1) Have a structure
Knowing where to begin can be daunting. With so many firms to research a useful start can be to group them into lists; categorised by size, location or even practice areas that pique your interest. Expanding these lists as you research more widely is a great way of building awareness, especially as a means of comparing key players in different parts of the legal market.
2) The legal press
Armed with a particular practice area or firm in mind, consuming the relevant legal press is the logical next step. The Lex 100’s firm profiles and Legal Business’ deal round-ups are a great place to start.
3) Look out for language
When researching a particular law firm in depth, one of the best resources can be that firm’s website or recruitment booklet. Often they will showcase their key deals, historical trends and recent developments. Most importantly, pay attention to the core values adhered to and the language they use to describe themselves (e.g. if a firm describes itself as global, what sets it apart from other firms with an international presence?).
4) Go prepared to law fairs
Law fairs can be vast, with plenty of faces, gimmicks and freebies dotted about. Time is of the essence, so for the sake of efficiency, know which firms are attending beforehand and go armed with specific questions. This pays off far better than a scatter-gun approach; law fairs present a real opportunity to gather personal experiences so that you can gauge what characteristics matter to each individual firm.
5) Societies and networking events
Active membership of a society is another great opportunity to build experience and form lasting impressions. University law societies often host talks, skills sessions and the occasional ball which, apart from being good fun, will allow you to build more meaningful relationships with legal employers who may sponsor such events.
6) Open days
Apply early to attend open days as they can really help you distinguish firms from one another when it comes to applications, and you from the other candidates during selection. In contrast to law fairs and networking events which provide an opportunity to get to know a firm’s employees, open days provide an insider’s view on the work life and deals a firm conducts.
7) Social media
Social media in general can be useful, but LinkedIn stands out for its ability to give a succinct roundup of a law firm’s activity. As well as a firm’s main LinkedIn page, look out for its graduate recruitment page as well as this can be particularly helpful for providing application tips. Instagram and Twitter can also be good channels to find out about upcoming deadlines and what a law firm is up to at any given time.
8) Google Alerts
A useful means of bringing legal news to you, Google Alerts updates you every time new results emerge on your requested search terms (which should include the firms you want to stay in the loop with). Though a word of advice: it can be handy to divert these searches to a separate email account or inbox folder, as multiple search terms quickly build up clutter!
Staying motivated to understand the legal market is greatly helped by people who are striving towards the same goal. Having someone to bounce ideas off, flag up key issues and even attend events with can help to keep you motivated.
10) Be consistent
Even the most interesting aspects of research can appear dull after a while. Set aside some time each week to habitually build your knowledge of the legal market.