How to change specialism


There is a continuing demand for people to change specialisms. Either people lure after shorter more flexible working conditions or their interests shift. Either way, it's becoming more popular then ever amongst lawyers and if you're brave (and sure) enough to make the leap here are a few tips;

First, think how can I add value?

You're going to have X year experience in an irrelevant field to the one you are targeting. Why will employers choose you over the candidate with X years of direct relevant experience?

It’s not just about learning a new area of law, but also about identifying and developing the required skills for practising it.

Be prepared to read up on developing case law (Bailii is a good free online resource), attend courses and seminars in your own time (there are some great intensive courses), and also undertake voluntary work, which helps with the acquisition of relevant new skills. ‘You need to think about how to make yourself more valuable on paper and then go out and do it. Try to find out to fill in the gap in experience with other strengths.

2. Be strategic

If your heart isn't set on a particular area, you can be strategic about your move. Try to choose an area where there is a skills shortage. If there is a shortage of good lawyers recruiters are going to be more ‘receptive’ to your background. Generally, the longer you practice in one specific area, the harder it is to move. So, if you have itchy feet to move, the time is now because the longer you wait the more you reduce your chances of a successful change.

3. Master your transferable skills

Do not be deterred if your desire for change comes later in life. ‘As a lawyer, you have a lot of core skills that you can transfer to another discipline. For example, a criminal practitioner would have excellent interviewing skills that could assist you in wills/probate or family law. You just have to think outside the box, when it comes to pitching your skills in the right way.

Lawyers are well-equipped for any career change, they have excellent research skills, sharp judgement and the persistence to make it work having spent years training. General core skills such as critical thinking, client relationship management, negotiation, advocacy and the ability to assimilate complex information and communicate it to the layperson are all transferrable skills which would be an asset to any firm.

It will take bravery, courage, hard work and the ability to set aside time to make specialism change work, but it is possible. So, if you want to do it - what's stopping you?

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