Top firms tell mature students to “knock on doors” to forge career

Over 100 mature students and career changers attended Lawyer2B’s Not Too Late For Law event last night to learn how to carve out a career in the law.

The careers evening held at the College of Law’s (CoL) Moorgate centre featured talks by the graduate recruitment teams and trainees at Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, RPC, Addleshaw Goddard and Bircham Dyson Bell and a pupil from public law chambers One Crown Office Row.

Clifford Chance’s graduate recruitment specialist Jane Croft-Baker encouraged attendees to think about the strengths they brought from all walks of life, saying: “We take the intellectual ability as a given. We’re looking for how you use that… what are you able to achieve in a working day?”

Imogen Burton, business development director at CoL, told her audience that they must “be fascinated by the business of law, the business of commercial awareness”. She stressed: “There is no magic to being a lawyer, no magic to working a law firm… lawyers are really just problem solvers.”

Meanwhile, mature trainees at DLA Piper, Mike O’Neill and Jenny Bishop gave a realistic picture of what guests could expect should they make it onto a trainee scheme.

When asked whether older trainees are able to pick and choose seats or accelerate training, the pair told attendees that although career changers might have a more specific idea of what they want to do due to previous experience, they would have the same odds of landing their chosen seats as fresh graduates as everybody is placed on the same level.

Nerves were calmed as DLA Piper reassured their audience that trainees are rarely under pressure to know everything or complete tasks in record time.

O’Neill, who retrained as a lawyer following a career in pharmacology, spoke about his experience of breaking into the profession and differentiating himself from the thousands of other graduates applying for training contracts “I can be quite pushy, I knocked on doors to talk to graduate recruiters. Don’t be afraid of asking for a chat. But you need to do it the right way, don’t go straight to Sir Nigel Knowles and say ‘can we go for a coffee?’”

One Crown Office Row pupil Jim Duffy, previously a solicitor at Public Interest Lawyers, told attendees about the route to the bar, and how best to ensure success while RPC trainees Florence Page and Jonathan Charwat gave a picture of their typical day, which encompassed everything from the glamour of attending hearings at court to checking over statements and getting in early for the free breakfast.

Read our survival guide for career-changers for a rundown of what you need to know as a mature applicant to firms or the bar.