Choosing the right law firm

  • Last updated 10-Jul-2017 14:30:50
  • By Billy Sexton and Becky Kells, Editors,

Training contract applications are stressful enough without the perpetual worry that you’ve chosen the ‘wrong’ firms to apply to. Perhaps you missed the law fair at your university or you only decided that you wanted to convert to law at the last minute. Or (admit it) you simply didn’t do enough research beforehand and have decided to send generic applications to a whole range of firms.

The short answer to ‘how to choose the right firm?’ is to research, research again and then research some more. The longer answer (which we’ll provide ‘cause we’re kind like that), is to choose firms to apply to based on various factors.

Areas of law & client base

The first port of call should be should be the area of law you want to specialise in. We get that this may be difficult to choose when you’ve only just finished the second year of your law degree but law firm open days, law fairs, vacation schemes and other work placements should have given you a rough idea.

The areas of law you can train in are most certainly going to be affected by the client base of a firm. For example, if commercial law and clients that are big businesses and household names take your fancy, City firms are ideal for you. Fancy global business and financial law? Check out international law firms. If you want to serve individuals and smaller businesses such as start-ups and specialise in family or private client law, regional firms may be the one for you.

Location, salary & lifestyle

Choosing the right firm will also be influenced by your location and salary preferences. For the big money training contracts, Magic Circle, City and US-based firms in London will be the front runners.

If you fancy undertaking an international secondment during your training contract, believe it or not, an international firm is your best bet. Or perhaps you fancy training somewhere closer to home? A regional firm is for you.

If nobody had told you already, a career as a solicitor is hard work and no plain sailing. If you’re looking for a steady nine-to-five career, think again. Solicitors at City firms often have to work after hours and the work-life balance is likely to be skewed in favour of work. If you’re at a regional firm, your hours may be more consistent and you could leave the office at a reasonable hour. However, you’re not going to be paid as much.

There’s advantages and disadvantages to both arguments and only you can decide the kind of lifestyle you’d like to lead.

Training contract structure

The structure of the training contract is something that is worth considering too. Whilst the standard training contract will see you complete four seats over the course of two years, with each seat lasting for six months, the structure at some firms may be slightly different.

For example, in firms that are renowned for their work in finance and transactions, like Ashurst, for example, trainees may have to undertake mandatory seats in these areas.

Other firms may structure their training contract differently. Burges Salmon, for example, have a training contract that consists of six seats, each lasting four months. Additionally, they also give trainees the chance to get involved with pro bono work and client secondments.

Alternative options

Don’t fancy a training contract in the traditional sense? You could apply to the Government Legal Service, who have just one client – the British government. Alternatively, a range of large companies have in-house legal teams you could join.

The only way you’re going to find and land the ideal training contract is by researching thoroughly and putting together a tailored application. You’ll reap what you sow, so get started early and best of luck! 

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