A big city or a town?
Undeniably, London is an appealing choice—it’s often the first place in the UK international students and trainees think of moving to—but it can also have its drawbacks. If you don’t like big cities, it can also be quite overwhelming (not to mention expensive).
With that in mind, you should decide whether you enjoy the fast-paced city life or whether you’d prefer a more relaxed location. Both have their benefits and their drawbacks, and neither is necessarily better or worse for an aspiring lawyer. If you can’t decide, maybe you could consider studying in a town and completing your training contract in a big city, or vice versa.
Quality of life
Where are you more likely to strike a good work-life balance? This often depends more on the work culture at your specific firm than on your location. That being said, regional firms tend to be smaller and boast a low-pressure environment compared to most big City firms. Because of their size, there’s often a greater collegiality as you’re more likely to know everyone you’re working with.
Regardless of whether you’re a student or already working, there are some sacrifices that come with living in a city. Notably, rent is more expensive, so you may have to sacrifice house space or consider living away from the city centre—but this may well be a sacrifice you’re willing to make!
It’s also important to consider how you’ll be getting to university or work. If you’re going to be living in a small town, you’ll likely be able to walk or bike every day (although there will almost certainly be many public transport options available to you).
If you’re living in a city such as London, you’ll likely be using some form of public transport. As a student or young professional, you might be eligible for discounts. Transport for London (TfL) has a student Oyster card that can get you a 34% discount on off-peak travel, as well as special rates for daily, monthly and annual travelcards.
You might even consider commuting into London or another big city from a nearby commuter town. While season tickets may look expensive, you might end up saving money in the long run when you factor in the cost of rent.
While you may have already pictured yourself working in a City firm—imagining that most lawyers in the UK do—in reality, roughly one-third of all UK solicitors are based in London. The majority are actually based elsewhere.
London is the UK’s legal and financial epicentre and is home to all sorts of different law firms. You’ll have plenty of professional opportunities, and if you’re looking to work in private practice, or to travel, the capital is likely to be your choice. City-based law is often unpredictable and fast-paced, and while it can come with long hours, it can also be extremely rewarding.
Other cities around the country are important legal hubs too, and they’re excellent places to train or study. Leeds, Manchester and Bristol, for instance, are among the largest legal hubs in the UK after London. They’re cities with thriving cultural scenes, they’re more affordable and they have a wide variety of law firms. If you’re looking for a work culture that’s a bit less intense than London’s, but that still offers plenty of professional opportunities, these cities might be for you.
Different regions in the UK will offer different experiences to aspiring lawyers. It’s important that you pick the one that’s the best fit for you. Location isn’t a barrier to quality of work, so you should move wherever you find that you’re happiest.
Next article: Working in the UK