By: 13 November 2018
Leeds firms sign up to Law Returners programme

Nine law firms in Leeds have signed up to the Law Returners pilot programme that will support lawyers seeking to get back into work following extended career breaks.

The Law Returners programme, funded by the Government Equalities Office Returners Fund, is offering paid professional ‘returnship’ placements.

Twenty law firms in Leeds and Manchester have signed up to participate in the programme, ranging from local independents to multinationals.

In Leeds, these are Bailoran Solicitors, Barton Legal, DAC Beachcroft, Emsleys Solicitors, Northone Solicitors, Pinsent Masons, Robinson Ralph, Squire Patton Boggs and Tapestry Compliance.

A launch event was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Leeds on 15 November.

The first UK returnships were in London in 2014. The first cross-company government-funded returnship was run by Women Returners, a consulting, coaching and network organisation, in Scottish financial services earlier this year.

In Leeds, returning legal professionals are invited to the morning of motivation, support and information on the programme and to network informally with potential employers.

Successful candidates for Law Returners will benefit from a paid six-month professional placement, starting in February 2019. They will receive coaching from Women Returners, an internal mentor, technical support and mentoring from the Law Society and a ready-made peer support group. They will refresh their skills, experience and networks and will have a strong likelihood of ongoing employment at the end of the programme.

Participating employers will benefit from access to a relatively untapped high-calibre talent pool of legal professionals. They will be provided with expert consulting guidance from Women Returners in order to help them better understand and meet the needs of the returners, together with promotional, line manager and returner support.

This is a pilot programme aiming to kick-start returnships in the legal sector. If successful, it will be extended to other regions in the future on a commercial basis.

The Leeds office of international law firm DAC Beachcroft is one of the participating companies. Sue Jenkins, talent partner, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Women Returners to support the Law Returners programme.”

“Our experience of people joining us after career breaks has been really positive and we recognise that this is a high calibre talent pool that we want to attract.”

“Some of our returners step back in to the same type of work but others have opted to retrain, such as our colleague Eleanor Ludlam, a Law Society back to law ambassador. We understand that returning can be a daunting prospect but there is plenty of support in place, including help from fellow returners.”

Julianne Miles, managing director at Women Returners, said: “It can be very daunting trying to get back into work after a long career break. Many people who are highly skilled, well-qualified and with considerable business experience struggle to find the right opportunities.”

“Following the rapid growth of returner programmes in sectors such as financial services, telecoms and construction, it was an obvious next step to extend a concept with proven success into the law sector.”

“The concept of returnships is less established in the north of England. But interest in the programme has been high, with 20 law firms large and small signing up for this pilot programme.”

Hazel Little, coaching and programme manager at Women Returners, added: “Returner programmes give talented and experienced women and men the opportunity to make a positive contribution to an organisation while updating their skills and being supported with coaching and mentoring.”

“These placements give both returnees and businesses the opportunity to test whether it’s the right move in a low-risk, supportive environment.”