Career-changers and mature students attend Not too Late for Law

Over 100 people attended Lawyer 2B’s Not too Late for Law careers evening yesterday, Thursday 28 November.

Held at the University of Law’s Moorgate campus, the evening featured presentations from law firms Burges Salmon, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper and RPC along with the Government Legal Service. The University of Law also provided advice on how to successfully change career.

DLA Piper senior graduate recruitment adviser Puneet Tahim told attendees that around 10 to 13 per cent of DLA’s 90-strong annual trainee intake was comprised of career changers.

She added that the career changers that DLA Piper recruited were diverse but possessed one common element.

She said: “The one thing they all have in common is that when they have sat down to do their assessment form they have not been afraid to sell themselves.

“I think career changers are often nervous about that. There is no point in doing something if you can’t sell yourself. Think long and hard about the skills you have developed previous to this stage.”

Tahim also advised candidates to be very open about their career changer status and to make it work for them by answering honestly and extensively questions regarding motivations for a career change.

RPC trainees Julio Filho, a former adviser to the president of Brazil, and Sarah Carmichael, a former fighter pilot, told attendees about their routes to the firm and what life was like at RPC, highlighting key clients such as Google, Carillon and the BBC.

Some of the event’s attendees are profiled below.

Shana Ting Lipton

Shana Ting Lipton, journalist

What’s your background?

I was born in London and grew up in Los Angeles. Living in LA, I started out writing for entertainment magazines like Variety, and moved into the technology area, writing for the likes of Wired and The LA Times website. Since coming the UK I’ve been doing a lot of travel pieces for airlines like United and British Airways.

Why have you decided to explore the legal profession?

As a journalist, you’re always told you have really strong analytical faculties and communication skills. Hopefully they match up with the criteria for what makes a good lawyer. I’m also very much geared towards technology and media law – privacy is one of the most exciting areas right now, it’s expanding so quickly. I’ve worked for startup technology publications and have that experience under my belt, so law just seems like a natural fit for me.

Why now?

I had been considering it for a while, and I thought, ‘If not now, then when?’ Carpe diem. And the climate in media right now is not great. I’ve seen the industry change so much, from being something really fruitful for writers and editors, particularly in the freelance sector, to being a bit devalued by bloggers and freemium content. So I was looking for some stability, but still to be around the same media culture that I love so much.

Have you found Not Too Late For Law useful?

Shana: I’ve picked up a lot – I don’t know if I can really narrow it down. One of the most valuable things that I’ve learned is not to go too niche on your application from. Obviously, I have to restrain myself because I love media so much. So I need to be able to throw that out as one of the tricks in my hat, but also be able to take a view in terms of the other practice areas that are covered in the training contract.

Amy Woolfson

Amy Woolfson, mature student

What’s your background and why have you decided to explore the legal profession?

I did okay in my A levels but I didn’t feel like going to uni – at the time it didn’t seem like a big deal and then about three years later I noticed that a lot of my friends had degrees and I didn’t have one. I felt that I was as bright as them so I thought I should get a degree. I was going to do geography, and then I thought I’d give law a stab. That was nearly five years ago. I’ve just finished my degree in law at the Open University, and I’ve got a First. It’s really changed my life. It’s made me a lot more ambitious. I’d like to say it was brilliant planning, but it was just fantastic luck. 

How have you found Not Too Late For Law?

Firstly, it’s really great to go to a careers event and not be the oldest person here! Also, I think I’ve heard the most succinct explanation of what commercial awareness is: that was from Frances at Burges Salmon. She said that when they’re recruiting trainees, they are not looking for someone who’s completely there academically – though obviously you need that academic foundation. But you need to be able to recognise that your place as a lawyer in a modern firm is to give business advice to your client, and I think that’s quite a good thing to take away for future applications.

Ruth Tully

Dr Ruth Tully, forensic psychologist

What’s your background and why have you decided to explore the legal profession?

I’m a forensic psychologist, so that means I’ve been studying and practicing psychology for around the last ten years to reach where I am, working with clients and organisations across a broad range of settings such as prisons, probation, secure hospitals and in the community. The decision I’ve made to investigate law further is largely based on the contact that I’ve had with the legal system within the backdrop of the work that I already do. I’m very interested in how the legal system works, and seeing how much advocacy solicitors do has really impressed me and helped me to think more about the route that I want to take.

Why now?

I’ve finished all of my studies in relation to psychology and I’m looking for a challenge. The legal system links so well with forensic psychology, so it seemed an apt time to take things further by starting the GDL.

How have you found Not Too Late For Law?

I’ve been very impressed by the firms that are here, particularly DLA Piper and RPC, who have got the message across very clearly that they see applicants as individuals and not just UCAS points. As a working mother with an established career this was very positive to hear.

Angela Alvey

Angela Alvey, mature student

What’s your background?

I have worked at Merill Lynch and NatWest in head office roles but never went to university after school so I am now at the University of Kent studying for an LLB.

When did you first realise you wanted to become a lawyer?

At work I found that the areas of my job that I enjoyed the most tended to involve interpreting and applying the law. It was while working as a compliance manager in a law and compliance team at Merill Lynch that I got the opportunity to see first-hand some of the work that the lawyers were involved in, and I found it really interesting.

That’s when I started to think seriously about making the transition over into law. Law touches so many areas of our lives whether we appreciate it or not, it’s a broad and potentially complex subject. The challenge and diversity behind this really interests me. 

What do you see as your main obstacle to becoming a lawyer?

I did think that not obtaining a training contract might be an obstacle. However, there are different routes to qualification, so a more flexible outlook is helpful.   

Laura Wares

Laura Wares, mature student

What’s your background?

I studied GCSE Law in my late twenties while on maternity leave and went on to study AS and A level part-time in a year. I’d always been interested in law but even studying at this level made me fall in love with it – so many areas to get passionate about! I knew then that I wanted a legal career and was encouraged to pursue one by the former barrister who taught me.

Why do you want a legal career?

I am interested in people -ocused areas (as opposed to business/corporate) so family, social care, education, infrastructure of government. I want to be a lawyer that can make a real, tangible difference to peoples’ everyday lives. To know that they can leave a meeting with me feeling confident that they have been given excellent advice that will help them move forward or reassess their position if necessary. I want to build that trust with clients which is so crucial in relationships and on-going business.

What do you see as your main obstacle to becoming a lawyer? 

The biggest obstacle for me has been the lack of a training contract and wondering where I go from here. Undertaking the LPC financially without one is a huge commitment and potentially a massive risk. At the moment, as a student in their final year, while still applying for vacation schemes and training contracts, I am also considering using my dissertation as a basis for a research masters next year too.