With so many to choose from and limited time to apply, how do you go about choosing the right law firm? Here are some key considerations which might influence your decision.
Law firms vary widely in the number of employees. The size of the law firm will have an impact on how many trainees they take on each year. For some, the size of their trainee cohort is an important factor when choosing a law firm. It’s often the case that the smaller trainee cohorts form a closer working relationship, helping you integrate into the firm.
The size of law firm is often a result of the work that they undertake. The Magic Circle and city law firms are likely to be much larger than High Street and regional firms. The exception would be US law firms which only take on a small number of trainees, but take on similar work to other city law firms.
Whilst you might not get to know everybody in a large law firm, you’re more likely to be given high-value work than in a smaller law firm. Although size might be an important consideration, at the end of the day, you are at a law firm to do work. Therefore, make sure that the type of work aligns with your interests too.
Accordingly, the size of the law firm might also dictate the type of work which they undertake. Magic Circle and city law firms tend to deal with large commercial clients and are involved with high-value transactions. On the other hand, high-street firms will generally be more focused on household clients.
The location of a law firm is closely linked the firm’s size and what type of work it takes on. City law firms are located in major cities throughout the UK, with most of them in London. US law firms are almost all exclusively based in London.
However, some city firms are expanding their offices out of London to include other areas such as Bristol and Manchester. Regional and high street firms are more likely to deal with local clients and so, will be located throughout the country.
Location might be an important consideration if you’re planning to stay in a local area or whether you’d like to move to a large city. A city location is likely to include a hectic commute and longer working hours. However, you are more likely to work with higher profile clients and earn a higher salary.
If you’re interested in practicing in a particular area of law, make sure that the firm actually deals with matters in this area. Do some research on the law firm and find out what sort of work it has done in the past. The Chambers Student firm profiles mentioned in a previous post is a great way to quickly find some of this information.
Some law firms have a sector focus which might be a consideration, especially if you’re interested in working for clients from a particular industry. For example, if you’re interested in science and technology, you might want to consider firms which have strong life sciences and TMT (technology, media and telecommunications) links.
Many law firms also have several international offices. If you’re looking for opportunities to travel with work, then this might be a factor to take into account.
Law firms with international offices might have opportunities for international secondments. This would allow you to experience a different culture as well as see a whole new part of the world. International secondments are usually offered not only to qualified solicitors, but also to trainees as one of their seats.
Many firms offer opportunities to go on client and international secondments as part of their Training Contracts. These are fantastic opportunities, allowing you to experience legal work in a different environment.
Secondments can range from in-house legal work at a client, to cross-border transactional work at an international office. They are a great way to develop your legal skills and network. You’ll often be given a lot of responsibility, especially when working in-house. This will speed up your learning and make you into a better lawyer.
Additionally, you’ll be able to meet many people, expanding your professional network, perhaps even internationally. This is ever more important as your legal and business contacts will be important for your future career development
Training Contracts are not the same at all law firms. Whilst the general format is to have four 6-month seats, some firms may offer 3-month/4-month seats. Choosing a law firm with shorter seats will allow you to experience a larger number of practice areas.
However, one drawback is that you might not be able to get into the area in as much depth. Law firms might also require their trainees to complete seats in certain practice areas, especially if they have a good reputation in that area. This might be another factor to consider when researching law firms to apply for.
Some law firms also include extra training courses for alongside the LPC and Training Contract. These range from an MBA course to an in-house professional development course. This extra training can improve your skills as a lawyer, enabling you to work smarter and better.
Remember, choosing a law firm is also about finding the right fit for your personality. The best way to get an indication of a firm’s culture is to go to law fairs and open days and speak to people there.
How well do the trainees get along with each other? Does there seem to be an approach to work/life balance that accords with you? How do trainees/associates/partners interact? How about the firm’s approach to inclusion and diversity? Those are just a few of the things you might consider when considering applying to a law firm.
Whilst the factors mentioned here are often important, it’s not an exhaustive list. You may find that during your search for law firms, other factors will become more important to you. We hope that you’ve found this post helpful and we wish you all the best with finding a law firm that fits you!