You are a doctor, scientist, engineer, accountant, or entrepreneur, and you suddenly decided to pursue a career in the legal field. Congratulations — you are a ‘later lawyer’.
Later lawyer is a term used to describe individuals who came to the legal field in a roundabout way. These are individuals who started their legal career later in life, wherein lawyering is their second or third career.
The journey for a later lawyer, especially in Singapore, is extremely challenging — many of them go to study law while juggling other responsibilities, such as managing a full-time job or raising children. The challenges do not stop there, however. Often, they are faced with conscious and unconscious biases when looking to enter the job market. How do you, therefore, overcome those barriers and finally find a well-paying legal job in Singapore?
First, confront the elephant in the room. It is important to recognise that you are not as young as the regular graduate, and maybe even older than the employer.
This also means, however, that you have the life experience a young law graduate does not have. You chose to study law rather than ‘I have good grades so I studied law’. This only means you are motivated, focused, determined, committed and ambitious — all qualities an employer wants in their company.
Finishing a law degree is the easy part; making yourself stand out in job applications is difficult.
To stand out, gain prior legal experience during your holidays. See if you can at least get volunteering experience at the Community Legal Centre or something similar. Simply put, as a later lawyer, your career starts as soon as you begin law school.
Network with other lawyers, especially later lawyers. They can assist you in successfully negotiating the obstacles unique to you, as well as help you find a well-paying job in the legal field.
If you hate building networks, simply think of it this way: you are simply getting to know new people, cultivating relationships and helping each other out.
Overall, the most important thing to remember as a later lawyer is to emphasise the positives — useful work and life experience, commitment, and the ability to relate to a range of people easily.