Returning to work after a career break

Returning to work after a career break can be a daunting prospect.  Whether its 12 months or 12 years, we have experience of advising lawyers who have taken a career break for whatever reason and are able to support them in returning to work.  Here some top tips to consider:

Returning to work after a career break can be a daunting prospect. Whether its 12 months or 12 years, we have experience of advising lawyers who have taken a career break, for whatever reason, (whether it was to bring up a family, look after a dependant, take an extended time to travel, or having taken a break from the law to pursue a non-legal passion).  We are able to provide support, advice, and know the law firms, to enable you to successfully return to work.

Having decided to return to work after a career break, use this as an opportunity for you to review what you want from this stage in your career, set your goals on what is important to you both personally and professionally and what are your priorities, and non-negotiables, and what you can flex on.

Many people will review their previous career and feel that they want a change of direction, whether this is a complete change in discipline, (say from private client to corporate), or a transition to a connected discipline, (such as corporate tax from corporate or pensions from employment).  Alternatively, you may be considering a role away from fee earning, such as a business support role, whether as a professional support lawyer, risk and compliance or in business development, or team management.   As law firms grow and develop there are many more career options available.

Do your research – if you are considering a change of direction or have taken an extended career break, take the time to do your homework and research your options – talk to a recruitment consultant or the law society who can provide a number of return to work courses as well as up to date training courses. If you are considering a return to work at your old firm, talk to them about the help and support they provide to lawyers returning to work.

Use your network. Speak to friends and old colleagues about their experiences of returning to work, or how their firm supports those who are returning to work.   Look at LinkedIn to see what other people’s experience is, of returning to work after a career break. Speak to an independent recruitment consultant about which firms are more receptive to lawyers having had a career break, and they may be able to give you success stories of where lawyers have successfully changed direction/careers after a career break.

Be open minded  – you may have previously worked for a large Top 50 law firm, but a smaller more boutique firm may be able to offer you the work/life balance you require.  Conversely you may be taking a step up to a Top 50 firm, to a firm that is more supportive and has more experience of providing support and structure to lawyers who have had a career break.

If you are considering a role away from fee earning at your old firm, they should be able to offer you ongoing training to enable you to transition from a more traditional fee earning role to a business support role.  There is a growing need for professional support lawyers, and these types of roles often offer a better work/life balance, ability to WFH and more flexibility in terms of hours, etc.

Many firms offer the ability to WFH some of the time, or in some cases 100% remotely, or will consider part-time hours, but many do not actively advertise these on their websites or in their job specs.  Speak to a recruitment consultant who be able to advise you on what options are suitable and available with your level of experience.

If you have had a longer career break either pre or during the pandemic you may be pleasantly surprised on how many firms have adapted to offer more flexible work patterns.  Most firms now offer WFH  a norm, (from 1 day a week to 100% of the time), flexible part time work, compressed hours, school hours friendly hours, or 3-4 days a week.  We are finding that most Candidates feel that the ability to WFH some of the time, is now a pre requisite when considering a move.

We work with a number of law firms and we take the time to understand their flexible work options and their work cultures.  Many provide phased return to work, and are able to offer excellent ongoing support and career development opportunities, whether it is career progression and working part-time or a move to business support role.

If you are considering a return to work after a career break, whether you are considering a return to fee earning or a transition to a PSL role and would like a confidential and independent discussion about your options and opportunities available, please contact or call Sarah Wood on 07897 074891

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We will take the time to listen and understand your plans and motivations. With over 50 years’ experience in working with law firms and getting to know their Partners, strategy and culture, we will look at opportunities and introduce you to firms where you can enjoy a successful long-term career.


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