This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
Law degree(15 Posts)
I qualified as a social worker almost 6 years ago, and now want to retrain. I am considering studying law, and would ultimately like to be a barrister. I've been doing some research and would like some advice please.
I am mid 40's, enjoy studying, have completed several post grad modules, and really like getting to grips with the legal aspect of my job.
However, I am aware it will take me at least 5 years to qualify. I need to continue to work whilst studying. I have an 11 year old DD. Is it doable, realistically?
I love law. Go for it. Most of us can do whatever we want with enough determination. It might be easier to qualify as a solicitor (and there will be no difference in ultimate pay) as the better law firms may well pay for your law school fees (they did for my daughter).
The first question is whether you have a degree already and in what subject? If you do but it's not in law then you could do 2 years full time doing the GDL and then either the one year bar or solicitor course. Ideally you'd find a law firm to sponsor you and pay the fees and an allowance. If so that might mean you would not need to continue to work. If you want to do it part time then I think it would be 4 years not 2 (and I'm not sure if you don't have a degree - you would probably need to do one first and then start the post grad stuff).
It'll be hard, but of course doable if you know it's what you want to do. I did a law degree and loved it as an UG. The conversion courses aren't so much fun it seems, talking to the people I know who did them, being more of a means to an end than an academic enterprise. So I'd weigh up that.
I do know someone who did what you're planning on doing e.g. In her 40s, young teen children, went to qualify as a barrister. She has done it successfully and is enjoying it.
Do you plan to specialise in something related to social work? That is what my friend above did (not SW in her case, but linked to her previous career). That helps a lot for finding jobs, I think. Tho for getting sponsored through, the choice of specialisations is narrow - more to do with making money at the other end! So yes I was paid for and paid while I studied but then worked in a top commercial firm.
I loved studying law as a mature student. It's not difficult in terms of understanding but there is so much reading that you struggle to find time in the day to fit it all in. I cannot recommend it enough!
Do consider what the fees would cost in total
Also any work experience would be beneficial you don't really know you want ti do something till you have tried it.
Most barristers are self employed so you may not earn much at first, nobody will be paying you a salary.
Sorry to pour cold water on your plans, but it is virtually impossible for barristers to find a place in chambers - there are far too many being churned out than there are spaces available. The law generally is extremely difficult to get into these days, even for those with good Oxbridge degrees and relevant experience.
However, obviously you must follow your dream, but you did ask for honest replies. DH and I have made a good living as lawyers but have advised our DC against it (not that they seemed interested).
My opinion, for what it's worth, is to pursue the FILEX route and then cross qualify later, when you have experience and contacts. It's cheaper and less risky.
My suggestion would be to try and get some experience in a solicitor's firm or chambers first, to see if you like the day to day aspect of it. Studying a degree in law is very different from the actual reality of practising it. I work in a niche area of law, which may explain it, but I honestly don't think I use anything that I learnt on the GDL or LPC!
You can take both courses part time (either evening or weekend courses), but they are tough to do in combination with a job. Not impossible, but you have to be really dedicated to it.
I think the CILEx route that has been suggested is a good idea. I had a few colleagues that did that, and they had comparable job duties as a solicitor. I guess though it may be different if you want to be a barrister (that area held NO interest to me at all so I never looked into it!).
My daughter is studying for a law degree and it is very competitive out there to get training contracts , I think that would be my first caution , the second is it's a lot of work, there is a huge amount of reading involved, and the third would be the cost involved.
Doable definitely. Go for it. I'd do a GDL or graduate entry LLB and then while doing this try to do some mini pupillages - the worst part of it while working and as a parent is if you have to write papers which take an awful lot longer than I always would allow for- other than this it's not as hard as everyone makes out. Bear in mind bar is still very competitive and you need to be getting good marks however I think your age and professional background is actually a practical advantage in many areas. I wouldn't do ILEX unless you want to work as a solicitor or similar in an office.
COI: I left my office (law) to retrain as something else after completing LLB while working & have since completed LLM. I think it's eminently doable and is not as hard as people say it is
my sister who is currently studying law and is very enjoyable once you find your niche. You might enjoy teaching as well/ legal academia. Don't be put off by how long it takes and circumstances. You will be 5 years older/10 years older etc anyway - why not spend it doing what you want to do rather than get 5/10 years older and be in the same place.
Also do do do apply in time. I keep seeing people who apply for a training contract far too late which messes it all up. If they are reading law like a daughter onthe thread they shoud be doing things like working in a law centre in year 2 and that kind of thing and applyiung for trainding contracts at least 2 years in advance not just as they graduate. Sometimes their problems are entirely caused because they didn't spend 5 minutes on line checking in their first year at university what the deadlines are. Also paid vacation schemes which pay up to £500 a week in university holidays (unlike other kinds of graduate jobs with unapid interns) need to be applied for in time. You don't want to miss the boat on those either as too many people do. A lot of trainees are recruited from those schemes. (I and my daughters are solicitors).
The problem is the mass production of graduates who are the same and get stuck in paralegal or whatever positions and the removal of caps on student numbers so more are graduating with law degrees than ever and comparatively they are devalued. I think you offer something unique however.
OP go for it if it is your dream. However you will need to research qualifying as a barrister carefully as securing a pupillage is very competitive even for the very best graduates. Although age discrimination should not be a factor, it will be much harder to get a pupillage at say aged 50 than at aged 25.
My dh retrained as barrister 14 yrs ago ( he had previously been a medical dr) he found it v difficult to secure a pupillage even with his qualifications- it also took several it's to earn what he had been used to and had a huge amount of debt due to yrs of low pay initially
He has a v niche practice now and is doing well but we hardly saw him while he was training and being a pupil as he is chambers we're 300 miles from home!
What area do you want to specialize in OP? If it's Family (I say that because of your social work background), then it might just be possible to secure pupillage, especially if you intend to work in the provinces. But otherwise I think you're going to find it next to impossible to get much beyond the BPTC - most significantly older applicants just don't get pupillage, the competition from twenty somethings with Oxbridge Firsts and LLMs or BCLs on top is just too fierce. Sorry to be negative, but I say that even though I'm more of a go for what you want type of person - it's just that at the moment competition at the Bar is horrendous, so it's worth pause for thought, given that the course itself is an expensive business.