How To Change Your Specialism In Law

by Annabel Corcoran on 14 September 2016

Legal Recruitment Consultants are often faced with candidates looking to change the area of law they specialise in, and I receive at least a couple of applications a day from solicitors with no experience working in the particular position they are applying for.

As everyone knows, the legal market is fiercely competitive and when applying for roles you will always be against several other strong candidates, the majority of whom will have existing experience. It’s not going to be easy.

One thing is for sure - if you are a qualified legal professional, do not rely solely on a recruitment consultant to assist in finding you a role where you have little to no experience. A good consultant will always be happy to offer you advice on how to change specialisms, but the fact is that law firms expect their recruitment consultants to send over candidates that can hit the ground running. Therefore, you may have a lot more luck applying directly.  

So, how do you go about changing your legal specialism?

The short answer is: through grit, determination, and a lot of work.

The key is perseverance. You simply aren’t going to walk into a new role without showing a prospective employer you’re serious about the change. To increase your chances of success, consider the following points.

Research

Do your homework on the area you’re considering. Are you really interested in that area, or do you just like the idea of it? Some areas of law are far more technical than others and you won’t walk straight into a new role – ensure you’re truly interested in the area and that you’re ready for the challenge.

Relevant courses

If you’re looking to change into an area you have no experience in, the obvious thing to do is to take relevant courses. If you covered corporate law during your studies before qualification and then went on to specialise in property law, unfortunately 10 years later your corporate law module simply isn’t going to cut it. There are lots of courses to consider, including those targeted at those with no experience in the sector, and ‘refresher’ courses for those with existing - albeit possibly just basic – knowledge.

Networking

Networking is vital when considering a career change, not only to build up your connections within a specific legal sector, but also to learn more about your chosen area. Do you have existing connections with experience in your chosen sector? UTILISE THEM! There is no point in networking if you’re not going to make the most of the connections you make. If possible, it’s always beneficial to find a mentor within your chosen area.

Work experience

The above also applies to your legal training (if you have any in your area of interest). Your legal knowledge and practical experience will have become outdated. Gain experience in your chosen area through shadowing, internships, or work experience. Whilst over time it gets harder to change, it’s never too late to go back to basics.

Be prepared for a pay cut

It’s very likely you will have to take a cut in salary if you’re looking to change areas. Remember: if you’re an employment solicitor with 6 years’ PQE looking to work in family law, you can no longer class yourself as having 6 years of experience. Be prepared to start on a lower salary and to work your way up again. 

Speak to your current employer

If you’re 100% set on a change and you have a good relationship with your manager, it might be a good idea to explore the possibility of gaining experience at your current firm. That way, you have the possibility of eventually moving departments within your current firm, creating an added sense of stability – happy days!

Keep going

As mentioned, perseverance is key. It’s not going to happen overnight, so keep on building up your CV and making those applications!

If you would like to have a confidential discussion about your job search please contact Annabel Corcoran at G2 Legal.

T: 0207 649 9296, E: annabel.corcoran@g2legal.com

About the author

Annabel places high calibre, qualified legal professionals into practices based in the City & West End. Experienced in assisting with hires from NQ to senior partner level within small boutiques, mid-sized practices, and large international law firms.