Working in London
London is home to every kind of law firm imaginable. Not only does it house the main City firms which were set up and continue to thrive close to Chancery lane, it also is typically the first port of call for international and US firms seeking to set up offices in the UK. Many firms that have spread across the UK had their origins in London. Yet if the high octane, big fish firms aren’t your thing, there are alternatives in the form of regional firms, high street firms in various boroughs, and boutique firms with a niche focus.
London is also most likely to be your best bet seeking legal opportunities outside of a private practice law firm. Its status as the business capital means that a lot of national and multinational companies have their headquarters there, and companies on this scale are usually the ones which offer in-house legal opportunities. Another route possible for an NQ lawyer working in London is the Government’s own legal department, which trains and employs its own team of lawyers to deal with public legislative and advisory matters.
A distinct element to life as a lawyer in London is the international doors it opens - it could be that you are based in London, but working on cases and with clients on a global scale. That means travel opportunities that you will perhaps struggle to find elsewhere. The type of work will vary based on your firm and specialty: think huge-scale criminal litigation, corporate and commercial matters, acting for the nearby financial services, as well as a whole host of personal legal services.
Of course, working life in the country’s capital comes with a certain intensity - there are pros and cons to consider. London law is likely to be high-profile and fast-paced, making your hours unpredictable and at times lengthy. London is also expensive - although property prices are stabilising for the first time in years, rent averages in London are still sky high compared to the rest of the country. But while the workload is intense, you’ll be open to boundless career opportunities and can enjoy one of the world’s most vibrant cities in your downtime - and London lawyers get paid the highest salaries in the country, which should sweeten the living costs a bit.
London contains every conceivable community, so its more than likely that you’ll find your niche here. You should check out the Law Society - with headquarters on Chancery Lane, it really is at the heart of London’s legal scene. There will also be ample opportunities within your firm to socialise and build a network of contacts and friends.
In London, the new, exciting, and sometimes completely bizarre sit alongside the old, traditional aspects of the city. Upon arrival, you’ll probably want to hit all of the most famous spots - take a selfie with the (currently silent) Big Ben, view the city from the London Eye, and battle through the crowds on Oxford Street. It’s only with time that you’ll begin to find your own niche favourites within the city, whether it’s the delicious offerings of Borough Market, the network of secret cinema events that spring up everywhere around the city, the upmarket cocktail bars of Shoreditch or the curry houses of Brick Lane.
While it would take all day to collate the rich cultural offerings of London, the most appealing aspect of the city is that you can pick and choose. Life in any of its 32 boroughs is going to present a completely unique and special experience, with each one offering a different blend of community and culture: whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it.
Music will always be at the heart of the city. Venues such as the Shacklewell Arms, the Lexington and Moth Club are great for emerging indie and rock acts, while the O2 at Greenwich and the Albert Hall sit at the opposite end of the scale, welcoming internationally renowned acts. Jazz fans will feel compelled to stop into Ronnie Scotts every once in a while.
Performance often veers off the mainstream tracks in London - as well as music and traditional theatre, you could find yourself at a poetry gig, within an impromptu audience for a street performer, or at the centre of a flash mob at any point. The Barbican, the National Theatre, and the Old Vic host award-winning and innovative performances. For an authentic experience of theatre, head to the Globe; if you’re a fan of musicals, the West End has pretty much all of them.
London’s nightlife is renowned internationally, ranging from super clubs such as fabric and ministry of sound, to a variety of off-the-beaten-track bars, pubs and small clubs. Some say that you’re never more than two tube stops from a craft ale pub, and with homegrown breweries such as Meantime and Camden ale, as well as an ever-growing network of Brewdog branches, you certainly won’t go thirsty. If you’d prefer something a little classier, head to mayfair, or the mystical cirque - a club based entirely on a circus.
- View the city from above. Whether it’s the Shard, the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street, Monument or the Emirates cable car, there are a wealth of ways to check out London’s spectacular skyline.
- Spend a Sunday afternoon exploring one of London’s many parks - if it’s Summer, you may even be tempted to take a dip in the notoriously chilly Hampstead Heath swimming ponds.
- Visit the British Library. Home to some of the worlds seminal works, like the Magna Carta, it’s a spectacular building with plenty of space to do some quiet work if you get tired of the exhibits.
- Go for breakfast at 4am at Duck and Waffle, a restaurant located at the top of Bishopsgate tower. If you fancy something a bit closer to the ground, VQ24 is also open 24 hours, and also serves great breakfast.
- Make the most of the colder months at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland or Southbank’s Winter Festival…and exude in the warmer weather come summer at Wireless Festival, British Summertime or Field Day.
A city as vast as London relies on a dedicated transport network, and with the Underground now covering nine zones and running 24 hours on major lines, you can’t complain (but probably will anyway - it’s a London thing). The city also has more bus routes than you can count, an Overground, a fast ferry service and a cable car, all of which you’ll grow to be an expert in.
London is making a conscious effort to be greener, and its cycle hire system is taking off - there are Santander cycles dotted around the centre of the city, as well as a few other bike sharing initiatives. Cycle lanes are becoming more and more common.
London has several main railway stations - Kings Cross St Pancras will take you everywhere from Cambridge to Paris, as well as most East Coast destinations leading up to Edinburgh. Euston tends to serve the West Coast of the country. The UK’s largest airport - Heathrow - is accessible by tube, and the other airports have dedicated coach and train shuttles to get you to your flight.
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With the strong focus on training contracts at private sector firms, the opportunities available within government can sometimes be forgotten – but it offers a unique and alternative route into law. We spoke to Pinky Tanna, a trainee currently working in the Government Legal Department (GLD), to see what it’s like to be a trainee solicitor within government.
A Vacation Scheme with an International Firm
Clara Garfield completed a vacation scheme at international firm, Taylor Wessing in 2011. Throughout the scheme, Clara felt well supported by the firm and commends the ethos of the firm and their hiring policy – Taylor Wessing look for people who are a good fit for the firm’s culture, not just those with top grades.
South Essex JLD
We are the South Essex Junior Lawyers Division (SEJLD). Our committee strives to arrange and host a carefully balanced mix of educational and social events in the local area. Together, we provide a platform for the area’s budding lawyers; an opportunity to network, meet like-minded people and even learn about different practice areas.
The life of a trainee solicitor: London edition
London is the long-standing legal hub of the UK, with ample opportunities depending on your interests. We spoke to Nayomi Skinner, a current trainee solicitor at Addleshaw Goddard, to get the lowdown on training in the capital.