This is a question that we are frequently asked. As with many things, the answer can be complex but the short answer is… yes!Both solicitors and legal executives have the opportunity to move between areas, sometimes prompted by market changes, such as in 2009 onwards when the property market plummeted following the financial crash. Sometimes this can simply be prompted by personal, life decisions or events. Right now we are talking to lots of people who have taken time to think about their career and their life plan and have made, or are looking to make, changes in light of the pandemic.
This month: What areas of law are the easiest to move between?
We always advise people to think about those areas with similar clients. If you are used to dealing with individuals going through a divorce then you could be well placed to tweak your bedside manner and your knowledge base and move into private client work helping those same individuals write a will or handle a probate. You already know that you can build rapport with individuals and that they respond well to your advice in times of personal crisis.
Likewise, if you are helping businesses to handle their day to day commercial needs then it is not too far of a jump to move into helping them with their commercial property needs too. Your skills in understanding how businesses work will be invaluable. The fact that you need to learn the associated law can be done behind the scenes away from the client and with reference to the right training, mentoring or guidance.
Similarly, if you are wanting to go into an inhouse role, having commercial experience will stand you in good stead. All that said then if you are looking to move away from the clients that you currently have then it will be about being open to revising the way you handle clients.
It is not possible to know everything about even one area of law as each client’s circumstances are unique and no doubt within your current area of law you still refer back to legal resources in some circumstances. Equally I am sure that you don’t sit in front of every client and tell them the exact answer to their problem the moment they present it to you! You go away and think and research and then get back to them; the point is, you know how to use legal resources and apply the law. That’s a key foundational skill that you possess, which can take years to develop. With that foundation, you can learn new technical law to layer onto it.
When moving into a new area of law don’t forget to look out for resources online and legal groups, these might be:• Online groups – see LinkedIn, Twitter etc• Real life events – focused networking or interest groups• A mentor within your own firm or another legal contact
How to identify your existing transferable skills.
Take 2 minutes to write down a couple of key words that your line manager would use to describe you. (think about words that arise frequently in your appraisals or in how your line manager might introduce you to clients or new colleagues). Then write down a couple of words that your family or friends would use to describe you (how would your mum, dad, brother, sister or partner describe you to others – those complimentary words of course as we want to be positive here!). And finally a couple of words that your colleagues would use to describe you (how are you referred to in the office on a day to day basis? Again all positive of course!). Within those words are probably the answers to your transferable skills!
You just need to extract and reframe those skills. Think now about how each word could be referred to and used as a skill.
For example:If you enjoy talking or you talk a lot then think around your communication skills, do you use your skills in explaining complex problems to clients? Does your ability and ease in talking help you to form relationships quickly or put people at ease? Are you persuasive? Can you easily form a point of view and argue it?
Alternatively if you like everything to be just right, a bit of a perfectionist, then you might enjoy focusing on the details of a problem, you might show great attention to detail, probably have good precision and accuracy in the work that you do.
This is a really quick and easy way to focus your CV on your transferable skills. It is absolutely something that we can help you with too!
So give it a go, the answers might surprise you!
If you are wondering whether private client might be a good area to move into then we are running a discussion session with Gill Steele this month. You can book here and benefit from talking to her as a senior professional who is very happy to answer questions, and there are no ‘silly questions’! So come along and just ask.