Changing direction

At the start of this year the Law Gazette did a feature discussing the fact that many legal professionals were changing their specialisms. During the first lockdown, people across the board assessed what they wanted from their work, considered whether they were happy and fulfilled, and how they could make a change. The legal industry was no exception.  

Taking such a drastic leap such as changing your legal specialism is a risk – it means starting back at square one in terms of experience, contacts, and, in most cases, wages. However, for many in the legal sector our paths are chosen when we are incredibly young, and the legal world changes so quickly, so it is understandable that later in our career we may question whether we have made the right choice. 

I write this from the perspective of someone who has predominately worked in personal injury and clinical negligence, areas that have faced great changes in the 10 years of my career. I’d always loved the area, but unfortunately the changes made by the Government meant firms were finding it harder to keep going and the firm I was with could not offer me an NQ role in clinical negligence upon completion of my training contract. They had sadly made the decision to close their doors after over 30 years of business. I started to reconsider the area of law I wanted to be in as a result of this, as did many others within the same area of law. 

I started a new role in housing disrepair two months before the first lockdown hit. I had always worked in civil litigation for claimants, so this was something I was familiar with, and my skills were transferable. During this time I started to realise I was not as fulfilled as I previously had been, and my anxiety had started to increase.  

External factors helped push me to make a change. When COVID-19 resulted in the first lockdown in March 2020 I was working from home, and during this time I found out I was pregnant. I continued with my work when we returned to the office until I went on my maternity leave in December 2020, then in June 2021, I handed in my notice whilst I was still on my maternity leave. The pandemic and becoming a mother for the first time made me reassess what I wanted from my career. I had every intention of returning once my maternity leave was over – I was proud of becoming a qualified solicitor and wanted a long career in law, but I knew something had to change. I had no idea at the time if handing my notice in would be one of the best ideas or worst decisions I would make. I just knew I couldn’t continue at the pace I was. 

I looked for alternative work when I found out MSB was recruiting for a retrain role for a solicitor in Social Housing. This was an amazing opportunity as retrain roles are not that common; it is a lot of work for a firm to retrain someone into a new area of law. It is also a risk for the person taking the role to effectively become a trainee all over again. 

I am happy to say that nine months into my new role I am extremely happy I took the chance. I love my new role; I enjoy the area of law; the training has been fantastic, and I am working alongside some excellent people. MSB accommodated my need to work part-time due to childcare and provided me with a flexible work week to ensure I would still have time with my family. I have had the opportunity to be involved with the MSB social committee, started a book club for the firm and have been involved with some wonderful charity events including supporting food banks, Black History Month, Pride and Mandela8. 

If you are considering changing careers, I would say it is worth the risk. Make sure you do your research, consider what it is you want and whether any change will bring that. 

Even if you don’t think you want a drastic change, you may want a better work life balance and that is something the pandemic has highlighted. Family and time with our loved ones are so important. A happier workforce is a more productive workforce.  

And if you are just starting your legal career it can be hard to know what step is the right one to take, just know it is never too late if you did ever want to change your path in the future.  

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