Careers: Meet the Transformers

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  • My "radical switch": fighter pilot to solicitor (Ok maybe not so radical: fighter pilot to aviation lawyer).

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  • I do not believe these stories are representative of the current legal workplace. It is telling that some of these transfers occurred many years ago when the law was not so over-subscribed and was slightly more flexible. It would be much harder to transfer successfully today with law being even more conservative and openings even fewer than ever. Good luck if you want to switch from being a nurse to being a solicitor now; I would be stunned if you make it to a training contract let alone partnership. No way HR in any City / West End firm would even contemplate (or understand) promoting a candidate with a slightly alternative career path (unless they can bring a "following" of course).

    There is so much competition firms simply focus on candidates with no less than a 2:1 from a decent Uni, lots of (unpaid) work experience in the law, being the right fit and being the right age to be worked very hard for 5-7 years before being cast aside.

    Considering an older candidate with other life skills is too challenging (and potentially threatening) to most law firms. They may also have families and not want to dedicate 14+ hours a day to the firm which doesn't help in the current climate. Good luck to those who try.

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  • If the GDL could scrapped and career changers truly interested in law (rather than money, prestige and ego) had to do the LLB, the job market for lawyers would be much better. "Hey, I did a degree in XYZ. It had no prospects so I short-circuited the LLB, did a GDL and now I find myself way ahead of those oiks who slogged their guts to get an LLB."

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  • In response to Up North, as someone who did a GDL many moons ago, I can't agree more. Most barrister and solicitors in the top sets/firms seem to come from the GDL route. In hindsight, I don't think it makes for better lawyers. If you want to come to law late, you should do an LLB or something close not the by-the-numbers rote learning on the current GDL. The GDL doesn't pretend to give you legal training - just enough of the answers to get you through. I agree that the GDL needs overhauling, if for no other reason than to stem the overwhelming flow of people trying to become lawyers when there isn't room.

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  • You should be able to start life as a solicitor or barrister at any age, like Mary Smillie at 2Birds (50 years young). Yet the process is so geared towards the 20-22 crowd at certain firms that if you're any older the process can feel awkward.

    I took the GDL / LPC route and after enjoying a 6-year career. I've had vac scheme workshops on how to talk to clients. Great for freshers, not so for someone who does that on a daily basis. The TLT graduate site is decorated with cartoons such as a man sitting on a rocket about to shoot to the stars. It looks like a 5 year old's bedroom wallpaper.

    Considering that any job should be accessible regardless of candidate's age, I think some law firms are shooting themselves in the foot and, some might say, guilty of indirect age discrimination. Thoughts?

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  • I'm a 38 year old mum of two and just commencing the second seat of my training contract. My employer certainly recognises the added value that life experience brings. For the record, I really did start from the bottom. Following a career in the public sector and no degree,I gave up my job, embarked on the LLB and finished with a first. I was lucky enough to secure my training contract between graduation and commencing the LPC. My age and having children was such a help as it gave me the focus and determination I needed to succeed. I am enjoying every minute of my training contract and can't wait to combine qualification with hitting the big 40!

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  • I am 41, a mum of 2 and about to start my training contract having completed the GDL and LP after a successful career in the civil service. There were many other 'career changers' just like me on my course, many of whom have also secured TCs. Age and background are no bar to a successful (second/third) career in law, but in my experience, you do need to be wise as to which firms will consider a candidate like me. Do your research - a quick look at the 'current trainees' profiles on the web page will give you an insight into the mind set and attitude of the firm towards the people it recruits, while the presence (or absence!) of any diversity stats can also be quite telling! My future employer has been nothing but positive about my past career and the experience and skills I can bring to the firm. I am also looking forward to a new career as a solicitor which, in response to Up North above, has nothing to do with money, prestige or ego, but pure old-fashioned job satisfaction...

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  • If you want to be a doctor, you do a medical degree. Want to be a lawyer in the US, then you have to obtain a juris doctorate from a qualified law school. I still can't understand why we let people who have spent three years studying philosophy or media studies undertake a 1 year paint by numbers course and then be on the same route as those who have spent three years studying law on an LLB. There is no substitute. Whilst everyone should have the ability to change, if I want to be a doctor I have to go and do a medical degree. A law degree should be a per requisite. I can generally tell those trainees who work for me who have not done a law degree.

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  • @ Anonymous 7:24am: these days a medical degree is not a prerequisite for becoming a doctor, you can do another degree (normally in science, but I don't think it's essential) and then do a fast-track conversion course. Basically it's the same as the GDL, but takes a bit longer. So your junior doctor might have a BA in history or a language or whatever without you knowing. The same goes for a lot of professions these days.

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  • Thanks for the replies; an interesting discussion. Please also see my earlier comments in this article:

    http://l2b.thelawyer.com/courses/legal-practice-course/national-college-of-legal-training-terminates-lpc-and-gdl/3005253.article

    Please note that my rhetoric is not that people who wish to career should not be allowed it. My empathy, rather, is with LLB undergraduates and graduates who embarked on a legal career from the outset and now despair at being rejected from jobs because somebody else with a diploma and a non-law degree was chosen over them. Unfortunately, university snobbery is also rife here, and I lament HR recruiters who have naff all to do with law, but hold the key to someone's career- they can decide, so easily, where you're going in life, because you went to a polytechnic and did an LLB, but someone who studied Classics at Cambridge then did a GDL was better than you.

    My belief is that if you wish to embark on a legal career, then get to the back of the queue. Lawyers seem to be allowing for the destruction of their own profession by allowing any old person to come along and proclaim, indeed be, a lawyer. As 'Down South' explains above, the GDL from their own experience was vastly flawed. I;m grateful to see that a non-LLB graduate agrees with me.

    The GDL undermines the LLB and those who worked hard to graduate with one, and who worked hard to build a portfolio to demonstrate they have had their eyes set on a legal career for a very long time indeed, perhaps with nothing else considered. This is in contrast to someone who did not like their job (because if they liked it, they'd have stayed) or faced the music and accepted that their degree in philosphy was, realistically, not going to get them very far in terms of career prospects. Now imagine being an LLB graduate and competing for the same job as someone who did a GDL, and then had to note that that person got the job in the end.

    How would you honestly, yes honestly, feel in that scenario? Again, I am not saying you have no right to become a lawyer, but that the route to be taken should be uniform. The GDL is a shortcut and an escape route, purely and simply. I am certain that if the LLB was the starting point, most career changers simply would not bother. If the legal profession is to survive, we need to get back to basics and combat the ego and money (I disagree that those are not factors in some, I said 'some', not 'all' career changers) elements that drive many lawyers. Those lawyers should also be weeded out as their attitude demonstrates no commitment or caring to the legal profession.

    I'd also disagree with the point above about certain firms not taking on people of a certain age. I have seen trainee solicitors at corporate firms; however, not every young graduate wants to strut around a city centre in a suit, and many can see straight through the glossy propaganda and brochures churned out by corporate firms. Those graduates do genuinely want to work for high street firms for the average person. Those firms are not the reserve of the more 'mature' lawyer.

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