Back to Law Ambassador: Ngozi Adi
Having qualified overseas, I proceeded to re-qualify here in my resident jurisdiction in order to go into legal practice.
I successfully re-qualified as a solicitor more than a decade ago, through the somewhat obscure Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT) (obscure, when compared with the Legal Practice Course).
Though I had successfully re-qualified, as I began to search for legal work, I encountered barriers to employment, an experience that is not uncommon to many other returners.
At the beginning I had to take on temporary roles outside the legal sector, such as providing administrative support for a visually impaired physiotherapist and working in the area of asylum.
I later took on permanent roles in public organisations, including working in family courts of the Ministry of Justice.
Within this period, I also participated in and still do community work, including acting as a management committee member of a housing aid charity providing housing to ex-female offenders from different prisons.
I soon ‘paused’ and broke away from the workplace, taking an early leaver’s package and proceeded to do an advanced legal course.
With more knowledge under my belt, I became flabbergasted that whilst it was deemed advantageous that I had studied a legal course full time, not having worked during that period of study was construed as a gap in my records. This became a barrier to employment.
In a nutshell, I eventually re-entered the workplace but continued working on and off in administrative/customer service roles and in the field of invigilation in schools. I continued to apply for legal administrative roles in law firms, as well.
Nevertheless, as time passed, the chasm between the time I re-qualified and my journey outside the legal sector was growing wider.
I ‘hung in there’, attending legal-based networking events. I was also participating in seminars/courses held by the Law Society and some law firms/organisations in fields of my interest, such as employment, contract, public law among others.
One of such courses which I attended was the annual Women Lawyers Division/Law Society Returners course, under the kind sponsorship of a legal charity.
One move led to another and subsequently from further interactions with Law Society staff, I was introduced to Lex Conscientia (UK) Limited, a company gradually earning a reputation for getting returners back into work. I wanted them to assist me in finding a legal role.
In a twist of events, after a short period, I applied for and was offered the legal support executive role in Lex Conscientia itself.
Ngozi's top tips
As a returner, I do not profess to have taken all the required steps, but I am able to offer some advice within this context. Therefore:
- As you search for legal jobs do not be deterred by the deafening silence you encounter from some prospective employers; carry on with your job searching activities.
- Start by applying for legal based roles that are within reach. It may be that you have to start with applying for legal administrative roles. Others may possibly apply directly for similar roles they held previously, within the profession.
- Key into the free returners courses which the Law Society is currently offering and apply for any placements linked with those courses.
- Attend networking events organised by the Law Society and other organisations, as well as recruitment fairs and legal seminars - as much as you can handle.
- As I was retrospectively advised years ago, when you are working and you undertake a long-term course; take a career break rather than a clean break from your workplace, if possible (this of course, depends on your circumstances and where you are working). This is to provide continuity of employment after the period of study.
- More importantly, if you are working in the non-legal sector, be efficient but do not get ‘sucked’ into the work that you are doing, instead after a reasonable period, begin to apply/re-apply for legal based roles.
- Law firms and other legal employers should endeavour to employ more returners by setting up specific fixed-term contracts for that purpose. This advice is significant because returners tend to be away from the legal sector for reasons ranging from raising families, to working in other sectors or as a result of unemployment.