in Careers Advice, Changing Jobs, Legal Profession

Retraining into Wills and Probate Law – is it possible?

Thinking of Retraining in Wills & Probate after years out of the profession and coming from a Commercial background. Is it possible?

We have recently received a request for advice from a solicitor coming from a Legal 500 commercial background and after over 10 years out now seeking to return to the profession but not practice in the area of commercial law she came from as she found it dull. This particular candidate is approaching the new middle age (50). She has come up with the idea of moving into wills & probate and wants to know if it is possible and should she do a Wills & Probate conversion course?

The answer to this question is not simple.
1. If you found the commercial law area you practised in dull, what do you reckon wills & probate will be? Dynamic and exciting?
2. Your age will be against you when applying for work.
3. Undertaking Wills & Probate training/conversion courses is definitely not a good idea, and you know this already as you have alluded to it in your query. Many years ago I challenged all the providers of these courses (Wills & Probate Certificates etc.. etc..) to show me one example of someone using their course to get a job and I haven’t yet heard of anyone who has.
4. In view of point 1 I think you should approach local law firms and ask if they would be prepared to give you some experience working in the wills & probate department. Even a week’s experience may be worthwhile so you can see whether it lives up to expectations.

The key to changing fields of law is to get experience and then use the experience to make the move. This is how the vast majority of lawyers change from one to another. You cannot pay an education provider to do this for you (and they should really know better) and forget paid work to start unless you are very lucky indeed.

Work experience is the key. Get work experience, get on in another field. Fail to get work experience, probably give up trying.

At c.50 years old wills & probate is a good area to get into. Firstly you can continue in this area of law for many years to come and secondly it is a fairly easy area to get locum work in, set up a business, and generate a small income if you later decide to work very part time hours and enjoy yourself a bit more.

Furthermore you can probably have a longer conversation about the weather and rheumatoid arthritis with elderly clients than your younger colleagues!


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