A guide to selecting a new law firm to work for
Choosing who to work for is obviously a Big Decision – and like many Big Decisions, it isn’t an easy one to make. On the plus side: you’ve done this before when applying for Training Contracts; you now have experience of what being in a firm is like; and you’ve found this guide to help you!
While there’s a lot to think about in terms of law firms, the best place to start is with you. What do you want from your job and your career? What are your priorities and what’s driving you?
Reflect on your experience so far – what’s made the biggest difference? Try to think about what’s affected the goals you’re working towards, how satisfied you were with the different seats and what else matters to you. Reflect critically: we aren’t always right about what we think makes us happy, and there might be things you hadn’t noticed before.
Now, turn to the differences and opportunities that different firms have. Note down what you’re looking for and what’s important to you. Is working on big deals something you want, or would you rather have friendly and supportive colleagues, or are you after opportunities for pro-bono work or international placements?
Think about how you want to decide. Do you want to make charts of pros and cons? Do you want to score everything based on various criteria and use that to decide? Do you prefer some sort of ‘gut feeling’ resolution?
Figuring out what you want might be your most difficult bit – but if you get this wrong, everything that follows is a bit pointless!
Things to consider
Location. Are you wanting to move cities? Give London a go or to escape it? Maybe moving internationally is what you’re after, but do you want short business trips, a half-year placement or moving somewhere for the longer term? Even within London, location is still important for the local area and the commute options. Time spent commuting has a significant effect on happiness and job satisfaction.
Work culture and atmosphere. Do you want somewhere friendly or somewhere that pushes you? What sort of social culture?
Linked to this is the size of firm, or even in-house. Generally, once you move in-house you do less of the strictly law work and more business work. If you’ve decided that a full-service law firm isn’t for you, consider a boutique firm or going in-house.
The area of law and nature of work you’ll be doing is significant. Some people aren’t so bothered, but for others this can be the most important thing! And, naturally, this intersects with things such as the work culture. Teams and departments can vary within firms too!
Salary package and career progression. This of course also varies, and you’ll be constantly trading this off against things such as working hours and work culture.
You can score things on separate criteria, but also compare things to each other. For example: would you rather work in your preferred specialism in a less reputable firm, or do work that you enjoy less in a market-leading team? Ultimately, pick your long-term goals and priorities, and use that to guide you.
Be prepared and start considering and looking early. It’s definitely better to jump than be pushed, or at least have this appearance. As well as applying directly, you might also want to consider recruitment consultants. They will be able to help you talk it through and be experienced in this. But also be wary: their interests aren’t always the same as yours, so they might have an agenda. You might also have contacts in other firms who can help with this. But be discrete, as you want to keep the option of staying on open. Your fellow trainees are also your competition!