firm with everything that goes with that.

SueLawleyandNicholasWitchell Wed 17-Feb-16 18:01:18

No not medical negligence.

HairyPorter Thu 18-Feb-16 06:39:06

So is it mainly (or only?) Corporate law that attracts a higher wage? I wouldn't do the GDL without sponsorship as the finances wouldn't add up. Is it just a case of applying to individual law firms for a training contract? Do I need some sort of experience (like a summer internship or similar) to make my application more likely to be successful? And I also wouldn't have any referees from law- would that be an issue?

Fragz Thu 18-Feb-16 07:56:06

OP, yes you apply separately to the individual firms. Each firm will have its own application process.

I can only talk from my experience (until recently I was at a Magic Circle firm in the City and was heavily involved in the trainee recruitment programme) but legal experience is helpful but not crucial if you are changing careers rather than applying whilst at uni. Our firm was more interested in you demonstrating clearly thought out reasons why you wanted to change career, a good understanding of what a legal career involves and a good commercial understanding. I would say that those people who were looking to change careers were grilled on that aspect.

I do think you need to have done your research and be really clear that it is what you want to do - not just to secure a training contract but to make sure you really understand what is involved and that you really want to do it.

Regarding salary, yes corporate law generally pays the higher salaries with the US firms paying considerably more than the UK firms.

DeoGratias Thu 18-Feb-16 08:26:51

Yes, that is wise advice above. Your A level grades and subjects won't be irrelevant either as they tend to be a marker of whether someone is bright enough and whether you went say to London Met or Oxford so so think about whether you would be hired or not.

By all means like medical negliegence for now but really until you start in law you cannot know which parts you will like so keep your options open and if you need to qualify and be sponsored by a top firm there is nothing to stop you moving down once they have paid to qualify you into a firm that does medical negligence. i think partners at Irwin Mitchell which does medical neg work are on £400k+ a year so don't assume it is always a badly paid area.

MyKingdomForBrie Thu 18-Feb-16 08:32:15

Will they sponsor the GDL as well as the LPC? You'd have to be a pretty impressive candidate for that I'd think. I had my LPC sponsored but only after putting myself through GDL evenings/weekends. But then I didn't apply before my GDL, didn't occur to me!

I would do some work experience first simply to see if you like it. It's a hell of a long way to qualification to discover it's not actually the right job for you (fair few friends I know retraining to get out atm)

Millionprammiles Thu 18-Feb-16 08:42:43

Bear in mind its difficult to secure a training contract (we have thousands of applicants a year for two positions) and many employers don't pay law school fees.
So you may need significant savings or a loan before you're even eligible for a training contract. If you then can't secure one, you've spent two years and a lot of money but can't progress any further.

Its not hugely flexible or family friendly either.

Have a look at which firms specialise in med neg (eg how to the NHS defend?) and maybe ask if you can do a few days work exp, ask them about opportunities etc to see how buoyant the market is?

kirinm Thu 18-Feb-16 08:46:21

At my old firm they had ex medicine professionals working in their clinical negligence teams that were not qualified. You could start out as a paralegal. Most firms doing clin neg will be insurance litigation firms but don't expect good money.

It is hard to qualify and I don't think I'd do it again. Trying to actually think what other job I'd like.

redhat Thu 18-Feb-16 08:46:58

It is certainly not the case though that all partners at Irwin Mitchell are on £400k plus. There might be a handful at the very top who are.

OP please look out the previous recent threads on this. They are packed with very useful advice. I feel very sorry for those who are spun a line that the streets are paved with gold in law land. It's simply not the case. Yes you can do very well but its very hard work and you have to be excellent in order to earn the big bucks. Plus you need to be aware that it is highly competitive and nowadays it takes much much longer to reach partner level. You're likely to be looking at about 20 years down the line if you haven't even done the GDL yet. Then once you are at partner level you actually have to invest in the firm and so you are carrying a degree of risk. Plus drawings are variable, we don't really know from one year to the next what DH will be bringing in.

The vast majority of lawyers outside of the city (even at partner level) will be on less than 80k.

I am a lawyer running my own firm. I was previously at a very large international firm. Its not a walk in the park. DH is an equity partner at a large regional.

kirinm Thu 18-Feb-16 08:52:08

Redhat - off on a tangent but I was talking at work about lawyers being married to lawyers. Do you spend all the time discussing work? I'm so stressed at the moment that I end up raging about cases / the office etc at home and my poor DH isn't a lawyer so he has no idea what I'm talking about most of the time. If he was a lawyer I think I'd literally never stop bitching!

AndersArms Thu 18-Feb-16 08:52:43

OP definitely look at the thread over Xmas (am on my phone so can't link). There were lots of excellent insights and things to think about.

Law is hugely competitive and in the current market it is very hard to get a training contract. I am also involved in trainee recruitment at my firm and we have huge numbers of applicants. Being a second career is not in itself an issue but be aware that at the junior end it generally cannot be described as a family friendly career. Until you are a bit more senior then to a large extent you work to someone else's timetable and schedule. I know trainees with families can find the "drop everything and go to London for 3 days" much harder than others (I work in a regional office and that is not uncommon).

I am fortunate and like my job very much but it is neither as well paid as most people think nor terribly compatible with family life, although I think much depends on your seniority and discipline.

If you think you might be keen, get some work experience / get on a vacation scheme. See what it is really like first.

DeoGratias Thu 18-Feb-16 08:53:28

My daughter was sponsored by a law firm on the GDL and LPC. The big firms fund both if you are good.

"Irwin Mitchell has broken through the £200m mark for the first time, with revenues climbing 5.3 per cent rise from £190.1m to £200.2m at the latest financial year. The firm reported profit, net of member remuneration, as having risen by 3.1 per cent from £18.5m to £19.1m. Average profit per equity partner at the firm has also risen by 7.4 per cent from £569,000 to £611,000." Yes that is an average so some will be higher and also they are unlikely to be drawing it all out so may be less but certainly you can earn a lot in medical negligence work if you're good.

I keep thinking about a dinner I went on set up by a lawyer friend - to introduce me to a man (a particularly awful man (doctor) with no personal skills so that went nowhere. I don't think he spoke once at dinner). We had a mixture of lawyers and doctors there and there were at least 2 ex doctors who had qualified as lawyers. I think one was a barrister not a solicitor. They seemed to be doing quite well and both were using their prior medical knowledge. Also consider intellectual property law - if you've done got good science A levels and read medicine at university you might have the science background whcih is useful to understand patents and goes down well with clients in that field.

KERALA1 Thu 18-Feb-16 09:00:20

Dh and I lawyers, there are upsides but we both were saying last night much easier less risky ways to earn money. Couple of friends of ours in some sort of it sales job, they earn similar amounts to dh but hardly any stress and none of this hourly billing nonsense. Bumped into one browsing round town as he had made a phone call that morning that had earned his monthly salary whilst dh bashed away at hone working putting the hours in. Plus the stuff dh does is difficult and big implications if he gets wrong etc. Easier ways to earn a living!

redhat Thu 18-Feb-16 09:06:26

kirinm it does help a bit I guess. We can have a rant if we need to and we understand where the other is coming from and the pressures of the environment (and so for example I wouldn't raise an eyebrow at him emailing to say he won't be back home until way past midnight because he's completing a deal and he knows that if I'm in tribunal he has to drop everything to cover all childcare because I'm simply completely unavailable). We also pick each other's brains occasionally. But in general terms we don't talk about work any more than any other couple I don't think. We work in different fields though. I do employment and he does corporate.

Don't get me wrong Deo, I'm not saying there isn't money to be made in law. Clearly there is. I'm just saying that the money goes to the few at the top or those with the willingness to take a risk and work for themselves. It certainly isn't a given. The vast majority of lawyers don't earn mega bucks.

kirinm Thu 18-Feb-16 09:08:53

The last minute late nights wound by DP up for so long as he didn't really understand that if something has to be done, you stay until it's done but he has gotten much better now but there's a general consensus in my office that if you don't work in law, you don't really understand.

Twasthecatthatdidit Thu 18-Feb-16 09:17:02

The previous threads on this are interesting but on that the op was a teacher who wanted to do corporate - a medical background wanting to go into medical neg should be attractive to employers. Med Neg is an interesting area though I'm sure some would disagree! Trainee/junior solicitor work though will often be long hours of boring crap

kirinm Thu 18-Feb-16 09:23:18

It does, I think, fall into a Personal Injury parts of most firms and those departments are under immense pressure financially. Which firm you approach depends on whether you want to act for Claimants or Defendants though and I'd imagine that a vast majority of the work is done from regional offices.

DeoGratias Thu 18-Feb-16 09:38:46

Yes, and some recent legal changes will make medical claims harder which isprobably a very good thing for society as a whole. But qualify and pick an area. Lots of people who aren't in law think they want to do say criminal law but change their minds later. If is why a training contract usually takes you into 4 different areas of work 6 mnoths each so you get a chance to see what it's all really like in practice.

We probably all have clients who make money doing different businesses but the bottom line is that the average wage in the UK is about £23k and the mininum wage about £14k full time so any lawyer on £50k is earning double what most people earn which is not a bad start eveni f you never reach £100k or £400k. Also most people who set up businesses fail. We tend to advise the ones who succeed but most end in failure so I don't think it is that easy to set up and run other businesses and even if it were it is a good start to have a law degree or qualification as so much of law comes into business.

JizzyStradlin Thu 18-Feb-16 10:00:38

Your best bet is clinical negligence, as others have said. Much easier to get ahead if you can use your existing skills to carve out an advantage that all the fresh, hungry 22 year olds won't have.

About 10 years ago, a firm called Pannone used to employ nurses in their fairly large clin neg department. I saw them when I did a placement there. Not sure entirely what they were doing or how much they were paid, and the firm was taken over a while ago, but there's a good example of ex-clinicians in law. I'd also agree with the patent attorney thing if you've done sciences.

There've been a couple of other threads on this issue recently. People talked a lot about their age, income needs and plans for/existing family on there. These are also things you need to take into consideration, as with any career change.

JizzyStradlin Thu 18-Feb-16 10:07:20

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/employment_issues/2562488-Law-or-Teaching?

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/_chat/2539697-Would-you-re-train-as-a-lawyer

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