Returning to law after a career break

If you've taken a career break, it can feel daunting to start to plan your return. This guide sets out some simple steps you can take to get back into law.
Flexible working laws are changing

From 6 April 2024, you will have the right to request permanent changes to your contract from the first day of employment.

You will be able to ask your employer for changes to how long, when and where you work.

Also, you will no longer have to explain what effect, if any, the flexible working request would have on your organisation and how any problems could be overcome.

Your organisation does not have to accept this request, but if they reject it, they must do so for a legally valid reason.

Discover how you could benefit from flexible working

Steps to get back into law

Get up to date

Keep your knowledge and skills up to date by:
  • researching your industry
  • following potential employers on LinkedIn and Twitter
  • taking part in returner courses

If you have any gaps in your experience, use your contacts to help you find a work placement, volunteer or do freelance, interim or temp work.

Find opportunities on Gazette Jobs

Review your skills

Ask friends, family and your contacts for feedback on what you're good at, with specific examples.

Shortlist a handful of achievements that you’re proud of.

You’ll have developed transferable skills from having a career break, such as being agile (managing your work and personal priorities) and being able to deal with change.

Update your profile

Highlight your achievements in your CV, starting with your pre-break experience.

Make it clear that you took a career break and include periods of study or volunteering. Explain what you're looking for when you return to work.

You should also update your LinkedIn profile. This will help recruiters and hiring managers find you and determine your suitability for a role.

Prepare to network

Networking is important when returning to law. Experiment with different networking groups and build relationships. Keep a record of who you’ve spoken to and follow up where appropriate.

Reconnect with former contacts, for example, using LinkedIn.

See a list of networks and support for women lawyers

Create an impression

Get business cards printed and have your elevator pitch (an introduction that says who you are, what you do well, and shows off your unique selling points) ready. You need to make an impact in around a minute – first impressions count.

Our Back to Law Ambassadors give tips on creating elevator pitches.

Be resilient

Keep applying for suitable roles and ask for feedback if you have not been successful.

Routes back into law

To help you plan the next stage in your career, you can:

Consider all areas of law and find the right environment to suit you. For a better work/life balance, see flexible working options.

If you’re returning to your previous role, you may want to consider your career options as a solicitor.

If you’re looking for a new role, you may want to change career direction.

Your practising certificate

A practising certificate lasts for 12 months. You must have a current practising certificate before you can offer your services as a solicitor.

Applying for a practising certificate

Restore your name to the roll of solicitors

You need to be on the roll of solicitors before you can apply for a practising certificate.

If you’re not on the roll, you can apply to restore your name through your mySRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) account. The fee is £20.

Read the SRA guidance on how to restore your name to the roll

Renew your practising certificate

Once you’re on the roll of solicitors, you can renew your practising certificate.

Download the SRA guidance on individual practising certificate renewals

Prove you can practise

You must prove that you’re competent to practise by meeting the competencies set out in the competence statement. It’s made up of three parts:

You no longer need to count continuing professional development hours.

See our information on continuing competence


The Reignite Academy provides opportunities for lawyers to return to work after a career break, through tailored returnship programmes and direct recruitment. 

SRA guidance: when do I need a practising certificate?

Career Returners website

Flexible working: a win-win trend for employers and solicitors

Career development events

Networking tips and personal branding for job hunters (Tuesday 11 June 2024)

This free online classroom with Q&A is aimed at individuals who want to learn how to network with confidence and tap into the hidden jobs market. 

It will also explore the importance of personal brand and how it can build your career and support your networking success.  

Considering working as a consultant / freelance lawyer? Understanding this flexible approach to working (Wednesday 15 May 2024) – FREE  

This free online classroom is aimed at solicitors across all levels of PQE exploring flexible lawyering models, including working as a freelance lawyer.

The session explores different options to this flexible way of working including practical things to consider before going freelance and the legal and regulatory issues to consider.

Watch recordings from our recharge series:

Watch recordings from our changing career direction series:

Other webinars:

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