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Is It Really Possible to Retrain From One Branch Of Law To Another?

Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

Possible, yes. Easy, no.

Let’s say you obtained a training contract in personal injury. Perhaps it wasn’t initially your cup of tea, but you grew to like it, and after you got qualified, it was easy enough to land a good job in the field. However, ten years on, you’re still a personal injury lawyer. The problem is, you always really wanted to be a property lawyer. Well, it’s still not too late to make a change – better late than never, as they say – but it would have been a whole lot easier to make the switch ten years ago.

Whether it has come about as a result of redundancy, changing personal circumstances, or a desire to challenge yourself with something new, changing specialisms once qualified is not for the faint-hearted. However, don’t let your comfort zone get in the way of achieving your dreams; with enough careful planning and determination, it is possible to reshape your legal career.

If you’re set on changing your career path in law, here are six proven strategies that can help you achieve this daunting feat.

Find A Mentor In The Field

As with the decision to switch areas of practice, finding a mentor is not easy. It requires time and planning. You not only need to know exactly what you want from a mentor, but more crucially, you also need to know where to look for one. Think about it – what are the chances of finding someone locally, online, who has already made a similar journey and with whom you can strike up a rapport?

You simply have to put yourself out there and actively seek someone you can trust and who can help you, which brings us to the next strategy.

Attend Client Seminars, Webinars, and Trade Events

While it’s possible that you might already have colleagues or business contacts who would be willing and able to help you, you’re likely going to have to network as much as you can. Fortunately, there are multiple law-related organisations that host regular events and seminars. For example, The Law Society puts on semi-regular seminars around changing specialisms in law.

By joining specific trade associations and special interest groups and attending relevant events and webinars, will provide you with valuable insight and knowledge while being able to network with people who may be able to mentor you or help guide you.

Take Advantage Of Any Courses

In addition to attending events and webinars, see what online or evening courses you might be able to take to work toward a qualification in your area of interest. Consider what other training you can do, from self-study to gaining certificates which might add credibility to your CV.

CLT offers a number of certificate courses, most of which last one or two days. However, such courses aren’t cheap, and it’s unlikely that your current firm (or a future employer for that matter) will want to foot the bill.

Network On LinkedIn

While LinkedIn may never be a substitute for the face-to-face networking solicitors have always relied on. It is still an invaluable tool for generating and supporting professional relationships in a way that's unparalleled in terms of time and cost.

Although your CV will always be important, when it comes to standing out to potential employers and specialist legal recruiters such as Clayton Legal, your LinkedIn profile is one of your most important assets, because it allows you to build and shape your personal legal brand.

In addition to maintaining a meticulously updated and polished profile, it’s also a good idea to join and contribute to a mixture of law-focused groups. This will help you to to keep your finger on the pulse and will enable you to network with others at the same stage in their careers. You may very well find that elusive mentor through social networking.

Target Smaller Firms And Areas Of Need

In addition to exploring the potential of locum legal work in your new specialism, you might also consider targeting smaller firms. While bigger firms are usually not willing to train someone into a different area, preferring instead to look for people with a proven track record, smaller firms might be more flexible and open to helping you retrain, especially if they are located in an area that is not well-connected or are in dire need of the specialism you’re trying to switch into.

Keeping up to date on the latest economic/legal news and trends is key to understanding which areas of need you might be able to tap into. With regard to the example we used in the introduction, many firms right now are actually struggling to find good property lawyers.

While this might seem hard to believe, given a looming Brexit and the surrounding economic uncertainties that it brings, the fact remains: the property market is booming right now, which means firms are desperately searching for talented real estate lawyers. Not only is demand high, but supply is scarce. Where there’s a niche role to fill, there’s a way.

Seek The Advice And Guidance Of A Specialist Recruiter

In addition to implementing the above strategies, working closely with a specialist legal recruitment agency like Clayton Legal, who understands your situation and your goals, can significantly improve your chances of success. If you take the time to clearly explain your current situation and your goals, they will have the know-how and the connections to guide you toward landing a role in your new specialism.

While changing specialisms is by no means an easy feat for any lawyer, partnering with a specialist recruiter will help to make your transition much less daunting and perilous.

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