How to relaunch your legal career after years as a stay at home parent

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This was the punchy title of an piece in the FT five years ago, right about the time I was launching the Reignite Academy . Some of the advice was spot on but, inevitably perhaps, some hard truths were missing. My co author Deb Khan and I spent three years trying to answer this question and another putting what we learned into our book. It’s good. Here’s a direct quote from an email I received recently. Honestly.

Thanks for writing … it is a long while since I got a book so good in my hands and I cannot stop reading it.

Over the last five years, at Reignite, we’ve used what we learnt to help women relaunch their legal careers after anything from 2 to 17 years out.

Here are some nuggets of advice that didn’t come through in the FT piece.

Most recruiters are not going to help

They are incentivised to place people as quickly as possible (‘time to fill vacancies’ is a common KPI). They want to put round pegs in round holes. If they have a vacancy for a corporate tax lawyer, you’d better have been working as a corporate tax lawyer in a similar firm for the last three years. A mother with a career break on her CV is too hard. Forget the fact that you might have been a Senior Associate at a magic circle firm eight years ago, especially if that’s on page two of your CV.

Your Network is much stronger than you realise

And that’s where you will find work. Eventually. Our research showed people returning after a break were five times more likely to find work through their network than through a recruitment agency. You have to get yourself out there, rekindle old contacts, make new friends. Be ready to talk about your story (see 3.) and what you’re looking for” you’d be surprised who can help connect you with the right people (one of the women we advised found her job through a contact she met via a neighbour after a chat with him on the school run!)

Get your story straight

Who are you, what do you offer, why would anyone want to employ you? Don’t say “I used to be” and don’t define yourself by your limitations. “I’m a mum of three, looking for part time work … is NOT how it goes. Try instead, “I’m a commercial litigator with twenty years experience in banking” or “I’m a city trained corporate lawyer specialising in media and telecomms”. Sell yourself, talk about what you can do and what you’re looking for. It’s a jungle out there people, it’s competitive. Now is not the time to be self deprecating.

Your age is an asset

Who are you, what do you offer, why would anyone want to employ you? Don’t say “I used to be” and don’t define yourself by your limitations. “I’m a mum of three, looking for part time work … is NOT how it goes. Try instead, “I’m a commercial litigator with twenty years experience in banking” or “I’m a city trained corporate lawyer specialising in media and telecomms”. Sell yourself, talk about what you can do and what you’re looking for. It’s a jungle out there people, it’s competitive. Now is not the time to be self deprecating.

Use LinkedIn

I’m always shocked how many women I meet who say they are looking for work and who are not on LinkedIn. It’s where the jobs are, it’s where your relevant contacts can be found, it’s where employers go to look for people with the right skill set, it’s where the influencers hang out to share their thoughts (not the instagram influencers, you can leave them to the kids).

Build your Home Team

I’m always shocked how many women I meet who say they are looking for work and who are not on LinkedIn. It’s where the jobs are, it’s where your relevant contacts can be found, it’s where employers go to look for people with the right skill set, it’s where the influencers hang out to share their thoughts (not the instagram influencers, you can leave them to the kids).

It’s a journey

As they say on all the reality shows. Don’t be disheartened if you’re not an overnight success. Don’t worry if your first job on returning is not your dream job. It’s a step on the way.

Finally

If you’re a lawyer looking to return to private practice, check out the Reignite Academy – opportunities available with firms who value what you have to offer and who, with our support, will make sure your transition back to law is smooth and successful. And if you’re not quite ready for that, just organise a call with one of our careers consultants. We care, we are patient. Our “time to fill vacancies” stat stretches to 6 months – we’d never make it in a traditional recruitment agency & we just don’t give a hoot).

She's Back:  The Book

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Reignite Academy Summer Roadshow

We are excited to announce that the Reignite Academy will be on the road in May, offering you the chance to join us in person to explore ways to relaunch or pivot your legal career.

The Reignite Academy team will be joined by other women who have successfully returned to law after a career hiatus. They will share their stories, experience and advice.

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