We've worked a lot lately with older candidates - people who come to us with years in industry (or a PhD to their name!) who have made application after application but can't seem to find a training place.
Are law firms inherently ageist?
I think older candidates can have a tough time in the training market. Grade inflation means that your perfectly respectable B or C grade from five or ten years ago looks distinctly shabby. It can also be awkward working through assessment centers and tours with candidates or trainees who can't quite relate (and seem far too young). These candidates may also have families or mortgages which make the prospect of a drastic career move - or a drop in salary - rather daunting.
Crucially though, mature candidates have a lot going for them too. For starters, work experience (even in a different field) matters to law firms. It means that you know how to show up on time (sober!), attend meetings, deal with clients and more. The fact that older graduates have seen more of life, possibly traveled or studied further before coming to law, makes them seem less likely to switch out of law later. Being through the angst of early twenty-something life doesn't hurt, either.
That said, pick your firms carefully. How committed is your firm of choice to diversity and work-life balance? What does their current trainee intake look like? If nothing else, phone up, explain your circumstances, and ask whether there are any current mature trainees you could chat to or exchange a few emails with.