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Is 36 too late to consider becoming a solicitor?

(25 Posts)
TheProvincialLady Mon 03-Jan-11 17:54:18

I would appreciate some honest opinions on this. I am 35, nearly 36, and have not worked since DS1 was born 4 years ago. I will go back to work, full time, when DS2 goes to school in 2 years. But I don't want to return to my former profession because it is badly paid and there are likely to be zero opportunities anyway (I was a museum curator).

So I was thinking of retraining, and wondered whether there is any hope of me becoming a solicitor? I think I would suit the work, in fact someone who is a very successful solicitor said that I would make a good lawyer just last week (I had done some paid historical research for him). But is it possible at my age, and if so would it cost me at lot? I would have to stay in my current provincial city. I do have some contacts which might be useful to me, not least the aforesaid successful employment lawyer.

I have a two degrees and an MA, all at good universities. I am quick to learn and find academic work easy. What are my chances? Be brutal, I can take itsmile

TheProvincialLady Mon 03-Jan-11 17:55:24

Oh and when I say I have not worked, I mean not for a company. I have been doing small amounts of paid research and have volunteered my socks off, getting grants for local charities and setting new projects going, being on committees etc.

AvengingGerbil Mon 03-Jan-11 17:59:45

I hope not - I was 41 when I started re-training!

It is expensive - you need to do the GDL and the LPC, which will run you to £20k in fees. And time-consuming - I've been doing it part-time and will finish this summer after four years.

And there are no guarantees of jobs at the end of it - there are thousands more people who qualify for training contracts than there are training contracts available. If you can line one up before you start the re-training, so much the better - the big firms tend to hire two years in advance. I don't have one lined up myself and will be joining the huge numbers chasing the training contracts this year.

Hope this helps and is not dispiriting. I've really enjoyed it - but would be glad now to feel that it will turn into gainful employment...

TheProvincialLady Mon 03-Jan-11 18:05:13

Oh that is encouraging, thanks (less so about the expense though). I did look at the training contracts offered by the company my friend's husband's former company (a big local law firm) and yes, they recruit 2 years in advance. So does that mean they take people without knowing what their exam results will be, I wonder? Anyway, my friend's husband was a partner at this firm so I am pretty sure that having him as a reference would be a good thing.

Actually I am not sure that £20k is going to be forthcoming.

hatesponge Mon 03-Jan-11 18:05:28

The short answer is (in theory at least) its not too late.

however, I'm assuming you don't already have a law degree? That being the case, you will have to do a 1 year conversion course (CPE), followed by the LPC (legal practice course). Both courses are full time - you can do the LPC over 2 years part time. These courses are offered by unis in most major cities (Bristol, London, Nottingham, Manchester etc). However places are limited, and the cost can be considerable (I think a couple of years ago fees for LPC were about £7000).

To qualify as a solicitor you then need to complete a further 2 years traning contract - this is 'on the job' training. Again, places with firms are limited, and there is huge competition. I have several friends who have taken 5 years to get an elusive traning contract.

Once you qualify, do also bear in mind your starting salary may not be huge. I'm currently interviewing for a newly qualified/junior solicitor for my team, and the salary bracket offered by my firm is £20-25000. Not a pittance I know, but also not a huge amount after 6 years study!

Simbacatlives Mon 03-Jan-11 18:08:43

Ok. Sorry to be brutal . 2 degrees and an ma- not worked for 4 years. Are you just wanting to be a student again? Do you really want to be solicitor or just not go back to your old job?

It sounds to me like you either haven't found what right for you (which may be law of course) or you just like being a student. You haven't worked since 31 and did 2 degrees before that? Have you always wanted to be a solicitor or is it just a passing whim?

What about an academic job?

compo Mon 03-Jan-11 18:11:37

I would have thought going into fundraising permanently would be a better idea as in this climate charities , museums etc need to raise funds more than ever

shelscrape Mon 03-Jan-11 18:14:58

I agree it not too late, but there again Ive been a solicitor for what seems like zillions of years.

hatesponge is correct. The CPE conversion course is 1 year, but that is full time study. Some universities do it part time or distance learning. Again, the Legal Practice Course is 1 year full time and up to 3 years part time. So, a minimum of 2 years full time study, more is you take the part time option. The two year training contract is onthe basis you work full time for your firm.

I would warn you though, there a lot of students doing the academic stage of the training who are completely unable to find a training contract. There are curretnly more places on the LPC than there are available training contracts.

TheProvincialLady Mon 03-Jan-11 18:17:23

One of the degrees was done by distance learning whilst I worked full time, so no I am definitely not wanting to be a student again for the sake of it. I worked full time for 9 years. An academic job does not appeal to me and nor does fundraising work. I am genuinely interested in law work and in fact it was my original choice of career, but I did 2 weeks work experience aged 16 and stupidly changed my mind (because I had been working mostly on reception and found it dull).

virgiltracey Mon 03-Jan-11 18:19:27

It isn't too old but as others have said the training is expensive and training contracts are hard to come by, particularly those where the LPC is funded. I wouldn't consider it unless you have a training contract lined up first. As an aside, not meaning to insult anyone but do you know why your friend's husband is no longer a partner at said large firm? There are exceptions of course but in recent times lots of unprofitable partners at large firms have been asked to "look elsewhere". He might not be the best person to line you up with a job at his previous firm. Better probably to try his current firm.

I would advise you to get onto a vacation placement scheme to see whether you enjoy it. Lots of the large firms fill their training contract places from the vacation placement schemes. if you can't get onto a VP scheme then I would use that as an indication of whether larger firms would take you as a trainee.

Where are you based?

TheProvincialLady Mon 03-Jan-11 18:54:31

He has moved on to start his own practice, which has been a success. I'm pretty sure that he wasn't asked to move on. I am based in Leicester.

toddlerama Mon 03-Jan-11 19:16:56

Definitely try a vacation scheme. Longer term and more of a real taste of the job.

I completed the academic stages of training and then had babies. Am currently a SAHM (sort of - I am a self-employed musician/tutor), but when I go back to work, I will be competing for a training contract, and from what my friends have told me, it's not pretty. Lots of redundancies recently and very few firms willing to take on trainees (they often cost them more than they can feasibly earn for some time). I wouldn't recommend it as a career choice for these reasons. Your age shouldn't be a barrier at all. Lots of recruiters have told me that a mature trainee would be preferable. The cost sucks though. DH and I have just paid my uni debts off. I had a full scholarship for my LLB, and a partial scholarship for my postgrad, but we still owed 20k after LLM and LPC (I realise the LLM is optional, but you would need to do the CPE / GDL). Admittedly, I was living alone in the city my scholarship was offered so you could do it cheaper if DH is already supporting your living costs.

It is a very expensive qualification to hold, and although the earning potential is good, it doesn't kick in for quite some time!

WillbeanChariot Mon 03-Jan-11 19:39:38

I agree with others who advise getting some work experience. Could you volunteer in a Law Centre? I know there used to be one in Leicester, I used to be a paralegal there.

Also it's worth considering that different areas of law practice require very different skills and offer different rewards. I'm a criminal lawyer and I enjoy it but the pay is not great and some nights and weekends are required. I do very little detailed research but I do a lot of advocacy and meet lots of 'interesting' people! So think about what suits you about it, and maybe experience a few practice areas before taking the plunge. I doubt I would have carried on if I had got my first paralegal job in something like contract because I would have found it deathly dull.

Good luck if you decide to go for it. I did my LPC at DMU as it was local to me and cheaper than some. It's not challenging at all academically and unless you want to do business law is mostly pointless!

virgiltracey Mon 03-Jan-11 19:48:14

Would you be restricted to Leicester or would you look at Nottingham and Birmingham? I'd be suprised if many firms in Leicester would fund law school. Eversheds in Nottinghamn would as would wragges, pinsents, hammonds, DLA in Birmingham and maybe also some of the slightly smaller Birmingham firms. They will all do VP schemes. I think VP schemes are your best bet. What sort of law are you interested in? If you are truly determined to do law though don't let it put you off if you can't go into a large firm immediately. I am a partner at one of those I've just mentioned but trained at a smaller firm. It is harder and takes longer but is certainly possible.

pookamoo Mon 03-Jan-11 19:51:08

OP, your post made me smile, as I am a solicitor, and would very much like to be something like... oh I don't know... a museum curator wink when my DCs are all at school! grin Seriously, it is on my list to look into, as well as archivist and librarian.

Everyone has given you fab advice, so if you are determined, then go for it - good luck!

TerraBella Mon 03-Jan-11 23:23:42

Hi there Provincial Lady, , i agree with all thoughts of a fun job but vast expense and uncertainty of getting there. however... a cunning plan may be to look into becoming a legal executive (look up the institute of legal exectives )... and doing a sideways move ,rather than the stright route to solicitordom. it hinges on getting a firm to take you on as a studying worker, rather than an expensive trainee ( and thus an attractive low paid employee)... after about 7 years you could hop over and enroll as a solcitor. that is a very short expalnantion of the way but do look into it.

my Mum sent me to do 2 weeks work experience in a road traffic department of a massive firm. I left the law for 10 years, such was the horror. I came back to it in 2001 and i qualified in 2009 ( intervening baby). it was tough to get a training contrat and i did everything part time. I was 31 at the beginning of my epic adventure. I am a family lawyer and i know it is experience that makes you a good solcitor as well as the right temprement. be prepared to take knocks and get your spelling right for real letters! i am drying my red "sue and be dammned" nail varnish so that is my excuse for my "gr/sp/1 out of 10 see me for detention "written style in this email.

good luck.

DioneTheDiabolist Mon 03-Jan-11 23:26:35

Definitely not too late. Let's face it, the way things are going, by the time you retire, retirement age will be at least 75, so you will (conservatively) have 30 years of working life ahead of you after you qualify.

Dunno if I should put a grin or a sad emoticon here.

darleneconnor Mon 03-Jan-11 23:56:52

You can do a conversion LLB with the OU. It's £2k per 9 month module and you have to do 4, over 2-5 years.

This then guarantees you a place on the college of law's lpc.

If you are on benefits/disabled the fees are free.

I've done 2/4 courses but live in Scotland so I dont know what I'll do when I finish.

Most of the people on my course are 40+.

bedubabe Tue 04-Jan-11 03:58:38

First, as others have said it def possible. My step-mum was the oldest trainee/NQ in the city and she didn't start her training contract until md/late 40s.

But l, again as others have said, it's tough competition (and also don't discount how hard the training will be with a family). It's much harder to get a training contract when you don't fit the mould of the 20 year old student. You are def going to need to get experience in the area of law you want to do to stand any chance of getting a training contract prior to the GDL.

Realistically, it's really only commercial law firms that offer a significant number of paid GDL places. What type of law do you want to do?

Please also don't have a romantacised idea of being a lawyer - a lot of the time it's dry, dreary procedurals with very long hours. Still better than a lot of jobs though!

Also, sorry to dash hopes but it's unlikely a friend who was a partner at a firm is going to help a lot. It might get you through the door for work experience though. You'd be much better off finding a friend who was a major client of a firm!

moid Tue 04-Jan-11 04:12:21

Hi, ex city lawyer and now work in careers for one of the top providers of legal education.

Agree with most of what people are saying:

- it is now the GDL conversion course
- there was a big surge in the last couple of decades in training contracts but in the last two years Training contracts are down 30%. Definitely the rise is unsustainable.
- the law society is looking at the whole TC model, maybe in 2 or 4 years time things will have changed.
- mature students do get TC's but they tend to have very specific sector based experience or general solid experience
- what you need to get a TC or pupillage is team working experience, demonstration of strong academics, client facing skills, presentation experience and commercial awareness

Any more queries just shout

PJS1 Tue 04-Jan-11 12:27:17

Hi ProvincialLady, if you're still thinking about becoming a solicitor it might be worth contacting Eversheds - they have a quite a lot of info on becoming a solicitor. They Mention training contracts, LPC sponsorship, LPC maintenance and training contracts - all a bit scary if you ask me! page

It might be worth giving them a call to ask your best way forward.

Hope this helps

RockinSockBunnies Tue 04-Jan-11 12:35:12

Just seen this thread. I'm currently a trainee solicitor at a Magic Circle firm. I got my training contract in 2007 and the firm paid for me to do my GDL and LPC (all fees covered), including help towards living costs.

It's very competitive to get a training contract, but I'd certainly not worry about your age. There are a wide range of ages of trainees where I work and I know people who have come to law as second careers. Your age and experience can make you stand out from other applicants who may not have so much to offer.

I love my job, though the hours aren't especially conducive to family life, but we have an au pair to help out.

Feel free to message me if you want any more information!

TheProvincialLady Tue 04-Jan-11 15:06:36

Thanks so much everyone, you have certainly given me lots to think about. I have looked up courses in my area and especially the legal executive route (thanks for that suggestion, TerraBella). I am going to chat with my legal friends and then find out if I can get some work experience.

shelscrape Tue 04-Jan-11 22:52:33

I agree with TerraBella, if it's challenging work you want in the law being a legal executive may be the way forward. I have afew friends that took this route when they failed to get a training contract in the last recession and they are doing very well indeed! Firms will often take on trainee legal executives specifically.

Best off luck! I'm about to take a career break from the law for about 12 months to do absolutley flipping nothing ....

TheProvincialLady Wed 05-Jan-11 11:13:56

Thanks very much. I have been looking into the legal executive route some more and found that there is a course starting on 11th January, so I am off to the open day tomorrow! One evening a week would suit me very well at the moment. The course is not too long or too expensive, so I should get a feel for whether legal work is for me without bankrupting myself.

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