Changing from conveyancing to a life of crime – a good idea?
in Careers Advice, Changing Jobs, Legal Profession, Staying in Your Job

Changing from conveyancing to a life of crime – a good idea?

‘I’m a property solicitor fed up and wanting to change to crime. What should I do and how should I do it?’

This is one of those questions where we actually love giving out free advice as a company. When this query came in last week, three of our consultants were interested in having that conversation with this particular candidate on a voluntary basis.

This is a rough outline of the advice we gave in case it is of use to others.

Healthy job? not really

Practising crime is not a job that lends itself well to a stable and happy family life. with regular hours, leaving you’re able to switch off after work and remunerating you fairly for your services. Rates for criminal law don’t appear to have gone up a lot since the late 1980s and it is very difficult to make a good living out of being a crime solicitor. The only reason anybody would possibly think about practising as a crime solicitor would be because they see it as a vocation and the remuneration is not important.

The money?

There are a good proportion of criminal defence solicitors in the UK who will not earn more than £35,000 a year throughout their career. There are limited opportunities to increase your earnings from this figure unless you undertake more out of hours police station work, which is currently paid at levels that most people most people wouldn’t dream of getting out of bed at 2am for.

Crime solicitor remuneration options

There are usually two ways of remunerating crime solicitors. The first of these is to work on a salaried basis, the second is to take a monthly retainer. A retainer is a fixed monthly payment plus any out of hours work or actual work undertaken. If you are on a retainer with duty solicitor status you have a bit of flexibility to fit crime work around other commmitments. Monthly retainers are popular with both employees and employers.

Work experience

If your heart is set on becoming a crime solicitor, then you need to get work experience so you can make an informed decision based on your own evidence.

Getting experience is fairly easy if you are a solicitor with something to trade, so for example, if you are a conveyancing solicitor and you join a crime firm who also do property work, it should be fairly easy to go to that practice and offer them your skills and experience as a property solicitor in return for that firm training you up as a crime solicitor. This will then enable you to move across and specialise in crime or realise the error of your ways and run fairly quickly in the opposite direction!

The best way of getting work experience is to contact local firms. At the very least you could go and have a seat at the back of your local Magistrates Court and watch some cases, to see what you think about the daily life of a solicitor. I recommend watching the various administration hearings, because this is why you spend most of your life doing. Some lawyers thoroughly enjoy it, or the lawyers absolutely hate it because it’s so tedious. Either way, if you get some experience, this will stand you in good stead for making a decision as to whether crime is the future for you, or whether if you go into crime you’ll be making a terrible mistake.

A long term career move?

Whether it is possible to enjoy a long and successful career in crime is a moot point. There are likely to be consequences on your personal and professional life. Your clients will mostly not like you, the police definitely won’t like you, although you will form a very strong bond with your work colleagues.

To sum up, think very carefully before you opt for a life in crime. From our days career coaching it is important to separate out what you are lacking in your current role, whether it is the current working environment making you consider a move, or whether you are genuinely ready for a move to a new field of law.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at