Claire Mohan, Returning to Law with DAC Beachcroft (20 year break)
Prior to my career break, I was a defendant clinical negligence solicitor working in a city firm. My husband was offered a job abroad which coincided with me becoming pregnant so instead of going on maternity leave, we relocated. My career break lasted a very long time! There is a 20 year gap between my leaving work as a solicitor and starting again. I’ve had a variety of experiences: living abroad, travelling, raising a family along with some volunteer work and setting up my own business.
A need to achieve financial independence made me decide to get back to professional work. I assumed that I had been out of the law for too long for that to be a career option again. Truthfully, I found it very difficult to find a new role post my career break. The law as a profession needs to make the path to return to work easier. The DAC Beachcroft Reconnect programme model should be emulated throughout the profession.
After having been a stay at home mum for a long time I started working in a school as a teaching assistant which was a really positive experience for me. The environment was very encouraging and my soft skills were highly valued. This allowed me to grow in confidence and to reacclimatise to working life. From then on I expanded the amount and range of volunteering I was doing, still assuming that I would not be able to return to legal practice. I came across Women Returners by chance and saw that they were partnering with DAC Beachcroft on their Reconnect programme and I applied. I was both thrilled and surprised to be accepted onto the programme and began a period of coaching and being mentored which was incredibly useful. When a role in the Winchester clinical risk team became available, I applied and was successful, starting work as a solicitor just shy of 20 years after I had last practised.
I found being back at work challenging to say the least! The last time I had worked as a solicitor I had a filing cabinet full of paper files. The technology that I had to get to grips with was overwhelming at times. And it is really exhausting when everything you are doing is new to you. Luckily for me, my colleagues have been incredibly generous with their time, patience and expertise.
For the first 6 months I had careers coaching from Women Returners as part of my supported return to work. This really helped to build my confidence and as it took place in small groups of women in the same position as me, it was also very reassuring to know that I was not alone. DACB gave me a buddy and a mentor both of whom had had career breaks. It has been invaluable to have people around me who never make me feel like I am asking a stupid question!
I am still constantly challenged and continually learning. The job has changed dramatically since I last practised, but I am starting to feel like I am making progress. My advice for women trying to get back to work would be that if I can return after 20 years then so can you. After a long career break it is too easy to feel like an employer is almost “doing you a favour” by employing you. I think we should remember that no matter how rusty we may be we are still a valuable commodity and have a lot to offer any workplace.