The different types of law firm exhibiting at the fair
All law firms are unique, but they can be categorised into four main groups. Ahead of the Virtual Law Fair, you should make sure to research, in detail, the firms that are suited to your career aspirations. You also need to know the different types of law firms and their typical characteristics.
Working for an international law firm is one of the best ways to understand and experience first-hand how law operates on a global scale. As I’m sure you can understand, most international firms are large companies and if you manage to secure a training contract with one of these firms, you’ll be working alongside an expansive network of colleagues across different time zones.
Quite often, international firms grow through mergers with firms from outside of the UK, which often means a fusing of two or more firms’ cultures, which makes them forward-thinking and dynamic.
Working for an international firm means you will often be working on multi-jurisdictional deals and cases, where you’ll be communicating with colleagues and clients in other countries, so the work you complete will be varied, exciting and stimulating at every turn.
One of the most attractive opportunities offered by many of these firms are international secondments, where you may get the chance to complete a seat abroad.
Understandably, developing your career as a solicitor in this fast-paced environment will be challenging, but, if you can rise to it, a training contract with an international firm could be the perfect place to start your career as a solicitor.
Working for a City firm, you’ll be at the heart of the fast-paced legal industry in London, working for some of the biggest national and international clients. It’s going to be challenging, exciting and thoroughly rewarding.
Bagging a training contract with a City firm can be tough. It’s going to be competitive, so you’ll have to show you’ve got what it takes to thrive in this environment.
As a trainee at a City firm, you’ll be well-paid and you’ll have the chance to work on meaty national and international transactions with a range of clients, from financial services and banking giants to a whole range of FTSE 100 companies.
Most City firms are full-service law firms and will have a range of practice areas for you to gain experience in, and given that you’ll be working with big-business clients in London and beyond, you can expect your workload to be very business-focused: think mergers & acquisitions, corporate law, litigation and commercial law.
Working for a regional firm offers a different experience and challenge as a trainee. You’ll still be working on big cases and exciting projects, but you might be able to expect more balanced working hours and greater flexibility. You’ll also be more likely to have closer contact with partners and associates and will be a member of a small overall team. With this dynamic, you might be given more responsibility earlier in your careers than you would at a larger City or international firm. You may also have more face-to-face contact with clients from the outset.
At some of the larger 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! However, it’s likely that you’ll command a lower salary as a trainee and as a NQ solicitor. As you’ll be living outside of London, though, your living costs will be lower, so it’s important to consider this before discounting regional firms on the lower salaries alone.
Working for a US firm you’ll be based in the UK or European office of a firm that has its headquarters in the USA.
US firms pay some of the best trainee salaries in the UK and some NQs at US firms start salaries north of £100k once they’ve qualified.
If you secure a training contract with a US firm, you’re likely to be part of a smaller trainee intake. In some cases, you might be one of just a few trainees. The smaller number of trainees is reflective of a slightly smaller workforce. You’ll likely be working in an office with less than 100 people, so you’ll have plenty of contact with associates and partners on a daily basis.
One of the most talked-about aspects of the US law firm is the workload. It’s true that at many US law firms, you’ll be expected to put in long hours, especially if your firm is in its early days in London. However, when compared to the hours expected at a lot of top firms in the UK, US firms don’t expect much more. Yes, you’ll be expected to be committed and hardworking—but the myth that US firm trainees are working 24/7 while their UK firm counterparts leave the office at 5 every day is hugely exaggerated.
At a US firm you’ll most likely focus on high-end corporate and commercial work, but some firms will also operate on a full-service basis. Commonly for US firms pro bono work is extremely important, and you may have specific pro bono targets on a yearly basis.
Overall, you’ll be given a lot of responsibility from the get-go. One other possible perk might be the opportunity to leave your London base for a short while to complete a secondment in an international office or perhaps even travel to the USA to complete work at some point in your career.
Working in Scotland on a traineeship you might be working for a home-grown Scottish firm or a City or International firm with headquarters in England that has expanded its operations north of the border. The three main legal hubs in Scotland are Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, so you’ll most likely be living and working in one of these vibrant cities.
Scottish firms tend to pay lower wages—but there are other perks to working in Scotland, such as more relaxed working hours and lower living costs. You’ll also be more likely to work in a smaller office with a close-knit group of solicitors, so increased partner contact and client exposure, plus bags of responsibility, will be yours right from the start of your traineeship.
Most importantly, as a solicitor working for a Scottish firm, you’ll be working in a different jurisdiction to firms in England. The Scottish legal system differs from the English one on a number of points, which is why you’ll have to have an LLB in Scots law, or complete the relevant re-qualification exams, to practice at a Scottish firm.
Read more about Scottish Firms here.
Virtual Law Fair | Boot Camp