Changing direction

 In Gill's Blog

Disclaimer: LawSkills provides training for the legal industry and does not provide legal advice to members of the public. For help or guidance please seek the services of a qualified practitioner.

Gill Steel - Solicitor, Trainer in Wills Probate Trust TaxThe future of work in general, and some areas of law in particular, is uncertain. Historically, there have always been peaks and troughs in different areas of law with recessions and booms, property crashes and property highs. There is however, one area, which is slow but steady, and that is death and taxes. As Benjamin Franklin said, death is the one certainty in life. At times like these when you may have been furloughed or are facing redundancy, now may be the best time to find the perfect career change for you.

Life outside the law

Of course, leaving the law altogether may be your decision but before you do that why not find out what would be the perfect career for you. If you are willing to work your way through a truly amazing book on your own why not try ‘What Color Is Your Parachute? 2020 A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers’ by Richard Nelson Bolles (author) It is an international bestseller that has been around for years and is updated annually. I would strongly recommend it. You should come away with a clear list of the soft skills you currently have; the hard skills you currently have and what skills you are interested in building.

If you want to have something of a laugh at this point, you could also try using the National Careers Service new website which is producing some hilarious results – The tool, which went viral on social media, is currently in a beta phase (which probably accounts for some of the results) gives a series of potential career options after participants answer a number of multiple choice questions.

Before you leap

When you have explored the options for someone with your skills and experience – do a reality check. Are there any jobs of this kind out there? Will I be able to survive on the salary? What changes will I have to make in my life if I aim for such a job? Is there a risk that the job might be vulnerable to disappearing like my old job?

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Instinct is a powerful feeling – we often do what we believe we must do rather than what we want to do. Now is the time to re-think and listen to your gut! Will following a different path make you happier? After all we spend a large among of time working, better that we should love what we do rather than make ourselves ill doing something we no longer enjoy or no longer find fulfilling.

Fear of change is a powerful barrier to making a move but working through a book like ‘What Color is your Parachute’ should help you to identify your strengths and play to those. It might be that, like most people, change is frightening because of your family commitments and financial commitments. You might want to be a gardener, but you would not be able to make enough money to support your family in the way you live now if you made the change. So, any radical change will need the reliable support of those around you. Talk about what is possible and what would make everyone happy. Downsizing might reduce your financial commitments and enable you to choose a less well- paid job if that is what you want.

Changing to a different area of law

If you would like to remain within a career in the law but seek a change in specialism then be prepared to ask yourself whether working in that area will:

  • Suit your personality
  • Suit your skill set
  • Align with your values and beliefs
  • Be practicable if your firm does not currently offer this area of work
  • Provide the happiness you seek

For 20 years I have re-trained solicitors from other disciplines into private client work by that I mean Wills, Probate, Trusts, Tax and Elderly Client work. I have seen practitioners from commerce, litigation, crime, family law and conveyancing make a move into this work. I have found that those who transition successfully:

  • Are open-minded about the change or positively keen to make the change – this is necessary if you are to put in the hours needed to build your knowledge of this new area of work
  • Are resilient – you will need perseverance to achieve the same or similar level of knowledge as you had before in your old area of practice and this will take time but meanwhile can be frustrating
  • Are particular about detail – private client work is all about the small details
  • Exude empathy – you need the ability to listen well and respond to the client’s concerns be they as a bereaved person or as someone who is vulnerable and needs to feel they can trust you with very personal information
  • Are willing to be flexible about remuneration whilst they re-establish themselves – this might be offering to do a limited period in the new area without remuneration or with low remuneration on the basis that there will be a stiff learning curve needing supervision
  • Can undertake a project whilst learning which helps the firm e.g. going through the firm’s Will bank and writing to all the clients to suggest a review of their Will and cross-selling Lasting Powers of Attorney to those who have not got them

Making a change within a firm which already has a private client team who can help support you is obviously easier than starting a private client department from scratch without anyone to ask when you are stuck – here you may need consultancy advice to build a realistic business plan and technical support until you are sufficiently experienced to fly solo.

LawSkills can help you with the right training to make the transition; help with building a business plan for a new team and provide technical support.

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