Company Culture | Regional Firms
Perhaps the most noticeable and most appealing characteristic of the regional firm is that it recognises you have a life outside of law—more so than at any other type of firm, you can expect fairly balanced working hours, and added flexibility. Yes, you’ll still be expected to put the hours in if a big case or project comes in, but in general, you won’t be pulling the infamous all-nighters of your City counterparts.
You’re also likely to get more contact with partners and associates at a regional firm; they will have more time to focus on your individual development as a lawyer, which can mean quicker career progression, as well as strong working relationships! To take on a trainee for a smaller firm is a big investment, and so they’re likely to put a lot of weight and consideration into your training.
Due to the intimate nature of a lot of regional firms, you’ll most likely be familiar with everyone within your office. You’ll also (in time) play a strong role in decision-making about how the firm is run, what direction it's going in, and what needs to be improved. With fewer colleagues, there’s more room for your viewpoint to be considered.
Hierarchies will still be in place—the managing partner and senior partners will still have a big stake in firm decision making—but at a regional firm, it’s possible to enjoy more of a mentor relationship with them, perhaps interacting with them more regularly than you would with the managing partner at a City firm!
Type of Work | Regional Firms
As a trainee or NQ lawyer you’ll be a member of a small overall team, which means you’ll likely be given more responsibility than you would at a larger City or national firm.
You’ll be working at the forefront of the community in which your firm is based. This will vary depending on whether your firm is located in a rural town, a small city, or one of the UK’s larger cities: some areas will demand quite niche areas of law, such as agricultural law, while at larger regional firms based in cities with major economies, some of your work will be quite similar to that of City firms.
Indeed, at some of the biggest regional firms with the largest client reach, you will be working on high-profile matters with big-name clients. So opting for a regional firm doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning the world of fast-paced, high-end law!
Yet in general, you’ll find that regional firms take on a significant number of cases in family law, criminal law, and personal injury law—cases which deal with individuals rather than big clients. If this is the route you want to go down, then a regional firm could be for you.
One thing to note about regional firms is that they may not always advertise training contracts via the same channels as national or City firms. It may be that you have to contact them speculatively to declare your interest in undertaking a training contract at that firm. Upon embarking on a training contract at a regional firm, you’ll likely get a lot of exposure and responsibility within the firm, but it may not be a case of rotating through an array of departments on your seats—some regional firms are full-service, but others have a number of specific departments pertaining to the community.
This means that you’ll likely be working on several areas of law at once, rather than working in a specific department. This offers a broad experience of many areas of law, but if you have a specialty in mind already, it might be that you won’t be able to practice exclusively in that area at a regional firm.
A plus side to being a trainee or NQ lawyer at a regional firm is that you’ll have more face-to-face content with clients from the offset, as more intimate firms require all hands on deck from the start! This will allow you to learn the ropes quickly, and become proficient at front-facing roles.
Where will I be working? | Regional Firms
At a regional firm, you could be based within a city, town or even a big village—solicitors are required all over the country, in communities large and small. It’s a great option if you want to stay close to home, or live away from the overwhelming madness of London!
A lot of the major law hubs have their own homegrown firms, which have risen to prominence within their respective cities and opened several branches. These firms are likely to have expertise in issues relevant to the local area, and may have been established within the community for a number of years. It’s a chance to be part of something expansive—similar to a national or international firm, but with a closer focus and on a smaller scale.
One of the most rewarding things about life at a regional firm is that you’ll most likely see the direct outcomes of your work, as you’ll be living and working within a community and representing the needs of its members, whether they are individuals or small businesses.
Another reward is less emotional, more financial—while you’ll be paid less than employees at a City firm, you’ll also be in a much cheaper housing market than the London one and will most likely enjoy significantly lower living costs. Swings and roundabouts, eh?
Is this the right type of firm for me?
A regional firm is for you if…
- You have a strong connection with a local community or area within the UK.
- You’re excited by the prospect of flexible hours with a good work-life balance.
- You want to play an active role within a firm from the offset, acquiring responsibility early on.
You may want to reconsider if…
- You want to be working on international projects and cases.
- You’ve got a key specialty in mind, and don’t want to juggle many areas of law.
- The idea of taking on a lot of responsibility as a trainee or NQ lawyer is scary to you.
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