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Solicitors - have any of you gone down the non traditional route?!

(23 Posts)
FFSenoughofthis Thu 30-Mar-17 22:38:45

Posted in chat, but was advised to post here, would be so grateful of any advice/experiences!

I'm currently in a legal role, but considering possibly training as a solicitor. It's been mentioned to me quite a few times now, but I'm just not sure! I don't have a degree at all and tbh it's the prospect of being close to 40 when I qualify that's really putting me off!

Has anyone done it the non-traditional way? Would you recommend it? If you've decided against it, but stayed working in a legal setting do you think you made the right call?

EnormousTiger Fri 31-Mar-17 11:14:34

Go for it! I did a law degree etc but I have worked with people, one trainee was 20 years older than I was, others have worked in industry and then switched, others qualified first as a legal executive. I don't know the details of routes to qualification but if you can meet them then good for you. It's a great career. I enjoy it every day.

MrsPinkCock Fri 31-Mar-17 20:05:28

I did. I went down the CILEX fast track route.

My employer paid for it, but I was tied into them for 4 years post qualification, so 5 years in total. Juggling that, full time work and my kids wasn't easy. I was working pretty much every minute of every day.

If you don't have a degree then you'll have to spend 4 years completing your CILEX, then another year or two doing top up modules to meet SRA requirements, then another year or two doing the LPC. It's much easier if you have a qualifying degree as you can fast track in a year or two.

My honest view is it isn't worth being a solicitor in your situation as CILEX fellows can do almost everything a solicitor can. You can get fellowship in around four years at a cost of around 8k, but if you add 2 years for the LPC and your top up modules then it's closer to 30k cost and many more years of work!

Unfortunately legal execs are still sometimes viewed as inferior, but realistically it's a hard qualification and if you can do it as well as your five years qualifying experience (now three I think) then you're actually going into the profession with more knowledge than a younger trainee.

Good luck whatever you decide. If you're sure it's what you want as a career choice then it's definitely worth it.

mumblechum0 Fri 31-Mar-17 21:21:34

I Echo what Mrs Pink said. I qualified as a legal executive in the late 80s over 4 years and although it was very tough coming home from work and hitting the books for hours, it did pay off, and I did exactly the same job as a solicitor for around the same money.

My employer paid the course fees and gave me a little time off for revision around exam times which helped a lot.

Allthebestnamesareused Sat 01-Apr-17 12:05:22

Another FILEX here who did go on to qualify as a solicitor by doing LPC and not having had to do a training contract as I had enough qualifying employment prior to LPC.

In the geographical area I worked it did make a massive difference to what I earned. Also I found I was better received by both staff and clients as a "solicitor" rather than as a legal exec.

Even if you qualify at 40 you may have a good 25 years or so of working life ahead of you if you chose.

I'd go for it.

Positiveoptimist Tue 04-Apr-17 22:12:54

Ok - can someone explain to a layperson what this all actually means?
I'm a headteacher with a BA and an MA, but are these worthless when considering a career change? I'm 41 and I'd like to make a career change into family law. What would this entail, how many years would it take and when would I start earning money? At the moment I earn £59k - is this possible in family law?
Thank you!

FreeNiki Tue 04-Apr-17 22:16:25

positiveoptimist no one does family law for the money.

it will take a 1 year conversion course, 1 year lpc. 2 year training contract if you can even get one.

Legal aid has disappeared for most family lae.

My friend is a family specialist and was paid less than 20k as a trainee and has been made redundant 3 times since 2012.

I dont know any family lawyers earning £59k.

EnormousTiger Tue 04-Apr-17 22:57:31

Your BA is not worthless. If it was in law then you just do one more year studying like all law students do. If it wasn't in law then it's 2 years.

There are plenty of family lawyers earning a lot of money who are equity partners i the bigger firms. Eg profits per equity partner at Withers are probably about £300,000 a year. Obviously you don't start on that. You'd be on something like £37k as a trainee solicitor and work up and you would need very good exam results etc.

If you want a lot of money though there are better paid areas of law than family law.

FreeNiki Tue 04-Apr-17 23:20:12

Enourmoustiger that is assuming she can get a training contract at a top firm in London with a family department and earn mega bucks.

The competition is crazy as we all know. She has a BA and MA but who doesn't? They are standard qualifications.

She wont know until she spends the money on the courses and commits to it.

EnormousTiger Wed 05-Apr-17 06:37:20

She could look at her chances though now before proceeding? Were here A level results in good subjects with high results. Was her BA from a very good university, that kind of thing. I think women shuld aim high. Also she doesn't really know until she's practised it what kind of law she really would like so getting a training contract and experience in several departments might lead her to going into a better paid part of law.

Positiveoptimist Wed 05-Apr-17 07:34:28

Hi, Thankyou both of you.
My A level results weren't great (only one A, two C's and a D - they were really hard 25 years ago!!).
My BA was in Geog, mostly human with some social sciences, and although I got a first in my final dissertation I missed out on a first overall and got a 2:1.
My Masters is in Education - from Leicester Uni so nowhere prestigious.
My school is in an extremely deprived area full of poverty, and I work everyday with social care and women's aid.
Last year I left an abusive husband myself and found the whole process very difficult. It must be impossible to navigate if you have no family support, no home and no means of employment - domestic abuse is pernicious and frightening.
I've been summoned to appear in court for three child removal cases in the last two years; in all three families the judge granted SC with removal orders and the children were adopted.
I suppose I chose this area as it matters to me more than the salary.
I am just about to apply for a teacher's job and leave headship - a £20k pay cut - we can live on beans on toast for a couple of years - so I have time and space to do what I love, which is make a difference.
I don't live in London though!
Can you think of other areas of law which mm at suit me?

Positiveoptimist Wed 05-Apr-17 08:06:59

*which *might suit me?

MrsPinkCock Wed 05-Apr-17 18:13:44

Trainees at our firm are now only paid £18k - its scandalous. They qualify on £24k, but may negotiate more depending on their discipline.

A decent salary doesn't come in until at least 4 years PQE and a good salary comes in around the 8 year mark, so it could take ten years to get up to a £60k sort of level if you're up north, taking into account any training period.

Corporate law pays well IME, as does clinical negligence. Personal injury pays peanuts and usually attracts monkeys. Anything litigation related is somewhere in the middle to top end. Property varies widely as many firms use assistants for the bulk of the donkey work. Family law isn't a good area to go into - childcare pays little and divorce lost its legal aid.

I'd do it because you love it, not because of the money - it's a very marmite profession and I know a few people who chased the glamour, were sorely disappointed and changed career after qualifying!

FreeNiki Wed 05-Apr-17 18:14:02

No idea. You will have no idea what each individual area of law is like until you do it.

If you have £25,000 to pay for the courses and 4 years to spare studying and training then knock yourself out.

Positiveoptimist Wed 05-Apr-17 18:26:26

Mrs pink - thank you for your clear advice, much appreciated. I certainly don't have any glamorous aspirations - I'm a teacher FFS!!!!

FreeNiki - you sound so bitter - if you're in law at the moment one could suggest that you leave it for a new challenge; by your condescension and negative tone you give the impression of someone who needs a change.... 😉

FreeNiki Wed 05-Apr-17 18:56:51

FreeNiki - you sound so bitter - if you're in law at the moment one could suggest that you leave it for a new challenge; by your condescension and negative tone you give the impression of someone who needs a change....

Stop hijacking other peoples threads, start your own and dont be so damn nasty.

no bitterness just irritation with people thinking woah I'll be a lawyer its so glamourous and I'll make loads of money starting it at 41.

ffs.....have a biscuit and several grin laughs. you'd be 60 by the time you made back what you spent on the courses.

Positiveoptimist Wed 05-Apr-17 20:02:15

But FreeNiki, it's not all about the money!

burdog Wed 05-Apr-17 20:15:15

I am qualifying using in the CILEx route. I'm going to qualify as FCILEx and then see how I feel about dual-qualifying as a solicitor. Nowadays you need to qualify as FCILEx, do the LPC and do the professional skills course and you can apply to be admitted to the roll as a solicitor (the rules were changed a few years ago, previously you needed to do top-up modules to get a full GDL, qualify as FCILEx prior to starting the LPC and the SRA/CILEx was VERY strict about timing). My company has offered it but I'm not sure how I feel about doing the LPC part time since I've been taking exams every six months or every year since 2013!

My advice is to be very careful OP. Be careful about what you want to practice in as Fellows, unlike solicitors, can only get independent practice rights in certain areas, and these are necessary to become a partner or set up your own firm. I started in a law firm but now work in the legal department of a company. When I worked at the law firm as a paralegal I was paid £18,000 a year with very few prospects for promotion or decent payrises and was definitely a second class citizen compared to trainee solicitors and solicitors (even the bloody secretaries if I'm honest!). Legal execs tend to do best at firms that are small enough to care so that you're judged on your merits and not your job title. It is very likely that larger firms will overlook you. I'm in-house and I'm paid a LOT more and I'm treated like a colleague.

WildKiwi Thu 06-Apr-17 06:49:18

Another CILEX grad here - definitely worth looking into partly because of the flexibility of study options. At the time I studied (wow nearly 10 years ago now, where has the time gone!) I found it a really flexible route and enabled me to work full time. I did most of the course through a college, but also one year due to the times clashing for the areas I wanted to study, I did correspondence study.

It was damn hard work though, so you need to be sure you want to commit the time and go for it.

At the time while studying I was working in family law as a paralegal. For anyone thinking about areas like family law, it can be incredibly rewarding but it isn't an area of law you go into if you want the big bucks. I always thought of a lot of the job as helping people at very difficult times in their lives, which can also be quite gruelling at times and ultimately after taking a break I've never gone back to it and life has taken me in a different direction.

Best of luck with whatever you choose to do!

SouthPole Thu 06-Apr-17 07:20:57

I'm a solicitor and my assistant is currently going down the CILEX route. It is hard but she's a grafter, and doing great! I'm her supervisor.

To the headteacher: You'll be burnt out and poor before you're 60 if you go down this route. Try being a children's advocate via your LA. There's no joy in family these days. Nikki is exactly right.

nannyplumislostinspace Thu 06-Apr-17 08:45:44

I'm a solicitor. Qualified the usual way. Top university and an MA. I've been qualified for 10years and I don't earn £59k. I love my job but freenicki and mrs pink are spot on. Some of the other posters on this thread clearly have no clue as to the reality! I agree that CILEX is a great qualification if you are really passionate about law. I wouldn't go into thinking that you will be earning anything like what you are earning now, but you are quite right that money is not everything!

user1471517057 Thu 06-Apr-17 10:05:29

Solicitor for nearly 13 years albeit in Northern Ireland, so things are pretty different from mainland UK. The pay is reasonable but nothing to write home about. (I earn far from £59k) Worked in Family Law most of my career but recently changed to Personal Injury.

Family can be incredibly rewarding but it's extremely difficult to make money due to the Legal Aid cuts. It's also an emotional drain and heart breaking when you see decisions made by Courts /Parents that are just plain wrong/unfair. I can understand why it would appeal to you as a teacher but you can assist people in other ways that are incredibly useful but won't completely up end your life/finances. Maybe look at volunteering at Womens Aid/Childrens charity or becoming an Advocate.

Allthebestnamesareused Thu 06-Apr-17 14:53:11

There is definitely a big difference between City firms and rest of the country and even City and some smaller London based firms.

DH is partner in Cambridge firm. (Mid sized well regarded regional)
By way of example Top Equity draw £350K pa.
Trainees are paid £15,000 first year £18,000 second year.
Newly qualified £42,000 and thereon on merit based on meeting financial and other targets.

There is scope to earn decent money even outside of London if working in major regional centres such as Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, Oxford, Reading, Cambridge, Bristol etc. Again there may even be big differences within the city depending on the type of firm.

To the headteacher: You may want to consider working for local government but again at the lower end of the scale you won't be matching what you earned having made your way up the scale in teaching. What I usually say to more mature people looking to switch into law is that if you are doing it for the mental stimulation and "love" of the subject great. But don't think it is glamourous and it may not be lucrative (but it can be).

It is very competitive but there is much to be said to for a mature candidate with some life experience.

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