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Calling on MN lawyers - advice please on retraining at 38

(27 Posts)
ninah Mon 11-Jul-05 11:41:13

I've worked in legal education and legal publishing in the past and would love to qualify as a solicitor. I'm thinking of a GDL by distance learning when the children are small with a view to practising when they are older. Thing is, I'm 38 in July ... realistically, do you think I've left it too late?

nearly40 Mon 11-Jul-05 12:20:33

Questions to ask yourself are: 1. Do you have any contacts in the legal profession that could help you find a training contract 2. What is your educational background - law is a snobby profession so it will be easier for you if you have a good degree from a "top" university. 3. How will you find the fees for law school?

Law is a tough profession and I think you will find it very hard to get a training contract unless you have some contacts. Sorry to be discouraging but things are very competitive. I do know of one or two people that have managed to get qualified later in life so it certainly can be done if you are very determined. However I would be wary of spending a lot of cash or time on this unless you can afford it. Had you thought of trying to qualify as a legal exec? You could possibly get a job as a legal secretary and then work your way up via distance learning/on the job training. Good luck whatever you decide to do!!

crumpet Mon 11-Jul-05 12:27:45

It will also depend on what type of law you want to do. Corporate work would be very difficult to get into I think, but other areas may be more open to people who have not trodden the traditional path.

(Also: how will you feel as a newly qualified solicitors earning the same as a 24 year old newly qualified? This may not be an issue for you, but it's likely that your previous experience in a working environment won't count for anything as far as salary is concerned.)

binkie Mon 11-Jul-05 12:28:45

I can only speak to City corporate work, but I did my training "late" (had my 30th b'day while at law college). I since found out that most City firms had - maybe informal, I don't know, but it operated anyway - a cut-off age for training contracts so at 30 I was only just under the wire. I realise that sounds discouraging but it was nearly 15 years ago though & things have moved on (a wee bit) since then; and, for all the noise it makes, City corporate stuff is a tiny bit of the field.

If you know what sort of area you're interested in, you could do what I did before I started applying to college: wrote to 20 or so firms saying this is me, here's my background, should I pursue this course am I someone you would consider employing?

I also wonder if the people at the Association of Women Solicitors (here ) might have any advice?

Gomez Mon 11-Jul-05 13:03:51

Almost in the same boat - start grad. LLB in September and so excited. I have spoken with a number of law firms (but I am in Scotland) and have been assured that they would consider mature applicants for traineeships and in fact my previous skills & experience will stand me in good stead... Off-the record a few friends in the legal profession have indicated that they don't see a problem with a traineeship either - their firms range from small conveyancing practices to large commercial.

Good luck....

Cam Mon 11-Jul-05 13:09:58

ninah, I'm not a lawyer but you might be interested in my experience. I began training to be a solicitor at the age of 32 or 33 in Brighton.
I completed 2 years and then stopped for personal reasons connected with my dd1.

A slightly older woman on the same course as me completed her training (all 5 years of it) by the age of 40. She then found it completely impossible to get work anywhere and felt that all she'd done was to give the Law Society thousands of £££ and then been let down. She found it so depressing to basically be told, sorry you're too old that she practically had a nervous breakdown and said to me, "I wish I'd got out of it when you did."

Sorry this is not a good story for you to hear.

Gomez Mon 11-Jul-05 13:15:54

- oh my goodness.

We are down-sizing to pay for me to do this so I do hope that isn't what I am going to find in 5 years time too!

jampots Mon 11-Jul-05 13:17:37

a cheaper and alternative option would be to do the ILEX studies and qualify as a Legal Executive

Gomez Mon 11-Jul-05 13:20:25

But I want to be a lawyer not a legal executive and anyway we have already sold the house !

GhostofNatt Mon 11-Jul-05 13:22:52

this country is due to implement age discrimination legislation in 2006 - this might just help!

Gomez Mon 11-Jul-05 13:25:05

Yay - I will be 39 when fully qualified, presuming of course I can get a traineeship so still young surely....

ninah Mon 11-Jul-05 13:26:03

Thank you very much indeed for taking the time to answer, and for your honesty.
Nearly 40 I have a couple of local contacts, a respectable degree from an average uni, and dp plans to help with the fees so that I can take some of the earning pressure off him in years to come.
Crumpet I don't mind the starting salary, it's still likely to be a lot better than the one I get now and with some prospects.
I like your idea binkie, and I will write to local firms and canvas opinion. I'll also check out the legal exex route - I had a feeling this took years and years though, time which I don't have
You've given me a lot of food for thought!

Cam Mon 11-Jul-05 13:26:26

I doubt it, the law firms will be able to get round that easily

Lizzylou Mon 11-Jul-05 13:30:52

I work as a Legal Recruitment Consultant and used to head our Legal Executive and Paralegal division...I have recruited Solicitors and Legal Executives and have been amazed at how many people come into the legal profession "later in life" ...It is far easier and cheaper to qualify as a Legal Executive and much more hands on, you will find that the modern legal world does recognise Legal Executives as valuable and profitable employees (particularly in non-commercial areas). That said, if you are adamant about becoming a solicitor, you can study the LPC via Block learning or part time and still be able to work in Private Practice, a lot of colleges offer this. It is important to gain as much experience as you can, even voluntary during vacations and be flexible as to salary and area of law.
Good luck! I know of loads of people who were Policemen, hairdressers, teachers etc in "past lives" now enjoying fruitful careers in Law.

ninah Mon 11-Jul-05 13:31:20

gomez 39 when qual seems quite young to me too
I would be in my early 40's
Seems to me I'd have a good uninterupted 20 years service to offer, as I'd have had the family years
I'm most attracted to family/employment law atm and not particularly drawn to the City ...

Lizzylou Mon 11-Jul-05 13:40:06

NInaH, if you want to look into becoming a Legal Executive, their website is:

They are an excellent organisation, once you qualify as a Member of Ilex, you can call yourself a Lawyer anyway! It takes 4 years on average to become a Member of Ilex (sometimes sooner) and a further 2 to become a Fellow, once you are a Fellow you only need to do the LPC to automatically qualify as a Solicitor anyway, you can study via distance learning or at college.
Firms do like Legal Executives as your training is hands on and they can mould you from the off...

Gomez Mon 11-Jul-05 13:41:24

Hey Lizzylou thanks!

Ninah - I start in September, 2 years grad entry to LLB, 1 year for legal practice diploma and then 2 years traineeship so will be just under 40! Like you, I think I will have a good 25 years of working life ahead of me so can't see the problem for employers. Already had breaks for children etc. and bring good previous experience.
City firms are not where I will end up nor large corporate firms(having trained as an accountant with one of the big firms I have got no wish to go back to that environment from a different angle.) Maybe discrimination work or perhaps criminal - who knows but I am still excited .

Lizzylou Mon 11-Jul-05 13:46:24

Gomez, Criminal is an excellent area of work to go into at the moment, a real shortage of lawyers in that field and they will take you on as a paralegal whilst you is an area where qualified sols are much needed, to go onto the Duty scheme, Legal Executives can't do this at the moment.

Gomez Mon 11-Jul-05 13:49:30

Thanks again Lizzy - I in Scotland but hoping to apply for summer internships within the PF for next year to get some criminal experience.

ninah Mon 11-Jul-05 13:52:21

thanks for all that info Lizzylou! I will have a look - thing is 9 years would take me to nearer 50 than 40 and that I think IS pushing it. If I'd started sooner, would have been ideal tho' ..
Gomez good luck you seem v realistic and if you're an accountant you know you can take the training commitment. I wish you well, keep in touch and let me know how you are getting on!

ninah Mon 11-Jul-05 13:53:55

and more ...
glad I asked now!

Gomez Mon 11-Jul-05 13:56:05

Training commitment different now thou' with two DDs.

Let me now what you decide and how you get on too Ninah.

ninah Mon 11-Jul-05 13:58:38

yes, but if it's what you want to do, you'll do it! I mean, criminal law is interesting! (i'm assuming accounting does not move you in the same way)
my second child is due in December, but it's now or never ...

Lizzylou Mon 11-Jul-05 14:03:49

Honestly, don't worry about your ages girls, do you know how many Partners in Law firms are over 65 and still won't retire? If you really want to do it, do it, it will be tough at first studying but ultimately so rewarding!
Criminal stuff really interests me too, I used to love meeting criminal candidates and getting their case studies...the juicier the better!!

Ninah..Legal Executives will have their own caseloads very quickly, you won't have to wait years and years...I know of peole who just gave up their studies as they were doing so well and earning so much money without having to qualify as fully.
Best of luck, both of you...and go for it!

nearly40 Mon 11-Jul-05 14:45:15

Good luck ninah and gomez with your training. Criminal law is definately in the doldrums at the moment so might be a good area to look into. I was chatting to an ex-member of the junior bar who said she had been earning £8K once she had paid her clerk and chambers expenses. A lot of youngsters go into criminal work and then realise it is so badly paid they can't make ends meet (unless they have a rich daddy!!). I don't think law firms will worry too much about your career longevity. They want their "pound of flesh" and see younger lawyers as being more prepared to work stupid hours. Not all firms are like this but there quite a few places where bullying and unpleasantness are the norm. Another reason for using your contacts to avoid these places like the plague...

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