I am about to qualify as a solicitor. However, I have decided this is not
what I want to do and would instead like to pursue a career in HR and study for
the CIPD exams. Prior to commencing my training contract I worked in the
recruitment department of a big consulting firm. During my training contract I
have completed a six-month seat in employment law. Are my skills and experience
valuable and what kind of job would I be qualified to do?
Caroline Battson, consultant, Macmillan Davies Hodes
Academic backgrounds such as business studies, behavioural studies and law
are some of the most useful when looking to pursue a career in HR. Employers
look for flexible individuals with good personal skills and the capability to
reach the standard of education that you have.
A large proportion of HR surrounds legal issues and disputes, this will be
an area where you will have an initial advantage. Others such as recruitment,
IR and training and development you will learn as you progress.
It can be difficult for anyone to get a job in an area in which they have no
practical experience, and I would think your first step into HR would probably
be as an HR assistant.
You should investigate organisations that sponsor their staff to study the
CIPD qualification while they are gaining relevant work experience.
Alternatively, you could consider a graduate training scheme as this would give
you the opportunity to experience different functions within an organisation
and give the practical work experience you need, before then specialising in
Peter Sell, joint managing director, DMS consultancy
Your skills and experience are valuable and will help in your search for an
HR position. You will be looking for your first HR role so you are likely to
become an HR adviser or HR officer. A generalist role will enable you to build
on your experience to date.
The employment law experience is particularly valuable, as most new entrants
to HR will not have had your level of experience. It may be possible to use the
training to get accreditation of prior certificated learning for the employment
law elective of the CIPD qualification.
Your recruitment experience may point towards a more specialist resourcing
role, but is this what you are looking for? Before making your decision,
remember that the rewards for solicitors are generally higher than those in HR.
Victoria Wall, managing director, Victoria Wall Associates
As you have dedicated so much time to studying the law, I would strongly
advise you to initially pursue a career in employment law, while studying your
CIPD. I would imagine your knowledge of employment legislation and the imminent
changes to the law is relatively up to date, and would be valued in many larger
You could work in an HR department as the employment law specialist dealing
with contracts of employment and employee relations issues. Or you could work
as a junior solicitor within the legal division of a large company, advising on
all HR related issues.
These options would continue to ‘enhance’ your HR CV, while maintaining your
legal knowledge and skills. This gives you time to study for the CIPD and
explore exactly which area of HR to specialise in.