Moving into law: First impressions from a career changer

The Emerging Talent team at Shoosmiths welcome applications from people at all stages of their career. For Alice Lloyd, a Trainee Solicitor at Shoosmiths,, that meant a career change from working in law enforcement, a change of gear that has come with a lot to learn.

I knew I wanted to train at Shoosmiths when I realised that their recruitment process was inclusive and welcomed applications from people from all backgrounds, not just aiming at students leaving university. I graduated in 2013 having studied English Language and Linguistics and spent a few years travelling, studying and working in different jobs while I figured out what I really wanted to do. As a result, I felt noticeably older than a lot of the other aspiring trainees when it came to starting my legal career and wondered if I had fallen behind. That wasn’t the case and I developed valuable skills working in regulation and law enforcement, but along the way I did pick up some expectations about working in law...

Expectation: My workplace will be formal and intimidating, and I’ll need to invest in some smart workwear to fit in.

Reality: Firstly, I was so wrong about the workwear. My last employer had a fairly relaxed dress code and I was worried that to work in law I’d have to dress in a way that I wouldn’t feel like myself. It’s been a pleasure to discover that Shoosmiths’ ‘Dress for your Day’ policy is exactly that, and the people here dress in a way that’s right for them – while maintaining professionalism and respect, of course. That said, it’s a good idea to have some smart clothes in your wardrobe for client meetings and court attendances, you never know when you might be invited to either! Secondly, the office environment is anything but formal and intimidating. What you see on Instagram is a great reflection of the Shoosmiths offices. It can be quiet, naturally, with people working hard, but it’s a bright, open, accommodating space with bowls of fruit (and sweets!) there for the taking.

Expectation: Meeting all of the trainees from across the Shoosmiths offices in the induction week will be nice, but I probably won’t see or speak to them again.

Reality: Meeting all of the other trainees was great! We compared our different experiences and expectations, and the induction week was a good way to really get to know each other. I didn’t initially appreciate how beneficial this would be, but it was lovely to see a lot of familiar and friendly faces appear in our online training sessions in the following weeks. Though we’re based across the country, we’re well connected with each other and will be able to share our experiences of the training journey together. That means we already have a network of support and can also celebrate each other’s achievements.

Expectation: Colleagues will think I’m stupid or annoying if I keep asking questions.

Reality: I sometimes still worry about this and it might take some time for that to go away, but it isn’t a reality. Whenever I’ve approached anyone with my queries, they’ve been friendly and helpful and have always spared the time to listen. It’s helped me get on with my work much more quickly than if I were to put off asking for fear of interrupting their work. There is a balance to be struck between asking questions and trying to find the answer yourself, but sometimes you do need clarification on a task or you simply haven’t used a particular system before. Which leads me to my next point...

Expectation: I’ve worked with tricky IT systems in previous jobs, I’ll get to grips with that with no problems.

Reality: It’s certainly helpful to have had some experience of different case management systems in the past, but each system is different and has been developed for its own purpose. In the first couple of weeks in my Real Estate seat I’ve had many training sessions on a lot of different systems, covering time recording, case management, file management, the trainee journal and Real Estate specific systems used for ordering searches and titles. Compared to previous places that I’ve worked I think the IT is impressive, but it’s a lot to experience at once! Fortunately, all it takes is a bit of practice and, as I’ve said earlier, people are always on hand to answer those ‘silly’ questions about which button to click next.

Expectation: As the newest and least experienced member of my team I’ll mostly be given the boring repetitive tasks while the interesting work goes to the senior lawyers.

Reality: Everyone has to start somewhere and some of the more ‘boring’ jobs are vital to the smooth running of the team’s caseload and, ultimately, the client experience. They’re a good way to learn about the foundations of the team’s work and it’s important to be willing to get stuck in. In my first few weeks I’ve been given some of the more ‘run of the mill’ work, but it’s new to me and I’m always learning how to do it better. As well as that, partners in the team have invited me onto client calls and calls with counsel and I’ve become involved in some of the more complicated disputes going on at the moment, so I’ve ended up with a really good mix of things. I’ve sent out lease renewal notices to landlords, worked on disclosure exercises for trials, drafted witness statements and researched some safety regulations. Nearly everyone in the team has asked me to help out on their matters in some respect, and that’s also been a great way to get to know my team.

Expectation: With many of the other trainees having been paralegals before starting their training contracts, I’ll be at a disadvantage with no legal experience.

Reality: Yes, initially I felt a ‘culture shock’ having spent the last few years working in the public sector and not the private sector where clients (and billing) matter. However, not having practical legal experience has not felt like a particular disadvantage. Each practice area is different, with different law and procedures, so being a paralegal in one area may not necessarily be a great advantage in another. In my Real Estate Litigation seat I’ve been working on lease renewals and extensions under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, something which was covered on the LPC and which has been explained in practical terms by my supervisor. What matters is not that you’ve worked in law before, but that you’re enthusiastic, keen to learn, organised and not afraid to ask questions.

You may also be interested to read Nick’s Blog where he discusses his journey into law as a career changer.

If you have any questions you can email us at [email protected] or have a look at some frequently asked questions here.

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This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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