Tolu Anifalaje, Housing Solicitor at Camden Council
After qualifying as a solicitor in 2008, I specialised as a Housing Solicitor with a not-for-profit firm in London. I relocated to work at their Cambridge Office as a Team Leader and subsequently became the Group Solicitor for their East Anglian offices. As would be expected, this role was extremely demanding but equally rewarding. Work-life balance became increasingly challenging as my young family grew.
It was not long before the tension between my professional career and familial role brought me to a crossroads. This was further amplified as my husband was then travelling extensively for work. Although I loved the work and was passionate about practising law, I had to make the difficult decision to take a career break so that I could focus on my young family.
In the early stages, taking a career break felt unnatural and discomfiting. It was not long before I started looking for concrete opportunities to reconcile family life with contributing to society in a professional capacity. This search came to fruition as I found just the avenue: working in a voluntary capacity as trustee with several charities in Cambridge. I also helped to run a women’s group at my church. All through this time, I always wanted to return to my career when the children were older and more independent. I speculatively sent my CV to a number of recruitment agencies and found it disconcerting that I often heard nothing back. The most helpful agent advised me to write directly to law firms as they were unable to help me. I registered with Women Returners and LawWorks and in October 2018, I started working with the Anglia Ruskin Law Clinic (which is affiliated with LawWorks) and helped to run Support@Court, a scheme providing assistance to unrepresented litigants during their first family hearings at the County Court.
At this stage, I was somewhat resigned to the possibility that returning to work as a Housing Solicitor could be out of reach. However, in March 2019, Women Returners advertised the position of Housing Solicitor with Camden Council. The vacancy came straight into my inbox and following my application, I got the job! I started in June 2019 and was astonished at how quickly I had managed to secure work as a solicitor.
The incredibly supportive team in my department have made the transition back to full–time legal work almost seamless. Camden’s policy of flexible and agile working, along with the in-depth coaching received from Women Returners, has made me feel confident and supported throughout the entire process. I enjoy my work immensely and look forward to continuing to develop my knowledge and advocacy skills.
For anyone who is looking to get back to a fulfilling career following a career break, I would say don’t give up; try to find relevant work experience in the area you are trying to get back into and join the Women Returners Professional Network for a wealth of resources and tips from other returners.