I was very privileged to be on one of the boats taking part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant at the beginning of June and one of the things that occurred to me was that, despite having lived most of my life in and around London, I’d never been on the Thames before.
I know London extremely well but seeing it from the viewpoint of the river itself, all the way from Hammersmith to Greenwich, as I did that day, really opened my eyes to a new aspect of that wonderful old city.
This has been a year of new perspectives for me. In January I started a training contract at a small high street firm of solicitors, and I’m now nearly six months into it doing general practice. However, I’m not a typical trainee, in that I turned 51 in February and I have over 30 years of work experience in a number of different fields, from the entertainment business to cancer research and from selling shirts and ties to managing a business.
It’s been a challenge adapting to working at a law firm but not necessarily in the way you might imagine. For instance, I’m older than both partners at my firm but this has not been an issue. I’ve taken a new direction in my professional life and after 4 years on the CPE and LPC I am quite used to learning new things on a daily basis. Therefore I have no problems being supervised by younger people because they have knowledge and experience that I am keen to acquire as quickly as possible. Working relationships with colleagues have been great.
I’ve had to be careful, though, not to get despondent when I don’t get a piece of drafting right first time. I’ve realised that although my bosses here are really good and supportive I’m much harder on myself and if I meet anyone that I used to manage in the past, then maybe I owe them an apology. I didn’t realise what a hard boss I was!
I think the main challenge I’ve faced is adapting to a different pace, having a much smaller work load than I’m used to, and picking up different ways of working. My firm have been introducing me to some very varied and interesting work but at a pace where I have not been overwhelmed and this has given me time to develop and reflect on my progress.
Being a mature applicant was seen as an advantage when I applied here because the breadth of my experience meant that I could be put in front of clients, both individuals and businesses and communicate with them effectively. Being a mature trainee has meant that clients take me seriously and probably assume that I know more than I do, but I have the experience and the maturity to know what I can and cannot do and am able to deal effectively with matters as they arise, knowing when I need help.
Something that I have brought to the role early on is my experience of time and file management and proactively dealing with matters. My billing and closing of file rate of some of the old matters of my predecessor has been, although I say it myself, impressive.
So, if you are looking to change careers, and you are looking at law then do not be put off simply because you may be more mature than most other aspiring lawyers. Even in the current climate where training contracts and pupilages are as rare as hen’s teeth you still have an edge over many of your contemporaries. There are firms out there who will be grateful that they would not need to constantly hold your hand and spoon feed you.
If the time is right for you then try it. Get off the streets and onto the river. It’ll change the way you see things.