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(ex?) solicitor - what shall i do now?

(29 Posts)
chummymummy Thu 21-Aug-08 15:48:31


This is going to be brief and general (DS and DD are about to wake up from their carefully synchronised naps!), but any advice would be useful...

I qualified as a solicitor in general commercial and IP law just before giving birth to DS (2yrs and a little bit), and was offered a job in that department at my old firm.

However in my (ahem) wisdom, i thought it would be good to have another baby and a career break instead of going back to work. Consequently i had DD (nearly a year old) and am now a full time mum.

I love being at home with my kids more then anything,but i do want to go back to work in the near future (partly financial reasons, partly for my own sanity, and partly because the shops are full of autumn/winter workwear and i am so jealous!)

If i am honest i dont really want to go back to what i was doing before because its a job that that i feel i can only do wholeheartedly and enjoy, or not at all. I get the feeling that in trying to balance a legal career and small children i would end up compromising one or the other.

I am trying to take a 'this is your chance to be anything and do anything you want to do' approach to job hunting. Although i dont know how true that will turn out to be, seeing as the job market where i am based (Leicestershire) is hardly booming.

I dont want to teach because i enjoy being in a fast-paced office environment or out and about. I would love to try doing something a bit more creative. Maybe marketing, retail etc.

Any ideas about what i should do? Would love to hear from people who have changed careers and are loving it.

Did i say this was going to be brief?

lingle Thu 21-Aug-08 21:27:25

Since 2004 I've run my own legal consultancy as a non-practising solicitor (you can't do litigation but, hey, what mother wants to?).

With your PQA, you might be best off looking for a part-time role in-house reporting to a head of legal.

Don't dismiss in-house if you've only been in private practice. The non-contentious stuff is much more interesting in-house because you get involved in negotiations.

Pendulum Thu 21-Aug-08 21:36:16

"I get the feeling that in trying to balance a legal career and small children i would end up compromising one or the other."

Not necessarily. IMO keeping up a professional career can allow you much more flexibility than starting on the bottom rung of something new or trading down to a job where you have no autonomy over your working day.

If you want to give up law and do something else, fair enough. But don't write it off purely because you think it's not family friendly enough. Most jobs aren't on paper, you have to think laterally and work to make them so.

But you said you wanted to hear from career changers, so I will pipe down now!

sweetsuzy Thu 21-Aug-08 22:00:43

hi i'm suzanne and have worked for royal mail for 17 years, as i decided after having my 2 children ages 5 and 2 that i could not go back to work as the hours didn't suit i thought i needed a change and discovered the body shop at home a fantastic company where you work the hours that suit you and you meet and make lots of new friends while earning a respectable wage .being a body shop at home consultant has given me great confidence, a flexible career ,i've won fantastic prizes ,bonuses and get discount on bath and beauty products what more could a girl ask for !! if you would like to know more please email me at su.latter.@yahoo

blueshoes Thu 21-Aug-08 22:10:40

I work in a magic circle law firm where lots of lawyers do move out of fee-earning into HR, Marketing, Risk Management, IT (less successful combination) and of course PSL roles. These are positions within the law firm itself and the legal background is seen as valuable and remunerated accordingly. Is this option available to you?

If you start the bottom of marketing (which my BIL has done as a fresh graduate) with no experience or relevant qualifications, you might get a shock at your pay. But do ask around.

Loshad Thu 21-Aug-08 22:27:41

sweetsuzy that's such a blatent plug i think you should feel morally obliged to cough up some dosh to MNHQ

chummymummy Thu 21-Aug-08 22:49:00

Thanks for everyones advice, plenty of research for me to be getting on with.

Lingle - i would definately be interested in part time, but haven't really considered in house too much. I will look at whats available around me.

Pendulum - All opinions are welcome, and yours is valid. I dont want to dismiss returning to the legal profession. Its just that i dont know how much i really want it, and whether i could be arsed to make it work if i find that i dont. A lot of the mums at my old place always looked incredibly stressed out and were always working on holidays and days off. I want to avoid getting myself into that situation.

I would love to be able to get back into a profession which i want to be part of and which i could realistically manage.

In short i want to have my cake and eat it. All of it!

Sweet Suzy - Sounds like a good balance but i dont know if i could work from home. The getting out of the house part is one of the main attractions of going back to work!

Blueshoes - sounds like something that i would like to do, will look into it. I know what you mean about the drop in salary. Although something is better then the pittance i have now! Seriously though, i think i think i could deal with the salary issue if the job was good enough for the long run.

Please keep it coming...

chummymummy Thu 21-Aug-08 23:06:00

Loshad - i didn't want to say anything myself but was thinking the same thing. maybe some free products- cocoa butter or lip balm anyone?

Pendulum Fri 22-Aug-08 08:25:49

"A lot of the mums at my old place always looked incredibly stressed out and were always working on holidays and days off."

I suspect that is just working motherhood full stop, not the law specifically smile

Seriously speaking, today is my day off but I have a conference call to attend for half an hour and a couple of phone calls to put in at some point. But that's OK. Most of the time I manage not to work on my day off at all. My view is that, although there may be periods of intense activity when I don't get home early enough or have to work in the evenings, *on the whole* I get to have my cake and eat it. And I think that's probably the best outcome achievable.

NQ in law is a funny time, I felt very equivocal about whether it was the career for me after I had spent two years at the cutting edge of various data rooms and disclosure exercises. However, the work becomes more interesting with experience, you develop relationships with clients and begin to feel much more like a valued professional.

IMHO, you have little to lose by giving law another go, maybe at a different type/ size of firm. If you don't like it you can move on. If you do like it, you can put all that training to use and benefit from a higher salary (perhaps permitting part-time working) than you would get in a brand new role.

(BTW most of the friends I started training with have now left law, so I have no illusions it's the right thing for everyone. I just think it's a shame to leave at NQ stage before things really get interesting!)

BecauseImWorthIt Fri 22-Aug-08 08:31:30

"I get the feeling that in trying to balance a legal career and small children i would end up compromising one or the other."

And what makes you think that working in any other career isn't like this? Law isn't the be all and end all and marketing and retail (whilst possibly more creative - don't know) are just as demanding.

If you want to go back to work there will always be compromises. If you work full time then you won't see as much of your home/children; if you work part time you won't earn as much money.

The critical thing is to decide what compromises you are and aren't prepared to make.

blueshoes Fri 22-Aug-08 08:51:26

Hi chummymummy, I work reduced hours in my law firm and moved from a fee-earning role to a support role. It is great. I leave at 3 pm everyday and my work is not client-facing or transactional so if I have to take an urgent day off, nobody blinks an eye.

I almost never work outside office hours and certainly not on weekends. The nature of the role is very important. Mine is inherently flexible. So hopefully, I don't appear too stressed.

I find it interesting that you say you don't enjoy fee-earning and that is why you are thinking of leaving. As a NQ, whilst I knew the actual work I was doing was not great, I recognised that I had to cut my teeth on the more mundane. And that my seniors were doing really interesting work and there was so much knowledge to be gained along the way on the job. Do you want to leave because you think the work will never get more interesting? Or because you think the hours will eat into your personal time too much? Or because you don't like the people/working atmosphere/environment at your old firm?

blueshoes Fri 22-Aug-08 08:58:04

I agree with BecauseIamworthIt that marketing is as demanding as lawyering, particularly in the early stages. Funnily enough, not many people in the marketing department of my law firm work flexibly, almost all fulltime and there is a high turnover as well. It is quite a different culture from law - gabby, more 'direct' communication style, with less substance, generalising terribly of course! Some marketeer will now come and shoot me.

If you think you could give the law a go, want a better balance and not too concerned about the pay, how about working for your local authority, in an area like child protection or adoption? Good benefits, better hours and potentially flexible.

lingle Fri 22-Aug-08 09:31:04

I like Pendulum's style.

But for me being a consultant is the bee's knees.

No meetings.

No boss.

Can turn work down.

Can say in an urgent "I'm important" voice: "Tuesday's not looking good but Wednesday looks better" and the clients never blink an eye. They couldn't care less if I'm doing someone else's work or going to the park on Tuesday.

mitfordsisters Fri 22-Aug-08 09:35:04

What about advice work - either for a charity or local authority - you could use your expertise but the hours would be fixed. Also it's a way of helping individuals directly which can be very satisfying.

Pendulum Fri 22-Aug-08 10:59:36

lingle your job does sound interesting. what is your specialism or am I being too nosy?

lingle Fri 22-Aug-08 11:20:31

Intellectual Property. I've been easing more into commercial via patent licensing/franchising. What do you do?

Pendulum Fri 22-Aug-08 11:42:57

Competition. Fascinating stuff.

chummymummy Fri 22-Aug-08 14:07:30

Pendulum - are right about giving law another go before i try anything else, so thanks.

Lingle - your job does sound perfect!

Blueshoes - I enjoyed the firm/people and work i was given. I was never completely happy though and couldn't say that i loved the job. Although as you all say if the work gets more interesting, there is a possibility that i would. I am more worried that if i am not as available as i need to be at this early stage of my career, i may get fobbed off with the mundane stuff until i am.

If truth be told, i am being a bit of a coward and making up all sorts of excuses for not going back without even trying.

Its the thought of going into an NQ role when i qualified in 2006, and haven't worked since. Although its equally terrifying to think that i might let myself slip into any job for the sake of convenience.

Do you think its wise (or not) to leave a full on professional career until the kids are at school, or at least a little bit older? I am curious as to how old everyone's kids are, and how you manage. At the moment mine are 2 and nearly 1. I was thinking of getting back into the job market around November time.

AvenaLife Fri 22-Aug-08 14:16:17

Have you thought about the GLS? They are more flexible being the government, pension, time off etc are also good. I have a LLB and am due to finish a MSc in Environmental Management at christmas but it's almost impossible to find a job where I live. I've just applied to work in Boots I'm so desperate. sad I did work for a firm after my degree but this only lasted a few months as I had no supervision/guidance/training and worked with a woman that kept moving files off my desk then telling me off for not looking after them. hmm I'd have nothing to do for most of the day, she'd turn up at 3pm and expect a load of work to be done before I left at 5pm. I couldn't stay after this because I needed to collect ds from school.

You could be a law lecturer, the open university are always looking.

AvenaLife Fri 22-Aug-08 14:17:19

This is a good site. smile

Pendulum Fri 22-Aug-08 15:01:17

My kids are 4 and nearly 1.

TBH I think it is easier to combine work and kids before they start school as the childcare arrangements are more straightforward. I am expecting things to become more complicated when DC1 starts school shortly.

You do sound as though you are a bit intimidated generally by the prospect of returning to a fast-paced, demanding job. Would it help if I told you that I spent a significant part of both mat leaves trying to think of alternative careers because I didn't think I'd be able to cut it in law any more? Both times I went back, slotted in again pretty quickly and didn't regret it for a second. It's natural for your confidence to take a bit of a beating when you have been out of the game for a while, but you may be surprised at how quickly you can bounce back.

Pendulum Fri 22-Aug-08 15:02:41

BTW managing a career and children is only possible IMO if your partner is prepared to pull his weight and you do not shoulder 100% of the childcare burden (drop offs/ pick ups/ sickness/ attending events)....

blueshoes Fri 22-Aug-08 17:51:34

Agree with Pendulum about life being easier before children start school. And also about losing confidence during maternity leave but slotting into work rather seamlessly.

As a rule of thumb, if you go back ft to somewhat unpredictable hours, you need a nanny. If you can generally leave on the dot and perhaps shift your hours to start earlier (8:30) to end earlier (4:40) or have your dh do one end of the drop off/pick up or work flexibly, you can consider a day nursery or CM.

I personally prefer pt working. I liked my work but did not have a burning desire to make partner. I moved out of fee-earning into support and have a very family-friendly job.

But I would advise you get back into law in November (if law is what you want) if only to keep your foot in the door and a chance to keep your skills up-to-date. The danger of your skills being seen as obsolete by future employer is always there and a career break of 2+ years is just about acceptable.

nkf Fri 22-Aug-08 17:54:24

There are compromises to be made even if you don't work. You won't earn any money. Any decision rules out something else. Good luck with yours.

chummymummy Sat 23-Aug-08 14:08:07

Thank you all so much, it helps just to know that there are people out there who manage what i had started to think would be close to impossible.

You really are an inspiration

My DH is very hands on with the kids and i am sure he will pull his weight. We have discussed the possibility of him moving his hours around as he has the flexibility to do so.

Hopefully it will work itself out, wish me luck.

nkf - "There are compromises to be made even if you don't work. You won't earn any money." Dont i know it! Thought it might be fun being a kept woman, soon snapped out of that when i saw the direction that my current account was taking!

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