Your Career Change: Career change to Law is the second guide in our Career Change series. We put the spotlight on a career and how to transition into it. In this guide, you’ll discover the benefits of changing careers to become a lawyer and the steps you need to take to make the switch.
For many career changers, especially older workers, making a career change to law seems like an impossible task. Law is a notoriously prestigious profession that requires you to undergo extensive legal training. Don’t give you up your dream of being a legal eagle just yet, though. Changing career to law may be more achievable than you think. In fact, an increasing number of mature students between the ages of 33 and 54 are studying for the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).
We break down everything you need to know to make a career change to law and the benefits of retraining as a lawyer later in life.
Should I Make a Career Change To Law?
Transitioning into a career in law is an exciting new challenge, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for everyone. Pursuing a law career is tough going, so it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before taking the plunge.
- It’s a fresh challenge and opportunity to develop a new skill set
- Law is a rewarding career where you can make a difference
- It’s a diverse subject with opportunities to meet people from different cultures, age groups, and backgrounds
- It’s a respected career that offers good benefits and remuneration
- Law is a broad topic, making it possible to specialise in an area you’re passionate about
- There is a wide variety of job roles within the field of law
- You will need to go back to school to retrain as a lawyer. Law training courses are intensive and require a lot of hard work and dedication
- Going back to school will cost money. University fees can cost up to £10,000, not including living expenses
- Law is a traditional profession that has come under criticism for being elitist
- A career in law will mean long hours and high pressure, this isn’t always a good fit for older workers with family commitments
If you’re still unsure about retraining as a lawyer, our advice is to ask around. Speak to professionals who have made a career change to law and ask how the process was. Alternatively, you could try volunteering in a non-profit organisation or finding an internship in a law firm to get a better idea of what a day in the life of a law professional is like.
Changing Careers To Law: What Skills Do I Need?
You’ll need to develop and refine a number of soft and technical skills to successfully make the transition to law. As a high-stakes profession, lawyers are expected to have a strong set of skills, including impeccable verbal and writing skills as well as the ability to solve problems and analyse information.
Fortunately, as a career changer, you have already developed an arsenal of valuable transferable skills. These soft skills, combined with your previous professional experience, will stand you in good stead as you pivot careers.
If you are feeling insecure or suffering from imposter syndrome, read our confidence tips and remember what you bring to the table. Employers enjoy a host of benefits when they employ mature workers, so don’t underestimate your value.
Here are some of the top skills you will need to showcase to potential employers:
- Outstanding written and verbal communication skills
- Teamwork and collaboration
- Creative problem-solving
- Critical thinking
- Research and analytical skills
- Ability to work in high-pressure environments
- Meticulous attention to detail
Your Career Change: How To Retrain As a Lawyer
If you have your heart set on a career in law but don’t know where to start, keep reading. We’ve broken down how to make a career change to law in 6 steps.
1. Choose an Area
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, law is a broad field. With so many areas to choose from, the logical first step is to narrow it down to the area you would like to work in.
Here are some common areas of law to choose from:
- Banking and finance law
- Commercial law
- Corporate law
- Criminal law
- Employment law
- Environmental law
- Family law
- Human rights law
- Immigration law
- Property law
- Public law
- Sports law
- Tax law
2. Pick a Job Role
Once you have decided on your target area of law, you should then consider the type of legal job you want to pursue. Training to be a solicitor or barrister is just one of the many career paths in the legal field. As such, we advise doing your homework and considering all the options.
Here are some possible job roles in the field of law:
- Company Secretary
- Court Usher
- Crown Prosecutor
- Family Mediator
- Forensic Scientist/Psychologist
- Immigration Officer
- Legal Secretary
- Probation Officer
- Tax Inspector
As you can see, there are plenty of different entry routes and professions to choose from in the legal field. This is great news if you are unable to go back to full-time education to complete a law degree. Many mature workers get their start in law by taking on an entry-level role and working their way up, studying as they work.
3. Check What Funding is Available
Making a career change to law is expensive. If self-funding isn’t an option for you, you may qualify for funding or assistance.
As a career changer looking to retrain as a lawyer, you have several funding options available:
For more information on student funding, check the gov.uk website or lawsociety.org.
4. Get the Relevant Qualifications
The qualifications you will need to start a second career in law vary greatly depending on the job role you choose. For instance, if you plan to become a barrister or solicitor, you will need a law degree (LLB). Alternatively, if you hold a degree in another field, you can take a conversion course known as a Postgraduate Diploma in Law or a Master of Arts in Law.
After your degree, your next steps will differ depending on whether you want to become a solicitor or barrister.
Retraining as a solicitor
As a trainee solicitor, you will then usually take the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and undergo a training contract with a law firm. This is for students who have already begun their law degree. The other option is to opt for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) which includes Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). This is a popular route for career changes who don’t have a degree in law.
Retraining as a barrister
Retraining to become a barrister is broken down into 3 components:
- The academic component – a law degree
- The vocational component – the Bar Practice Course (BPC)
- The work-based learning component – pupillage
You will need to successfully complete all 3 stages to apply to become a qualified barrister.
While these are the most common routes for barristers and solicitors, they are certainly not the only paths into law. The UK also has options for career changers to undergo apprenticeships or professional qualifications and study as you work. It may take longer to gain your qualifications, but it gives you the opportunity to earn as you work towards your goals.
5. Gain Some Experience
There may be a large academic element to law, but you will also need to gain some hands-on work experience. Not only will it give you a clear idea of what life as a lawyer will look like, but it will enable you to develop the necessary skills. Plus, you can use the experience to build your confidence and grow your network.
Work placements, mini-pupillages, and informal internships are all fantastic ways to get some hands-on experience. You could try getting in touch with a local legal firm to see if they can take you on. If you are at university, getting involved in the law society is a great way to gain experience in the field.
6. Update Your CV
Once you have successfully completed all the elements of your legal training, it’s time to start the job hunt. The first step in the process is to update your CV, tailoring it to your new profession. As well as adding your new qualifications and work experience, make sure you also emphasise valuable transferable skills you have developed throughout your career. Opting for a skills-based CV is a great way for career changers to highlight their skills and experience even if they come from a completely different background.
Do you need help revamping your CV? Take a look at our guide on writing a career change CV. It’s packed with advice on how to optimise your CV and stand out in a sea of applicants.
The benefits of changing careers are huge. The average UK worker now retires at 65, meaning workers spend the majority of their lives at work. As such, it’s crucial that they feel fulfilled and content. Switching to a new career in law can reignite your passion for work and give you a new lease on life. Plus, it’s an exciting new challenge in a respected field.
While making a career change to law can positively impact your life in many ways, it’s not for everybody. Therefore, we recommend doing thorough research before you make the transition to help you choose the right career path. What’s more, retraining as a lawyer is costly and time-consuming.
Once you are absolutely sure that it’s the right profession for you, it’s time to retrain and update your CV. Check out our dedicated career change jobs board to land your first legal role.
For more advice on changing careers, we’ve compiled a list of career change support and resources to support you.