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I’m a new lawyer. What are my career options?

Research suggests that the average professional spends less time planning their career than planning a holiday. Does this sound like you?

As a new lawyer who has just graduated, this is one of the key moments in your career when the world is your proverbial oyster and many options are open to you.

What Are The Possibilities?

On graduation, some options for new lawyers include:

  • Moving to a different law firm after your traineeship and study
  • Making the switch from private practice to an in-house role
  • Working in the public sector
  • Entering a financial organisation like a bank as internal counsel
  • Going back to study to re-qualify in a different area of law
  • Leaving law altogether, using your law qualifications as a launching pad for a career in another industry.

What Specialisation Appeals To Me?

If you’re nearing the final stages of your training, you’ll need to choose an area in which to qualify. Think long and hard about this, as choosing your area of expertise is key to enjoying your career. Consider your short, medium and long-term aims. Think about what you want out of your career – the type of role, the hours and where you see yourself in 5 years time. If you have a definite goal, get experience in that space to help you you there fast. If you don’t feel drawn to a specific outcome, choose a path that broadens your experience and skills, thereby keeping your options open.

Practice Or In-House?

Once you‘ve decided on your specialisation, consider what type of firm or organisation you want to work for. A good starting point is to ask yourself what factors are important to you, and then prioritising these.

Use interviews as fact-finding exercises to help you understand:

  • Training opportunities and support
  • Level of responsibility
  • Salary
  • Speed of career progression
  • Hours and lifestyle.

Should I Stay Put In My Traineeship Firm?

Be realistic about the possibility that some trainees are offered their first choice with their current firm as a new lawyer, but the majority will either be offered work in a different area of expertise or won’t be offered ongoing work at all.

Remaining with your current firm as a new lawyer is an attractive option because you already know the people, systems, culture, personalities and how things work there. But thinking outside of this comfort zone, it wouldn’t make sense to settle for a position that doesn’t match your long-term career goals. This is also the prime moment to see what else is out there and if there’s a better opportunity for your calibre of talent. Many new lawyers find this process a valuable journey of self-awareness. 

What If I Want To Leave Law?

A considerable number of new lawyers leave the profession shortly after qualification. Think carefully before taking this step, as you may find it difficult to re-enter the profession at a later stage. This will largely depend on the strength of your CV, the state of the legal market, how much time you take out and what else you do in that time.

What Is Legal Recruitment Like?

One of the most popular career choices for new lawyers is legal recruitment. Li Ann Grainge, Legal Consultant with Michael Page, tells her story:

“I joined Michael Page Legal in November 2005. Prior to that I trained with one of the large city firms. I had always been highly committed to a career in the law and was one of the last people my law school friends would have expected to leave the profession.

“However, during my training contract, I quickly realised that the law wasn’t for me. I wasn’t inspired by the work and found myself looking at my watch every 15 minutes. Laboring over the minutiae in heavy documents did not motivate me. The only thing I did enjoy was meeting clients and attending firm events. However, the majority of the job was desk and paper-based. I realised what I really enjoyed was meeting different people and that I needed this to be a large part of my job.

“On this realisationm I looked into recruitment and I have never looked back. Michael Page has provided me with huge job satisfaction. In this role I meet so many different people and have a huge amount of variety in my job. It is up to me how I manage my day, so I have a considerable amount of autonomy, which I really enjoy. The days fly by and I never clock watch anymore. I am also an ambitious person so what I really value are the career opportunities here.

“ I have gone from Consultant with just responsibility for myself to leading the a team at Michael Page. Working to develop this area and leading a team of consultants has been very fulfilling. Leaving the law was definitely the right decision for me. I’m not saying it wasn’t a tough decision – of course it was. However, I cannot recommend recruitment enough and I think that if the law does not feel 100 per cent right for someone, then this is an option definitely worth exploring.”

For assistance with your legal job search, please contact us today to speak to one of our specialist consultants.