Changing career direction

Changing career direction can bring better pay, career progression and the opportunity to relocate. Whether you're looking to move organisation, take on a new legal sector role or work beyond the law, our resources can help you prepare.

If you’re a solicitor looking for a career change, within the legal sector or beyond the law, there are many options for you:

Roles as a solicitor

In-house

The number of solicitors working in-house is growing. Legal journalist Grania Langdon-Down asks: should I work in-house?

Case studies:

  • general counsel – Funke Abimbola moved into industry after 12 years in corporate law
  • team leader – Katrina Robinson moved from private practice to in-house at a housing association
  • sole counsel – after 11 years in private practice, Bhavisha Mistry moved to the clothing retailer Missguided to set up its legal function from scratch

Private practice

Roles in law firms offer legal services to different types of clients, from individuals to businesses.

Solicitors usually start in private practice – it may be more difficult to enter private practice further into your career if you did not complete a training contract there.

Case studies:

  • solicitor – Matthew Evans moved from local government to the private sector
  • senior associate – Katherine Gibson moved from private practice to in-house, and back, with a new level of commercial awareness
  • partner – Stephanie McDonald moved from a City firm to alternative business structures

Sole practitioner

To become a sole practitioner, you must have practised as a solicitor for at least 36 months within the last 10 years and have authorisation from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Read the SRA’s starter pack on becoming a sole practitioner

Case study:

Solicitor advocate

Solicitor advocates have the same rights of audience (the right to appear and conduct proceedings in court) as barristers.

To use your rights of audience in the higher courts (High Court, Crown Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court) you must meet standards set by the SRA.

You must also pass a rights of audience course.

Judiciary

Joining the judiciary is a great way to take on a new challenge. Depending on the role, you’ll need at least five or seven years’ post-qualification experience.

You start on a fee-paid basis. A fee-paid basis is an agreed payment for the work, regardless of the time it takes.

You can work while continuing in practice, or as a full- or part-time salaried judge.

There are several starting points:

The selection process is competitive. If you’re submitting a judicial application, you should check out our learning resources on judiciary interview training for solicitors.

The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary gives examples from days in the life of judicial office holders.

Find out more about judicial appointments

Case study:

  • District judge – Tan Ikram fitted his first judicial role as parking adjudicator around his practice

Alternative jobs in law

If you want to stay in the legal sector, you can use your skills in jobs such as:

  • business development
  • writing or editing legal content
  • human resources
  • learning and development
  • journalism
  • marketing
  • public relations
  • recruitment

In these case studies, we follow solicitors’ career journeys from:

Roles outside the legal sector

If you decide to leave the legal sector, your skills could be valuable in other jobs.

Husnara Begum shares tips for taking your career beyond the law, and what to ask yourself before changing career direction.

In these case studies, we follow solicitors’ career journeys from:

Portfolio careers

Instead of a traditional full-time job, you may want to try multiple part-time jobs, also known as a portfolio career.

They offer flexibility and can be a way to rethink retirement, claims HR consultant Patricia Wheatley Burt.

Roles can include a combination of your experience or interests, such as:

  • non-executive director
  • committee or board membership
  • trustee

Case studies:

  • Nicola Manning – Nicola’s roles have ranged from compliance officer for legal practice to CEO, charity trustee and Law Society Council member
  • Jennifer Brewer – after retiring from practice, Jennifer moved on to work as a business consultant, mentor, and speaking and leadership skills trainer
  • Hannen Beith – Hannen has worked as director of a paralegal firm, business consultant, computer coach for the over-55s and adjudicator with the Law Society
  • I. Stephanie Boyce – Stephanie Boyce decided to devote more time to local community and charity interests, sitting on boards and committees, including the Law Society Council

Resources

Flexible working – options and roles

How to market yourself – Rachel Brushfield, career strategist, gives tips

Help for solicitors – call our pastoral care helpline if you’re experiencing employment difficulties

Career development events

Recharge: confidence building (Thursday 28 March 2024)

This free online classroom with Q&A explores techniques solicitors who are considering changing career direction or returning to practice after a lengthy break can use to build confidence and reset failure as a learning experience.

The session will also explore the effects of imposter syndrome and how this can be overcome.

Changing career direction: options outside of practice (Thursday 18 April 2024)

This free online classroom with a Q&A is aimed at solicitors across all levels of PQE considering a change of career direction outside of practice.

The panel discussion will explore options outside of practice, including the pros and cons of each one.

Recharge series:

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS