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Attorney Career Question: 55 Year Old Recent Law School Graduate Seeking Strategies to Transition Into Real Estate Law

Attorney Career Question: Are there any resources for persons who are transitioning into the practice of law in midlife? I'm 55, graduated from Loyola Law School in 1998, and have been a real estate executive/broker for the past 17 years. I now find that I want to get my bar card and practice real estate law. I have a book of business of about 150 clients. Yet, since I've been out of school for almost 10 years and am not a member of the California bar, I'm frustrated in trying to transition into legal work. I'm overqualified for the usual Law Clerk positions and am an unattractive candidate to firms because of my age. How can I find a mentor or internship that will help me develop fresh writing samples and update my legal reasoning skills? Thanks! Meredith

Click here for a response from Stephen Seckler, who runs the Boston Office of BCG Attorney Search, a leading attorney search firm.

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Personally, I believe that second career lawyers bring a lot to the practice of law. You already understand how to "get things done" in the workplace; and in your case, you bring a specialized knowledge of the real estate industry. You probably have many contacts in the industry which is your greatest asset in coming to the practice of law. These industry contacts can help you to generate legal business. Having said that, I think you have to change the way you think of your opportunities. At 55, it will be difficult to find a law firm to "hire you" in the traditional sense. Age discrimination is a reality. Furthermore, you have the stigma of graduating from law school but not using your law degree for 10 years.

Instead of trying to find someone to hire you, right now I would get myself licensed to practice in California. Obviously this will take time since the next administration of the California bar is in the Winter. In addition, since you have been out of law school for so long, you will probably need extra time to prepare for the bar (i.e. beyond taking a bar review course.)

I would also sign up for some CLE courses in real estate law so that you can get up to speed on the work you would like to do.

Furthermore, I would start networking like crazy with real estate lawyers. Get referrals from your friends, professional contacts, law professors, etc. in order to find real estate lawyers in your area. Do informational interviews to learn more about the different things that real estate lawyers do. Along the way, see if someone has some project work that you can do on the side. See if anyone would be willing to serve as a mentor. Maybe someone would be willing to barter office space and mentoring in exchange for a few hours of your time a month. Maybe someone would like to help you mine your professional contacts in the real estate industry. When the work comes in, they can do a lot of the substance and in exchange, help to train you so that you can handle the next deal.

If you need help with networking, one place to start is to read some articles I have written on finding an entry level job and networking: (re: finding entry level jobs)

A good book to look at is Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams (you can buy it on Amazon).

Check with your bar association or law school to see if they have a mentor program. Most importantly, get moving! As long as you stop thinking that the only way to get started is to find a permanent full time job as an associate, then the world is your oyster!

You should start a blog on California real estate law. If you publish regularly to the blog a few times a week, in 6 months or so you should show up high in Google for California real estate lawyer, and begin to develop a reputation for thought leadership in the field. See:

Good luck, Josh

I would get my license to practice and just open up your own solo legal practice. With your network andnetowrking skills, and your current number of clients you have what it takes to be an attractive legal representative for many seeking your experience combined with your license to practice law. I would encourage you, as the other commenter did, to start blogging, positioning yourself as an authority in the real estate industry. If you are unsure because of your age there is much inspiration at my blog. under "Passed the Bar - Hung a Shingle" which includes many over 40 year olds who did just that. It is a very desirable second and third career to bring you into a wonderful second phase of life as your own boss determining your own work life. Good luck.

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