A former professional actor from Reston has completed a dramatic career change by qualifying as a solicitor with a local law firm at the age of 53.
Mark Pentecost celebrated his birthday just three days after his elevation from trainee to assistant solicitor at Sanderson McCreath and Edney in Berwick.
Law Society figures show that only 0.9 per cent of new solicitors joining the roll in the UK last year were aged 50-54. That makes Mark one of the oldest in the country to achieve his legal qualification.
“It is unusual for someone of my age qualifying as a solicitor because the number of people finishing the legal practice course far outstrips the number of training contracts available,” he said.
It was certainly a struggle. Mark began looking mainly in the Newcastle area until an opportunity came up on his doorstep in Berwick two years ago. Despite initial fears that age would count against him, Mark found that experience away from the legal profession worked in his favour.
“You can almost hit the ground running,” he said. “You don’t need to be spoon-fed as much as someone with no work experience. When you’ve dealt with people in a business environment a law firm can be more confident about putting you in front of clients.”
The drama and theology graduate has extensive experience of dealing with people having moved from professional acting into insurance. His career path has helped him understand the needs of small businesses.
“As an actor, I was running my own business. I was used to marketing myself and delivering projects on time,” he said. “As an insurance manager, I got to know about employment law, targets, cost effectiveness, profits, risk and compliance. So I know what businesses care about and what the risks are. But the culture of working in a law firm is very different. In that way it has been a steep learning curve. When you come from a commercial background, you don’t appreciate how different it is.”
It is all far cry from the career he started with. Mark was a professional actor for ten years. “Mainly theatre and commercial work,” he recalled. “I spent a lot of time touring the UK and Europe. The rest of the time would be voice-overs, photo shoots, TV commercials, even hand modelling. You never knew what would come up from one week to the next.”
He hasn’t abandoned his theatrical skills altogether. Mark is director for Berwick Operatic Society’s annual musical at The Maltings next month and is trying to inject a bit of sassy burlesque into ‘Calamity Jane’ for the show’s four-night run.
But his involvement these days is purely for fun. His decision to call time on his professional acting career was made due to “partly having a family and partly getting fed up with the entertainment business and the insecurity of it,” he explained. “It’s a fantastic life when you don’t have any ties or commitments, but later on it becomes a burden.”
Mark worked his way into insurance management roles in London and Edinburgh before being made redundant so he decided to begin another new chapter. “When it came to the end in insurance I was given some legal work to do, on an ad hoc basis, and I really liked it. So I decided to use part of the redundancy money to do a conversion course.”
The whole process of studying, training and qualifying has taken more than six years, but Mark has no regrets. “It’s been one of the best things that has happened to me.”
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