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Middle-aged career-change to law... advice please! Watch

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    Hi all,
    I'm hoping to get some genuine (good or bad) feedback about my career plans. Any advice greatly received!!!

    Biog: Early 40s. Graduated listening to Oasis, Pulp and Suede with a 2.2 degree in Mech Engineering from a "new" Uni ("old poly" ). Mediocre A-levels. Sounds great so far hey?!

    I am disillusioned with engineering and I would like to retrain to be a solicitor (I won't go into the details why), so I am thinking of doing a GDL/LPC full-time at my own expense - best part of £20k.

    I'm realistic about what I want to achieve in a career in law (given my age and qualifications) and, due to personal commitments my goal is to work in a "high street" law firm in the East Midlands (Notts or Leics).

    So assuming I pass the GDL and LPC, what are the chances of getting a training contract locally? I get the impression that it would be difficult because TCs are the preserve of London, Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, etc, correct? And if I do get a TC, is a job likely to follow?

    I suppose I just don't want to spend £20k and two years training in law to find out that the likelyhood of getting a job after it all is tiny, because of my qualifications, my age, and/or the limited location that I would work in.

    If anyone has similar experince, good or bad, please let me know. Or just general advice would be great too!

    Thanks.
    Jez.
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    This isn't my area of expertise and you *may* find someone on here with experience of this sort of thing but here are my 2p worth:

    You can't do anything about your age (and companies shouldn't be worried about it either as that isn't legal!). Your limited area of work will affect what you do no matter what field or job you're in. In terms of qualifications once you get what's required then that's the best you can do. The bit that can hold you back is experience and all you have to do with that is keep at it. Changing jobs or careers is risky but loads of people have done it and if you don't try or take that risk you won't know if you can make it. You will always have what you currently do to fall back on and no one can guarantee that the risk will pay off. So it's really up to you whether you can live with staying where you are and not taking the risk or want to risk it badly enough to potentially lose and have to pick yourself up.
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    I'm not sure this forum will be of much help where there is so much focus on the big commercial law firms and a fairly strong "straight out of uni" crowd on here.

    Try and find people working in those type of firms in your local area and speak to them and get their thoughts on your chances. I suspect if you show a genuine enthusiasm for that area of law and have a decent set of people/soft skills, the high street may look past the academics, especially where they were taken sometime ago and in the days before grade inflation. But you really need to speak to them. Standards are still high - I was speaking to someone on Tuesday who does legal aid work and advertising pretty poorly paid paralegal roles for their firm and they were getting 300+ applications for 1 role.


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    Are you attracted to any particular area of law? I only ask because your age in and of itself is not an issue, and in your position it's not unusual for your previous career to make up for the fact that you have (relatively speaking) poor academics. However, that is often dependent on the previous career having some relevance to the area that you want to go in to. For example, there are a couple of barristers that I know who used to be teachers, and they clearly therefore will have had skills from their previous careers that are relevant for life as a barrister. However, apart from the usual benefits that come with having previously worked for a living (which are relevant to a degree), I don't really see how your experience as an engineer would be of any relevance to lot of high street law firms when you're applying to be a solicitor.

    You don't have to answer that question on here, but it is something to consider. Those that come into the law from a previous career are often able to make recruiters look past poor academics, but that is dependent on their previous career having some relevance to the position they're looking to move in to. Ultimately this is all about standing out from the crowd, whether you're just out of university or coming into law in your 40s. Of course there are areas of law where previous experience as an engineer may well be extremely useful (I'm thinking Construction and IP off the top of my head), but they may not be areas that high street firms would often find themselves dealing with, and if you're forced to look at more high powered firms to make your previous career relevant, you may then find that your academics are more of an issue.

    However, the short answer is that I don't know, and as J-SP says you may struggle to find guidance on here from anyone with the experience to tell you anything reliable. To that end I agree with J-SP; I think the answer is that you need to approach some of these firms directly and see if you can get some guidance from them as to your prospects of successfully making the move.
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    You have a science/tech undergrad degree, which may actually play to your advantage if you are interested in practicing in IP/patent law or technology. I understand the UK has an association called CIPA (Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys) which is open to those who have an engineering or science degree with attorney qualifications.

    Despite your 2:2, it may be mitigated by the need for specialised attorneys with engineering experience.

    I say go for it, but as always do your due diligence: network, determine if there is a need in your preferred location for patent attorneys, contact CIPA and ask your questions, etc.

    Of course, if you're not interested in patent law then you can ignore the above, but I strongly believe your mechanical engineering degree can play to your advantage.

    Good luck with everything!
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    It's possible yes, however I would certainly weigh up the following:

    1. GDL + LPC is likely to set you back £20k
    2. You will struggle to work whilst undertaking the GDL and will be unable to work full time whilst doing the LPC. As such, you will likely have to be in a position to fund yourself for 2 years.
    3. High street law firms are struggling financially and therefore practising law in one of them is becoming less and less rewarding.
    4. On the assumption that you manage to obtain a TC (which is unlikely), you are likely to have been working at the firm for roughly 1-2 years as a paralegal (on an awful salary (think £15,000)) and thereafter 2 years during the TC (also on an awful salary (think £16,000)). Once you qualify, you are likely to be earning mid £20ks.

    Can you afford the 5 or so years on no/very little money?
    If so, can you afford to contribute nothing into your pension for 5 years or so?

    Apologies for being negative, but I cannot see why someone would want to incur the cost of the GDL, LPC and monies lost as a result of not working, for a stint of roughly 10 years as a Solicitor in a high street firm.
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    I'm not going to be of much help in relation to everything else as I'm still in uni, but as to whether you'll get a permanent place after securing a TC, I think that's quite likely once you already have a TC. You can quickly check retention rates online for city firms anyway (70%-90+% usually). Not too sure about high street firms.
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    Wow!
    Thanks very much for the responses, I wasn't expecting so many replies so quickly!

    It's interesting to hear info and arguments for both sides. I know the financial hit will be pretty huge but I'm aware of it so it won't come as a surprise. When I graduated in the 90s I had debts of precisely £0, so maybe now I can be a debt-ridden 'graduate' instead!

    The info about IP/CIPA is interesting, I didn't know about it so it might be something I can look into.

    And about networking and getting some info from local law firms/solicitors, I intend to get some work experience at a few and ask lots of questions while I'm there. "How about a training contract then?" might be one

    Many thanks for your advice guys.
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    I'm a career changer, early 40's so maybe my experience will be useful. I have an Oxbridge first in law, and straight A's through school. I did a load of local firm applications during my LPC out in the regions, and got absolutely nowhere. I moved to London, took on a paralegalling job and applied this year to mid-sized city firms, and they are falling over themselves to get me in. I have two vac schemes secured and waiting to hear on two more. I'd be cautious committing to legal studies if you are only interested in securing a job in the part of the country where you are currently located? Feel free to pm me if you want to discuss more.

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    Wow so glad I found this thread. Hope you can give me an update on your situation. Did you do the GDL? I am in the same boat, in my late 40s and want to pursue my dream of going into law. I recently went back to work helping in a legal department of a bank, I have the experience of the work they are doing but not the 'lawyer' title and think I should give this GDL a try, and if that goes well maybe the LPC. I have nearly sent in my application form for a January start date with BPP but I have doubts on whether I can really hack it! Done my first degree 25 years ago so I am not even sure if BPP will accept me. My kids think I've past it! Grateful for some advice.
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    Hi Barking,I'm afraid this answer probably isn't going to be much help but anyway...I didn't persue the law thing. Having done some
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    Hi Barking, I'm afraid this answer probably isn't going to be much help but anyway... I didn't persue the law thing. Having done some "work experience days" and spoken with lawyers in my area it became pretty clear that competition is very high and I would need to be in the top few % in the GDL to really get anywhere. Given the cost and time involved that wasn't a risk I was prepared to take. But if you think differently then it's definately worth doing it. (I am still persueing a career change but in a totally different area to law! )
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    Just spoken to someone I know who changed career to law many years after their first degree some years ago.

    Age doesn't matter, in fact it's a plus point for clients (who wants a lawyer who looks like they have just qualified?).

    Your previous experience can help you specialise in that area of law or similar.

    High street firms have lost public funding contracts but those specialising in privately funded areas of demand survive. In house may be a better option for you so don't rule it out.

    Finally, he says: if you don't do this now you will regret it as it takes 3-5 years to do the conversion course, solicitors or bar exams and training contract and now is the time to get it done.

    You could always go back to an engineering environment trained as a lawyer or work for the patent office.
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    (Original post by Bakingmad13)
    Wow so glad I found this thread. Hope you can give me an update on your situation. Did you do the GDL? I am in the same boat, in my late 40s and want to pursue my dream of going into law. I recently went back to work helping in a legal department of a bank, I have the experience of the work they are doing but not the 'lawyer' title and think I should give this GDL a try, and if that goes well maybe the LPC. I have nearly sent in my application form for a January start date with BPP but I have doubts on whether I can really hack it! Done my first degree 25 years ago so I am not even sure if BPP will accept me. My kids think I've past it! Grateful for some advice.
    If you are working in a legal department for a bank, you may want to look into whether the SQE that comes in in 2020 will be a better route for you.

    The SQE gets rid of the GDL and LPC requirement, and the flexibility with qualifying work experience means you might be getting the relevant qualifying work experience via your current job rather than needing a training contract.

    The awkwardness is having to wait three years for the SQE to come in (2020) and in some ways the old route of GDL + LPC + 2 year training contract could have more guarantees (if you secure a TC). But there is a possibility you could actually qualify via the new system quicker than the old one.

    Just something to make sure you look into anyway before committing to the GDL.
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    Thank you JSP. Another thing to think about! I read around this idea of career changing and studying law and I must admit reviews have been very negative. I don’t think I have read anywhere where someone has said yes it’s a good idea go for it. My partner and siblings are supportive only because they think I should pursue my dream, dreams can be costly though. I have a month to think about it courses start in January,BPP and Uni of Law are keen for me to apply, it’s revenue for them at the end of the day!
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    (Original post by Bakingmad13)
    Thank you JSP. Another thing to think about! I read around this idea of career changing and studying law and I must admit reviews have been very negative. I don’t think I have read anywhere where someone has said yes it’s a good idea go for it. My partner and siblings are supportive only because they think I should pursue my dream, dreams can be costly though. I have a month to think about it courses start in January,BPP and Uni of Law are keen for me to apply, it’s revenue for them at the end of the day!
    There's no rush. There will be another cohort of GDL courses starting in September 2018.

    I've recruited enough successful career changers and people who have come to law later in life to know it isn't an issue and there are some great stories/examples out there of those who have done it.

    Be wary of what you are reading and who it is from. Some people take their own experience of trying to break into the profession and state it as the process for the whole industry - it's rarely that consistent.

    Go and speak to people in the areas of law you think you will be interested in and get their thoughts on it. Try and even go to some careers events on the subject matter. The Law Society run a career changers event every year (2016 event here - https://events.lawsociety.org.uk/Cli...1-d93dd95e5873) maybe go along to that or something similar before making a hard and fast decision either way.
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    Thank you. Think I will go with the GDL part time whilst still working. This way I can fulfil my expensive dream of studying law and keep the job in the legal department and maybe they will give me a training contract when I do the LPC. It might be possible as I have some of the knowledge already there but not the lawyer title. This way I won't lose out too much in terms of money and at the end of the day even without a LPC/TC I will gain some knowledge of the law and legal system for my £10K!. Also the SQE may take time to come in and when it does maybe I will have 2 choices to consider. fingers crossed.
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    (Original post by Bakingmad13)
    Thank you. Think I will go with the GDL part time whilst still working. This way I can fulfil my expensive dream of studying law and keep the job in the legal department and maybe they will give me a training contract when I do the LPC. It might be possible as I have some of the knowledge already there but not the lawyer title. This way I won't lose out too much in terms of money and at the end of the day even without a LPC/TC I will gain some knowledge of the law and legal system for my £10K!. Also the SQE may take time to come in and when it does maybe I will have 2 choices to consider. fingers crossed.
    Good luck! I am doing a physics degree, currently in my last year and I was wondering how hard is it for a physics graduate to get a job in engineering?
 
 
 
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