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Recruiters and Returners: A Positive Partnership


There is a perception among some candidates looking to return to legal practice after career breaks that recruitment agencies have little to offer them in the way of assistance. Agencies prefer candidates that are easy to place and prospective returners face barriers and prejudices that make it more challenging to open doors for them. Whilst there is certainly an element of truth in this, it would be wrong to tar all agencies with the same brush. Help and support is available from enlightened agencies who appreciate the value of having a pool of talented returner candidates to tap into, particularly given the current dearth of suitably qualified applicants for many roles.

The Challenges of Returning to Practice

Returning to legal practice after a career break can be challenging on many levels. There is a need to ensure that knowledge of relevant law and practice is up-to-date and to attend courses to refresh skills and to satisfy continuing competence requirements. If the career break has been for a number of years, building the confidence necessary to return can be of key importance, both to be able to impress at interview and to take on any role secured as a result. Also, re-engaging with peers in the profession and rebuilding professional networks is vital, as is having a positive social media presence, particularly on LinkedIn.

Thankfully, there are some fantastic initiatives to assist returners, not least The Law Society’s own Back to Law programme. Government funding has also been made available for internships for returners (often called “returnships”) through the Government Equalities Office Returners Fund. In fact, a six-month programme organised by the Women Returners professional network in partnership with The Law Society is currently underway at twenty law firms in Manchester, Leeds and the surrounding areas.

In addition, the Reignite Academy has been running programmes to help lawyers return to practice at City firms and has recently announced an expanded list of firms supporting its admirable endeavour.

Independently, some forward-thinking firms are also offering their own returnships and these are a real help to returners looking to transition back into practice on a permanent basis.

Our Approach

At Lex Conscientia, we are proud to have been helping lawyers return to practice after career breaks for a number of years and to be an active supporter of The Law Society’s Back to Law programme. In fact, one of The Law Society’s current Back to Law Ambassadors is a member of our team and we have links to, and recommendations from, others.

We recognise that lawyers looking to return to practice often offer a wealth of experience and skills that more junior and more recently qualified lawyers with the same PQE simply cannot. Their greater maturity can also be a real asset, particularly when it comes to business development and networking – skills that are highly valued by many firms.

In addition to recognising the positive attributes of the returners themselves, there is also a PR benefit to be gained by law firms who are seen to seen to support the Back to Law initiative and who are considered “returner-friendly”.

Our support for the Back to Law programme is not mere lip service and is shown in the following tangible ways:

  • We have adapted our bespoke candidate placement service to approach targeted firms speculatively on behalf of returners.
  • We are building a database of lawyers looking to return to practice and of enlightened, returner-friendly law firms that understand the value of having access to talented returner candidates.
  • We offer discounted fees to law firms who engage our Back to Law candidates, which helps us to open doors that would otherwise be closed.
  • We have partnered with a dedicated Consultant Coach and offer a complimentary one-to-one coaching session to select returners to help with confidence and interview technique.
  • We have provided assistance to a well-respected law firm with its inaugural Back to Law internship.

Not only do we help returners to find opportunities when other recruitment agencies balk at the idea, but we also go further by offering them practical support and assistance to maximise their chances of a successful return to practice.

Get In Touch

We are always looking to increase our pool of returner candidates and returner-friendly law firms and to build upon our successes to date. If you are a lawyer looking to return to practice or a law firm looking to tap into our returner talent pool, please register your details on our website or contact us to find out more recruitment@lexconscientia.co.uk or 07827 816330).

#BackToLaw #BridgeTheGap

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