Misconceptions about Change at the Junior Level

Written by: Liam Andrews
Published On: 5 May 2020

At Chadwick Nott my role is to work with lawyers, from the latter part of their training contract up to Partnership, assisting them with moving and advising them about the market and their careers. 

Approaching the subject of career change is particularly challenging for lawyers. The general perception is that you need to be certain about the area of law you want to practice in, because when you head down the path of one legal discipline, there are few options for change and they are extremely difficult to find.

I feel this is a bit of a misconception as there are a variety of options available to lawyers change, and they aren’t as difficult to obtain as expected. In this article I want to focus on the issues for junior lawyers I have encountered and give some tips.

I won’t be able to qualify into an area I haven’t practiced in / I won’t be able to change if I qualify into an area I dislike.

More often than not, law firms are accommodating to trainees who want to train in a particular area of law.  Most of the time individuals I speak with are happy with the discipline they have qualified into.  Unfortunately this is not always the case.  Whether it be down to changes in the law, economic factors, internal issues, location requirements or simply their firm not handling work in a certain discipline – some people end up unhappy with their choice on qualification.

In each of those instances it’s important to remember as a trainee/newly qualified solicitor, you are still fresh faced and trainable in the eyes of law firms and there is no reason for immediate panic if you want to change areas of law.  A large number of our law firm clients have communicated that they are open to considering junior individuals with a lack of experience in a particular discipline, if they have transferrable skills and it is clear the individual has been applying themselves in their previous/current roles. 

It is also true that law firms are open to considering lawyers wishing to move legal discipline, if they have the resources to train up an individual or if a particular area is hard to recruit for. 

Although it’s not a guarantee you will get a job, I have seen junior lawyers follow some or all of these steps to help secure a new role:

  • Apply yourself in any role you are currently working in – standing out in your current position and being able to highlight achievements in both your CV and interviews is important.
  • Discuss with your current firm and see if there are options for internal transfers.Lawyers I work with have noted that as they are a known quantity to the firm, they have found more success internally transferring.
  • If there are no options for internal transfer, I have worked with lawyers who have secured work from senior members in the department they wish to move to.This can eventually lead to a move internally or be an important basis for your CV for when you are looking at moves externally.
  • Review Job specs and firm websites to identify the transferrable skills that you can accentuate both on your CV and in any interview process.Likewise if you have any personal connections to the area of law – e.g. charity work then highlight this too.
  • Research the area of law you are interested in and if you can, go one step further and find events to attend that relate to it.Seminars, brunches, courses and workshops are all highlights you should be looking to include in your CV to show your commitment to the area of law.
  • Utilise legal social events to mingle within the practice area and grow relationships you can utilise.
  • Keep the net wide.If you are keen to transfer practice area then you may have to consider relocation for the right job.
  • For those who are still training, be open to considering moving your training contract. You could look at moving to the right firm who are going to provide you with the work you want.

Although the above demonstrates that an individual must be proactive in securing a role in a new practice area, I hope it also shows that it’s doable.  It should provide you with a few examples as to how to get the ball rolling if you are serious about change.

If this article is relevant to you and you would like to discuss in more detail, please do not hesitate to call me for a confidential chat. I have worked with both NQs and much more senior lawyers looking to move area of law.   

Liam Andrews is a consultant in the South East team at Chadwick Nott and has over 4 years legal recruitment/head-hunting experience in the South East market.  Get in touch on  07921 895 776 or liamandrews@chadwicknott.co.uk