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Work around age prejudice

Question :

I work as a tax accountant and plan to study for a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. However, by the time I finish it, I will be around 40. Will my age be an obstacle in getting a training contract?

Posted by Rachel Green on Saturday, 04 Oct 2014

Comments :

Well done on exploring your career options. There are two answers: broadly, yes, age will be a problem, but specifically, no it won’t. 

Confused? Let me explain. 

Starting with the yes answer, there will be many firms or chambers that will think you are too old to grant a training contract. 

One reason for this is often they have a training programme for younger fresh graduates with a common culture. Also, there is a perception that as one ages, one’s ability to learn new skills diminishes. (You will have heard the cliché: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”) 

Of course they won’t say this when not offering you a position and will most likely disguise it as another reason. 

There is nothing you can do about this prejudice and rather than spend time and energy fighting it, I would focus on proving correct my second answer – that no, your age won’t be a problem. 

To do this you will need to be very clear about your proposition to future employers. You will likely be unique in the marketplace when you qualify – you will have tax accounting expertise, a commercial maturity developed from your years of experience, in addition to a relevant JD qualification. 

You need to articulate the benefits of this mix of knowledge and expertise to employers – and especially those where a mix of accounting, law and tax would be advantageous. 

Once you are comfortable with your approach then you should establish relationships with those firms – most likely smaller, more specialist firms or chambers – which are likely to be interested in your range of skills. 

Alternatively, you could approach tax and accounting firms that would be interested in JD graduates. 

What you are doing with this approach is creating a need by articulating the competitive benefits to potential employers who didn’t know that your unique range of skills existed. 

The path won’t be easy and you will get many knock-backs because you aren’t the traditional profile, but if you persist you will find a role. 

Good luck with your studies and future career. 

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