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Any lawyers gone back to law after a career break?

(35 Posts)
minipie Mon 19-Sep-16 16:42:51

I'm a litigator in a city firm, quite a lot of years PQE. I'm considering having a couple of years off soon because of various things which will be colliding in our family life.

I do still enjoy being a lawyer though and wouldn't want to be a SAHM long term.

So, I'd like to go back to the law (ideally in house or perhaps public sector rather than private practice) after a 2-3 year break. But I'm worried that employers won't be interested. I'm also a bit worried that DH will have got used to me being at home and it will be hard for him to go back to doing more domestic stuff... though I can probably reeducate him grin

Has anyone gone back after a break? How easy was it? Were employers put off by the CV gap? Anyone tried and not managed it?


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minipie Mon 17-Oct-16 15:37:18

Bumping in case anyone has any thoughts a month later smile

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littlepooch Mon 17-Oct-16 15:41:16

Hi minipie

No advice except that I'm considering the same, only difference being I'm only a few years pqe and I'm not a litigator I'm in commercial contracts. I'm struggling to work out whether I'm throwing it all away if I take a couple of years out for family reasons and to look after my baby and whether it will be possible to find a role (preferably in house I think).

Anyway I thought I'd answer you, just so you know there is someone else wondering the same out there!

minipie Mon 17-Oct-16 15:50:30

Thanks littlepooch! Mumsnet usually seems to be awash with lawyers so hopefully someone who has tried this will come along soon and tell us how it worked out.

I would also like to go in house after my time out I think, but in house litigation positions are rare (commercial contracts is more useful that way I suspect). Or possibly public sector. Or join one of the "lawyers on demand" type firms and do contract work. As you can tell I haven't really got a game plan!

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littlepooch Mon 17-Oct-16 16:08:25

I've worked with a lot of people who are with lawyers on demand and they seem very happy and seem to be able juggle work with outside interests etc really well. I was very keen on that but don't think I have enough experience (I'm a career changer who came into law pretty late) so I think in house is my only option as private practice just isn't working for me.

Hope you find something that works for you.

LODlaw Tue 18-Oct-16 12:12:26

Glad to see LOD being mentioned. We’ve got a lot of returning to work after maternity lawyers with us working on both on site and on call projects. It would be good to talk to you to go through some options, so please do get in touch on 020 3400 4200.

FreeButtonBee Tue 18-Oct-16 12:17:32

Eek. I do think it's a big step as a lawyer to walk away. The law changes so fast - as you know! I'd probably push harder for an in house role somewhere - banks and insurers often have big lit departments or eg BP. Even an auditor?

I think we are about the same level. My only friend who took time out and who got back in moved from US firm doing employment to a tiny market town practice disciplining vicars! Everyone else once they are out, that was kinda the end.

minipie Tue 18-Oct-16 12:31:57

LOD interesting, thank you. I will be in touch.

FreeButtonBee I know - it would be really hard to walk away. Which is why I wouldn't want to walk away without a definite plan to come back iyswim. I've already come back twice after a 1 year gap each time (two maternity leaves) so I do think it's possible in theory - it's more a question of how employers would see it.

I know historically it's been very very hard to get back in after a gap and your friend's story is what I'm scared of! I am hoping the times are changing though? Certainly flexible working/part time/ramping down and up/contract work seems to be far more possible than it was a few years back so I am hoping that also translates into a better attitude towards returners? <clutches straws>

In house is definitely an option for when I return but for various reasons the next two years are going to be quite tough at home (to sum up: DC with SN will be starting school, our long term nanny is leaving, and some building work is needed), which is why I think I need to take time off, and that also means it's really not an ideal time to be starting a new job. When I go back I want to be able to do it properly!

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FreeButtonBee Tue 18-Oct-16 12:48:37

I'm just back from a second year long mat leave so I know what you mean but it is viewed differently.

The other thing you have to mentally guard against is your standards/requirements for a return to work job creepin g so high that they are just not realistic. Going back to work will feel like a much bigger deal for you and for your H/kids that there is a risk that the job would have to be impossibly perfect to make sense. Again I see this with a friend whose been out for 2 years and is talking about going back at some point. Unfortunately. Jobs which pay £100k a year for a 3 day week are like rocking horse shit. But to go back to work and have the drop in living standards which would result (in terms of managing life/having freedom at the weekend/lack of child care related stress) means the stakes seem higher. Whereas taking a not-quite-perfect job for less money and less stress is less of a compromise when still working.

I would suggest that you spend a good amount of time actively networking while not working. It's such bullshit but lunch with old colleagues/going to events etc helps keep you in the memory of people and means that they might remember you if something pops up. And it makes it clear that you are temporarily out and open to offers. Which is half the battle.

Other ideas - look at being a magistrate - could do a day a fortnight, uses your skills but less commitment.

minipie Tue 18-Oct-16 13:35:51

Yes, I completely see what you mean about it being easy to persuade myself it's not worth returning for the less-than-perfect job. And of course the longer you hold out for something more perfect, the longer you've been out of work and so less likely to get it even if it comes up. Thank you, that is a useful warning to bear in mind.

I am relying on the fact I expect (mostly) to hate being a SAHM and that in itself will drive me back to work sooner even if it's not the perfect job grin.

Magistrate is an interesting idea, thanks. I would really love some way of keeping my hand in while I'm out. One day a week or fortnight would be ideal. And reluctant yes to networking <sigh>

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Buttonmoonb4tea Thu 20-Oct-16 18:39:04

Op have you thought about sitting on social security tribunals as a judge during your career break. I think it would keep your hand in so to speak. I think HM Courts and Tribunals Service recruit fairly regularly for judges to sit on the panel. And with the benefit changes that have been brought in there will always be appeals to be heard. Possible option?

minipie Thu 20-Oct-16 21:58:45

Never thought of it Button but will look into it!

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Buttonmoonb4tea Thu 20-Oct-16 22:37:56 this might help

Me2017 Sat 22-Oct-16 22:11:02

I've never had a break so no experience but I do think it can be difficult to get back after very long breaks although as with everything it will depend whether we are in a recession or lawyer shortage at the time you try to go back.

If you could keep something going it woudl help. I do law lectures. I update law books. I edit publications. (That is in my spaer time). that kind of thing might keep your hand in). I have also marked law exam papers in the past (although that is pretty hard work and not great pay so I don't think I'd go round recommending it to people).

Have you considered setting up your own law firm? I have. I do litigation =- some quite big (a few days in CA this week for example) . I am based at home except when at meetings, in court, with clients. It is really nice way to work and best of all you make more money and keep it all and don't have to share it with partners or anyone else. For me it certainly works at lot better than giving a percentage to some other body whose books you might be on.

harrietm87 Fri 11-Nov-16 21:24:52

minipie and free - sorry to hijack this thread but I wondered how you found returning to work after mat leaves? I'm 3pqe in litigation in a city firm and planning to ttc soon. I will probably take a year off. Was it hard to come back? Did your careers suffer?

Lovelyideas Tue 15-Nov-16 23:00:05

I've just run my first piece of litigation in a decade (was in house for a long time).

It was fine because my kids are older but I certainly put lots of unrecorded weekends in.

But now I've done it and it's good to feel back up to speed!

TBH my big mistake was going back full time after first baby. It took a year to find alternative paths. In hindsight I would have planned a break.

Peppardew Thu 17-Nov-16 21:31:24

Thanks for the thread, interesting and somewhat sobering read. I'm currently on my second maternity leave and aching not to return so I can spend longer with the kids, but as I can't remain out of work forever I'm concerned whether I'll even be employable in the future. A real waste of so much experience it seems.

Harrietm87 I didn't really find it had a negative impact, but I think it very much depends upon where you work and the attitudes of your colleagues. It's definitely put my career back in terms of promotion, but that's because I just wasn't interested in pursuing that whilst on ML. If I had wanted to, they would have let me use my KIT days for it and been supportive I think, I just didn't want it enough. So effectively it's put me back a year in terms of the process if that makes sense.

Timetravels Fri 02-Dec-16 10:44:03

I'm going back after 5 years out. In my time out I did a health based degree which I'm surprised employers are really liking! I started looking a few weeks ago and already have some jobs lined. Yes there is a pay cut and wok involve for me a huge element of training and support to get back into the subject matter but my biggest concern is my own confidence. I feel like I'm the world's best multi-tasker, I'm confident, able, articulate, hard working, clever.... but somewhere in my time out I've lost the confidence I need to re enter law.

Don't be afraid of taking a break though, is what I came on to say.

minipie Mon 12-Dec-16 16:16:07

hi, sorry to have abandoned the thread, just returning now as the leaving option seems to be becoming more real. Eeek.

me2017 how does setting up your own firm work? I thought it would be very difficult - insurance, CPD etc. And marketing - I don't think I have any clients who love me so much they'd follow me from my city law firm to sole practitioner grin so would have to start from scratch.

harriet a lot depends on your particular circumstances IME. If your DP/DH will do the evening nanny/nursery handover and bedtime (so you can still do the long hours when you need to) then that will make life a lot easier and impact your career much less. If your DP won't/can't then you will find you have to get out of the office by 5 or 6 and that will impact your career, especially as you are still fairly junior. Going part time will impact your career. Nursery will be more of a problem for your career than nanny as one of you will have to take time off when the baby is sick - but nanny is more expensive of course. If your child is a bad sleeper or has any additional needs that will have more of an impact. I do know women whose careers have not been too affected post DC - however in general their DH has a less demanding or very flexible job and has done more of the handovers, and their DC sleep well. Sorry that's a bit depressing! I didn't find it hard to come back but I had a very non clingy baby (hard in other ways but not clingy!) a great nanny and I hated mat leave anyway!

Timetravels interesting! How did you find the time to do a degree with DC??

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harrietm87 Wed 28-Dec-16 17:31:01

Thanks minipie - only just seen your response.

DH works in a creative industry from home but often travels, which means he'll mostly be available to be very hands on but then periods when he'll be away (usually just for few days at a time).

I'd hope to be able to split nursery picks ups so I did say 2 days a week (and log back in later from home) and he does the other 3 so I could work late. Not even pregnant yet but that's my plan at least. I'm the main breadwinner so would need to keep working full time.

Best of luck with your next move!

Timetravels Fri 30-Dec-16 23:13:07

Mini - looking back I have no idea I managed a degree. I'm baffled but prospective employers have commented on my upskilling ability!

I'm now in the difficult position of building up the courage to ask for a 4 day week from the firm who have offered me a job. I've just realised that working 5 days will be too difficult for me and the kids. Good luck in whatever you decide.

Twinkletoes007 Sat 07-Jan-17 10:22:37

This is such a useful thread. I'm a senior solicitor and been back for 6 months doing 4 days a week since my son was 9 months old. Grandparents looks after him 2 days and he is in nursery for 2. It's a good set up and we are lucky with the help we get.

It's me that's the problem! The reality is that I've been doing 5 days in 4. I always try to be back for 6.30 latest but then will work in the evening, at weekends and on my day off I can't switch off and have an eye on the blackberry all day. I feel like I'm constantly fire fighting and there is no spare time. (DH is also a lawyer working long hours although he helps out loads and moans less than me).

I found being away from DS easier when he was smaller but now he's a proper little person who every day just amazes me by what he is learning and discovering I'm finding it hard and resenting the time I'm apart from him and doing a job where i have probably already been written off by doing 4 days despite all the partnership spiel. So, I've been considering since Christmas what to do.

I've surprised myself by how I feel. I'd thought I'd nail this working mother malarky, be running during my lunch breaks (haha) and serving up wonderful homemade dinners every evening. What planet was I on...

I have always been very ambitious but I know I will have regrets down the line if I don't change my current set up. It's very unlikely work would agree to 3 days, which would be the ideal. If I give up I worry about not being able to go back. Or going crackers without the structure that work gives you. Lots of useful ideas here to think about. Most of all I need to be clear in my head about what I want but it is so reassuring to hear from others.

Has anyone else taken the plunge since posting?

LawyerGirl99 Sun 25-Jun-17 23:03:38

Hi everyone. I appreciate it's several months since the last post, but I was wondering how everyone is getting on and what you decided to do?

It's looking as though I am about to have an enforced career break of a few years and I am really worried about how I will get back into a job at the end of it all. If I decide to walk away altogether, it just seems like such a waste after all the years of law school and slogging it as a junior lawyer sad.

ReawakeningAmbition Sun 02-Jul-17 23:01:12

I would advise against a complete break tbh unless there are strong ties/loyalties at your current firm.

What's your field?

Have a think about virtual firms, I'm working with a good one.

NeverTwerkNaked Sun 02-Jul-17 23:05:47

I work in public sector now, and love it (excellent work but family friendly lifestyle). I managed this after a four year career break. Just recruited someone to my team who has had a 7 year career break. The trade off is starting back at a lower salary. But we did both do various things to keep a few toes in the legal world while we were off (volunteering, part time study etc)

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