Law Society’s Returners Programme supports solicitors return to practice

“I was made to feel that, as a solicitor, I was a valued professional and still had something to offer the workplace.”

Thoughts of returning to work after a career break or an extended period of leave can be intimidating. This is why the Law Society of Ireland offers its Returners Programme, a programme designed specifically to support its members on their journey returning to practice.

President of the Law Society Michelle Ní Longáin said, “In the modern working world, people move in and out of professional life for many different reasons. The Law Society is delighted to offer the Returners Programme to support solicitors, who are now ready to re-enter the workforce, in their journey to returning.”

Career break apprehension

Freda Brennan qualified as a solicitor in 2003 and worked in a busy practice for a number of years. After having a long-awaited child, she took an unexpected career break.

“I went on maternity leave in 2014 fully intending to return to work in January 2015, but when it was time to go back to the office I decided I wanted to spend time at home with my child. My employer held my position for 18 months, which I was so grateful for, but in the end I wanted more time at home. In total, I was on a career break from 2014 and returned to practice in 2019,” explained Ms Brennan.

“During these years, I was constantly worried with thoughts that I would never get another job as a solicitor. However, I registered for free membership with the Law Society and continued receiving the Law Society Gazette. I also registered for the Law Society Legal Vacancies newsletter and attended CPD courses so that when the time was right for me to return to work I would be up to date on practice changes.”

Support from the Law Society

In 2019 Ms Brennan was ready to return to practice but did not know where to start. It was at this time she contacted the Law Society for advice.

“I contacted the Law Society’s Career Support and they were fantastic. They gave me clear direction and the tools and materials I needed to return to work. I was made to feel that, as a solicitor, I was a valued professional and still had something to offer the workplace.”

“Regardless of the personal reasons for leaving the workforce, whether it was a pivot in career, personal development, a career break, or for family or caring commitments, returning to practice after a prolonged absence can seem daunting and many feel alone, not knowing where to start or what to do. Without support or guidance, it can seem like options are limited and you need to take the first job offered. Through the Returners Programme, the Law Society is here to help any solicitor who would like to take the first step to return to the workplace,” said Ms Ní Longáin.

Securing a role

“Being out of work dents your confidence no matter how much experience you have, but having reviewed all the advice from the Law Society to update my CV, I applied for my first two jobs,” said Ms Brennan. “I was overwhelmed to be contacted immediately for interviews and I was offered both jobs within three days of applying. It was an enormous boost to my confidence.”   

“The Returners Programme is quite innovative as its main focus is on facilitating a work-life balance, something many are striving towards in the modern working world. Workshops, delivered over a 12-week period, help solicitors to understand what personal success can look like, to focus on their personal priorities and to identify job market opportunities that align with what they want from working life. This could mean finding a role in a specific field or way of working, whether it is returning to an office, hybrid or remote work. The programme has already helped dozens of solicitors return to work and the small group sizes means that each programme can be tailored to the group’s individual needs. It also offers an excellent opportunity to connect and share tips with people on a similar career journey,” explained Ms Ní Longáin.

“The Returners Programme is an invaluable service for solicitors returning to work. I am back practising part-time since 2019 and I am delighted I took four years out to spend with my family,” said Ms Brennan.

“I would say to anyone to take the time out and the Law Society has the tools to help you back to the workplace when you decide to return. It’s never too late.”

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