Does it matter where you do your training contract?
Applying for training contracts can be daunting, as there are so many things to consider. How many applications to send off, how to make yourself attractive to employers, and where to apply? While there’s no ‘wrong’ place to do a training contract, it is important to think about the best fit for your future aspirations.
What do you want to specialise in?
It is a good idea to do your training contract at a firm that specialises in a sector of law you’re interested in. This will ensure that you sound especially passionate and engaged in your interviews.
Even if you only do one seat in the sector, it’s the perfect chance for you to decide if it is truly right for you. For instance, you may have always dreamed of specialising in family law, but after completing your training contract at a family law firm, you may find it’s not the right fit. It is much better for you to work out what suits you best now, as opposed to further down your career path.
Completing your training contract at a firm that specialises in one of your interests can also allow you to make valuable connections. During your seats, you’ll work with industry experts who will provide support and advice. Form good relationships with these individuals, and you may find them invaluable in the future when it comes to networking or needing professional advice.
Where do you want to live?
There are law firms that offer training contracts all over the country, and you might want to work outside of your hometown for a new experience.
Many future solicitors are particularly interested in a career in London, given the high salaries and the fact that the largest law firms are based there. On the other hand, a career in the capital can come with long working hours and a stressful environment, as you’ll be working alongside numerous trainees.
You could find that a training contract outside of London suits you best: while the salary might not be as high, you’ll benefit from more flexible working hours and less pressure.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you wish to work in a small, high-street firm, completing your work experience in the same location can allow you to make important connections. This can be very beneficial in small towns, where relationships and networking can help hugely.
What kind of structure do you want?
One thing that many trainees don’t consider when looking at training contracts is the structure that will suit you best. Most law firms offer four rotations, each lasting six months (known as seats), while others offer six seats, each lasting four months. There are even a few that follow a completely different structure, so it’s best to look on the website to make sure before you apply.
If you’re not sure what sector you’re interested in, it’s worth choosing a law firm that offers more variety when it comes to seats. This gives you the chance to try out many different sectors, meet industry experts, and work out which one suits you best.
What sort of culture are you looking for?
At a large, multinational law firm, you can find yourself working for high-profile clients, on deals worth millions or even billions of pounds. There are often more opportunities on offer too, such as the chance to do a client secondment or spend a seat in one of the firm’s offices abroad. Large law firms also provide numerous benefits for their employees, such as high salaries, glamorous social events and even free taxis to those working late.
However, the glitz and glamour of a large firm also comes with downsides. You’ll be working alongside numerous trainees, which means that you won’t have much responsibility, and will need to prove yourself before being assigned more complex tasks. Trainees at large law firms often receive a large workload, which can result in long working hours, and sometimes even weekend working.
Taking their downsides into consideration, you may find that a career in a small, high-street firm suits you best. While you may not receive the same high salaries or expansive benefits, you’ll benefit from shorter working hours, less pressure, and more responsibility from an early stage.
Working out where to do your training contract is a huge decision, after all, you’ll be spending two years (or more!) at the firm you choose. While it can be overwhelming given the numerous law firms available, you can use this list of criteria as a guide to inform your decision. It might be helpful to make a list of criteria that all the firms you apply to must have, and take it from there.