Advice

Career-changing doctor: ‘Can I negotiate my training contract salary?’

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I have years of experience and transferable skills

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one doctor and soon-to-be trainee is considering asking her future firm for more money.

“I am a doctor with years of experience and transferable skills to law. I was wondering if I can negotiate my training contract salary to better reflect this? If so, how would I go about raising this and would I put my offer at risk?”

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24 Comments

Head of HR

No

Anon

No, established law firms have a few mature joiners every cycle and they all get paid the same as other trainees. Also struggling to see how a job as a doctor will help you as a lawyer, unless you were negotiating supply contracts for your hospital or something along those lines

v stressed

Given that most doctors seem to lack empathy and understanding, I’d say they would be a perfect fit in the modern legal profession.

Lol

Haha right thanks for this one fresher

Anon1

Would be helpful to those working in clinical negligence.

Doctor Who?

With that sense of entitlement you’ll be right at home in a career in law!

Anon

It’s doubtful that the question will put your training contract offer at risk; this is firm dependant.

I think you give most firms more credit than is due. They are not that forward thinking. They do not think “this doctor is going to beat all targets and attract substantial new business so we better keep him happy”. They simply think, great, someone that might be able to work harder than other trainees sooner.

With that said, I had a career change to the law and I am quickly moving through the professional ranks and gain more exposure than others at my level. I expect that is due to the transferable skills. This is where your past career will assist you. Not at the start.

Soz

Hate to burst your bubble but there are career changer trainees who come from banking or previously ran their own businesses. Both of those would be more desirable than a doctor and they still get paid the same as a trainee.

How does previously being a doctor mean you’re more valuable than other trainees?

With bankers / business folk – they’ve already worked in financial environments, navigated contracts and likely worked with solicitors …

City Trainee

Agreed. I left a different City job and took a substantial pay cut to become a trainee. Salary negotiation never even came to my mind and that was before you factored in I had previously instructed/worked with partners regularly, and done most of the skills for the role before.

No

Lol, to put it bluntly no. You are a “trainee” for a reason. No harm in asking though.

The typical answer: it depends

Of course you can attempt to negotiate your offer, but it entirely depends on the type of firm you are applying to.

If you are intending to apply to a commercial firm which does commercial transactional work – such as the big City firms then you do not have any room to negotiate and you must accept the salary that is given to you. If you attempt to negotiate with such firms then another potential trainee will accept your offer.

However, if you are intending to apply to a regional firm – or a more boutique specialist firm in the City or elsewhere in England and Wales, where your skills as a doctor may be applied, such as (but not limited to), personal injury claims then you may have some leverage and may be able to negotiate your training contract salary. After all, human resources works for the equity partners (if the firm is so structured as an LLP) or for the owners of the firm, so HR will take instructions from your interviewers.

Anon

I can’t imagine it would put your offer at risk, but as with any salary negotiation you’d have to think very carefully about your argument for deserving extra compensation.

I’m also career-changing into law (although not from the medical sector) and have many transferable skills. This a great marketing angle to encourage a firm to hire someone in the first place and it is no doubt easier choosing a person who is used to being in the workplace, but really that’s where the benefit ends for them at this stage. My existing skills won’t make them more money whilst I am a trainee, I won’t be in a position to bring them particular contacts or business and I don’t have additional legal knowledge worth paying for. On the other side of the coin a firm may be of the opinion that someone younger and without an existing career may be easier to mould into “their” brand of lawyer.

After your training contract it might be more appropriate to bring those skills in at NQ level and beyond. If you’re an experienced manager for example, or are able to attract clients with your contacts you can make a clear and business-minded argument for a higher salary.

Wigalicious

No, and here is why.

You may be a very good doctor, but you are not yet a lawyer. You must, like everyone else prove that you can be a lawyer first and foremost and for that you are paid the same as everyone else. Being good at medicine does not mean you will be good at law (although it undoubtedly indicates an ability to think deeply). The skills and talents you refer to only come into play when you are established in your practice to help further that practice.

Be assured, law has some very big brains in it. There is always someone cleverer and better than you and who also brings skills (oftened honed at the highest level over years) to the table.

My advice, drop the idea of asking for more right now. Prove yourself, then ask.

Geoff

Whilst I don’t think that the OP has a right to negotiate TC salary, I do think that those who begin a TC after racking up years of paralegal experience should have the opportunity to negotiate.

Appreciate not all paralegals do trainee/associate level work, but a lot do (often to a comparable level of quality), and the fact that they often have to take a pay cut just to qualify is quite harsh.

This is even more apparent when an established paralegal with X amount of years of legal experience is required to take a pay cut and is now on par with Joe Bloggs who’s fresh out of uni having never submitted a billable hour in his life.

And before the haters argue that Joe Bloggs and said established paralegal will be doing similar work during the TC, I would bet in most cases that the firm will make full use of said paralegal’s prior experience during their TC.

Pants before socks that’s the rule. Never socks before pants: makes a man look scary, like a chicken.

I think that’s a fair argument for the paralegal who has x amount of years at the same firm they eventually get a training contract with.

At that point they’ve done given the firm years of their life and commitment.

But I don’t think a firm should pay one incoming trainee more than another purely because they have paralegal experience.

Roger That

At a small firm, yes. At a big firm, no. A training contract is a means to an end, just get qualified and shut up about your transferable skills you goober.

Anon

Unless you’re in an area where you will provably add extra value (e.g. in Clin Neg you would potentially save the firm on expert fees) you’re going to be told to foxtrot Oscar.

Ultimately, whilst doing a C Section is very difficult, it doesn’t help you prepare a disclosure letter any better than a snot nosed 22 year old.

Anon

Most of these responses really do prove that lawyers just have a hard time being simply kind and considerate, without being patronising and manifesting all the pretentious know-it-all bull***. Most qualified lawyers are “snot nosed”, irregardless the age. I am in the profession myself and pray every day not to become a soulless shadow of myself one day who needs to be always right and put others down to feel alive, which is what I observe so widely in this profession every day.

Everybody has the right to negotiate their salary. A medical doctor has a plethora of transferrable skills that may prove very useful in a legal firm. They may not be strictly field-related, but linked to their communication skills, the dynamics of learning as well as responsibility and stress handling, just to name a few. Some trainees spend years aquiring and perfecting such skills. Go only where your experience will be appreciated. Be picky. The right environment will appreciate your skills and you may get exactly what you want.

MC Very Senior Asso

You can, but is isn’t common and the approach will depend on the firm you are applying to.

For a small, regional or niche firm your salary is less likely to be dictated by a rigid ‘HR policy’, and so if you can argue that simply having you around will bring in more business or that you could apply a separate charge out-rate as a ‘consultant’ in addition to doing your legal training then it may be possible.

I have *once* heard of a trainee at my MC firm negotiating their trainee salary up to NQ pay (in essence being bumped up bands to associate level), due to a significant amount of academic expertise in a subject that was highly desired by the firm. This was more than 10 years ago and so times may have changed but if you can present a very unique reason for extra pay then everything is negotiable.

Archibald Pomp O'City

The formidable intellectual skills, including critical reasoning, which are unquestionably common to both law and medicine, do not in themselves put you at an advantage to law students. And everything else is sutures and blood.

Think yourself lucky you’ve not been rejected as too old, and don’t be tempted to sacrifice humility. If you’re that good, you’ll get the wonga in due course.

Curious Dave

Out of interest what are these transferable skills? Doctors don’t record time or need to worry about profitability. The health advice they give to individual patients is a million miles away from the sort of considered legal and business advice that a typical commercial lawyer provides to large corporations, I genuinely don’t see why you think you’ll be any better at this job than a history graduate fresh out of uni. One day you might become an IP lawyer sure, but you’re not now and even when you are your medical knowledge will only be useful in a very specific set of circumstances and won’t negate the need for expert evidence. As a lawyer your job will be to provide legal advice and you’ve never done that any more than you’ve flown a plane. Drop the chip on your shoulder and do your time.

First aider

All this will do is alert HR to the fact you’re a doctor and the perfect candidate to be the next first aider. No, you don’t get paid more for that either.

I would say there is a 99.99999 chance that your negotiation will not go down well and even if you don’t lose the offer, it will be remembered and you’ll be branded as that difficult trainee who thinks they deserve more.
On the other hand, you might succeed in getting the raise, it will be something like an extra grand, which after taxes, pension, student loans is f all and if the other trainees find out, your peers will resent you.

Kim

Rather than looking at Training Contract why not consider the SQE route. You may have more luck in salary negotiation that way. Most firms will consider relevant experience but where on training contract programme, you are all doing same, so be very difficult to justify paying one more than the other. However once qualified I suspect your progression will be fat quicker than those who are first careers (assuming you good at being a solicitor that is).

Top 1% highest paid trainee

Where there’s a will there’s a way…

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