Jane, a Returner’s Course Alumni, talks about how the course helped her return to work.

I attended the Returners’ Course in March 2015. At that point, I was quite disillusioned about the response of Recruitment Consultants and potential employers (local law firms) to the fact that I had taken a career break in 2010. I had been seeking to ‘return to the law’ since April 2014 at that point. Interviews had resulted in either negative responses or, worse, no response at all.

I found the course very motivating. There were people in exactly the same position as me who clearly had a lot to offer, plus additional skills built up in voluntary or other roles since ‘leaving the law’. The speakers on the course were very honest and realistic: there is no easy way back; Recruitment Consultants do view returners quite negatively; all options should be considered. I came away from the weekend with renewed determination to ‘return’ and to accept there would be knock-backs along the way.

Over that summer, I looked into Family Mediation training courses, spoke to a local Family Mediation practice and met with them to find out more about the training process. In September last year, I began the Resolution Mediation Foundation Training course which lasted until December. I was nervous before attending the course that I would be the only non-practising participant and would be somehow disadvantaged because of that. This was not the case at all: course attendees were from various legal backgrounds; we were all learning a new skill and a new way of working with clients. That course boosted my confidence enormously, I thoroughly enjoyed the new challenges of learning more about the Family Mediation process and beginning to develop my skills as a Family Mediator.

After completing the course, I contacted the mediation practice I had met with over the summer and was accepted onto their ‘trained mediator’ programme to work towards FMCA accreditation. After completing the first stage of their programme, I have recently started to co-mediate cases with their accredited mediators to gain more experience and work towards completing my portfolio for accreditation assessment.

I absolutely love it!

It is not easy. Developing the skills to deal with potentially high conflict situations takes time and practice; finding the right way to draft mediation summaries in a neutral, non-partisan way takes time and practice; meeting the ‘competences’ and providing evidence for the portfolio takes time and practice. But the challenge is one I embrace and enables me to draw on existing skills as I develop new ones.

Being back in a working environment, ‘dressing like a lawyer again’ (as one of the Returners’ Course presenters advised), feeling I am on a level again with my fellow professionals, that I am part of the legal profession again and that I still have something to give - these are huge confidence boosters.

Last week I was asked by the mediation practice I am training with to give a talk about Family Mediation to a local CAB branch. I was disproportionately nervous before the event, even though I had prepared my notes in advance. I had not given a presentation for some years. I thoroughly enjoyed giving the presentation and realised afterwards that I had not just ‘told’ my audience about mediation, what I had said really came from the heart because I enjoy so much developing my new skills and working with clients in the Family Mediation process.

Once I have gained my accreditation and begin earning again, my first ‘pay packet’ will be put towards ‘thank you’ flowers for those who have supported me during my career break at the times when I have felt I would never work again - and a nice new pair of shoes for me!