I didn't realise it would be the case at the time, but I seem to have ended up as a trailblazer for that newest of diversity categories: the oldie! Before the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 even came into force I had set off down the trail of changing career to become a lawyer, at the age of 44.
It all began in early 2003 when I was made redundant from my job as a publishing director. Getting straight back into the publishing saddle would have been the obvious response but the more I thought about my next job, the more I realised that the industry no longer presented me with any challenges. I had been in the book trade for 20 years and the thought of doing more of the same until I retired filled me with dread.
So, I decided to cast myself adrift and began the search for a realistic alternative. Law was a career I had considered as a teenager, and having to go through a formal process of retraining gave me hope that when I emerged after two years of studying I would have as good a chance as anyone of securing a job.
However, it turned out that the whole application process is geared towards people in their twenties. I couldn't even complete most of the online training-contract applications because there was rarely sufficient space to include my work experience, while the extracurricular activities I'd pursued at university hardly seemed relevant 25 years on. I was lucky that my personal circumstances allowed me to take two years out to study and manage several years of low earnings. I also believe that my bold move was made easier by having strong academic qualifications: at least this gave comfort to would-be employers. Set against that was the (understandable) prejudice that, as an ex-director of several companies, I would not take to paginating bundles very readily!
With top law firms getting thousands of applications every year for a handful of training contracts, it becomes all too easy to bin any which seem at all difficult. It is easy to get a place at law school (provided you have the requisite exams) but getting a training contract is different. So how did I manage it? Research was crucial, making sure I didn't waste time applying to firms that had no evidence of employing mature candidates. Preparation also played a part, so that I had answers to the inevitable questions about willingness to do photocopying. And finally, it was a case of believing in myself, and being able to analyse my strengths - both in terms of personal characteristics and work experience - and matching these to the requirements of being a lawyer.
A career change was a risk for me, but one that seems to have paid off. Being a lawyer is stimulating, rewarding and has given me the chance to grow old if not disgracefully, at least by winding up rather than winding down!Reuse content