What’s my fastest way into the law?

I have spent 12 years in HR, eight in management level roles. I studied the
IPM professional qualification in the late 1980s and subsequently took a law
degree, graduating in 1994. Although my real ambition is to move into legal
practice as an employment specialist, I have not yet realised this. I know that
I will now have to retake the Common Professional Exams if I am to move into
the legal profession. How might I best position myself to minimise the time
training as a solicitor post CPE and LPC and what other advice can you offer
for such a career migration?

Simon Broomer, senior consultant, Chiumento

You are right to be giving careful thought to this move. The nature of the
vocational course and time taken to qualify as a solicitor require commitment,
determination and a belief you can succeed.

The Law Society normally recognises a degree obtained within the last five
years as granting you exemption from the Common Professional Examination
course. It may be possible to ‘revalidate’ your law degree by working for a
firm of solicitors for a period of six months and obtaining an appropriate
certificate from the firm at the end of this time. Contact the Law Society to
find out if it still has this discretion. The six months may also count towards
your training contract.

To become an employment law specialist, approach firms with a sound
reputation in the field of employment law. They will also look favourably on
your HR background. Secure a training contract now with a suitable firm. Use
your network of contacts to help you.

Carefully consider the financial implications and plan for this. You will
need to cater for having no income while you study, and a lower income during
your training contract. Can you get a firm to sponsor you or pay towards your
course fees?

To discuss your particular situation, contact the Professional Education
department at the Law Society (Tel: 0870 606 2555). Its website is helpful for
anyone considering becoming a solicitor (www.lawsoc.org.uk).

Peter Sell, joint managing director, DMS consultancy

With regard to the question on how to minimise the time spent training as a
solicitor, I do not feel qualified to answer this. Talk to the Law Society.

Have you thought about other opportunities to specialise in employment law?
There are a number of consultancies that specialise in employment law and many
large organisations have their own employment law experts. Your experience and
law degree would be of interest to such organisations.

Clare Judd, HR consultant, Macmillan Davies Hodes

Retraining to change careers is never an easy option and you are not alone
in wanting to build on your HR career to make the move across into the legal
profession. I know of several people who have made this transition and are now
successful solicitors. However, it is not easy to minimise the time training to
become a solicitor.

Your degree was valid for seven years so you now need to retake the CPE,
unless you can prove that you have maintained a working knowledge of the law
during this period. You will then need to complete the LPC (one year full-time
or two years part-time), and following this there is a two-year training
contract to be completed with a firm of solicitors. The rules changed in July
2000, and now enable certain individuals to have this two-year period reduced
if they have been working for some time in a legal capacity. During the
training contract you will need to complete your PSC.

As for such a career migration, I would suggest you establish relationships
early with firms of solicitors so that post LPC you are better networked and
hopefully in a better position to gain the required training. In addition, you
might like to consider moving into a specialist HR role with an employment law
focus if you decide to study part-time.

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