Tag: law firm

What factors should I consider when choosing a law firm?

Despite having the common goal of qualifying as a solicitor, everyone will have slightly different priorities when choosing where to do their training contract.  

Whether your aim is to get as much client contact as possible, work on headline-making deals or earn a sky-high salary, it’s important to find out exactly what each firm has to offer before you apply.  

In this blog we set out some of the most important considerations when choosing a law firm: 

 

Practice area 

One of the first and most important things to consider is whether the firm actually has a department or team practising the area of law you’re most interested in.  

A firm can win countless awards and be making headlines daily, but if it doesn’t have a property department and you want to be a property lawyer, it’s probably not for you.  

Equally, if you’re interested in a niche area of finance or corporate law, you will need to check first that the firm practises that particular type of law. 

Some law students and prospective trainees will know from the outset that they want to be a corporate or finance lawyer and may set their sights on the City, international or US firms. These firms often have plenty of advertising and marketing materials available and are relatively easy to find. 

Other prospective trainees will know that they want to be a family or employment lawyer, or even an art or sports lawyer. A bit more research might be needed to find firms which specialise in these areas.  

Whichever area of law you think you’ll want to qualify into, it’s best to go into your training contract with an open mind.  

Law in practice can be very different to what you study at law school. It’s definitely worth waiting to see which area of law you actually enjoy working in day to day before you make your final decision. 

Consult The Legal 500 to see which firms practice in your preferred areas of law. 

 

Inclusiveness 

It’s no good if a law firm is a specialist in its field if it isn’t inclusive. You will want to be confident that you can bring your whole self to work, regardless of socioeconomic background, ethnicity, sexuality or just your personality.  

Despite the legal industry having a bit of a fusty reputation, most law firms have made inroads and now have much more diverse and inclusive workforces than in previous decades. 

Many firms also have plenty of diversity initiatives in place – whether it’s a LGBTQ+ networking group or a parent lawyer society.  

If you’re wondering how you’ll fit in at a firm, consult our inclusiveness winners table to see which firms came up trumps in this arena. 

 

Approachability 

The key to a successful training contract is often the supervision. And that supervision needs to come from someone who is approachable.  

Supervisors can be senior associates, partners or any solicitor who is qualified and more senior than you, but a good supervisor should be getting you involved in their work, answering questions and giving you regular feedback so that you can improve.  

Look out for firms that have an ‘open-door policy’, which means that you can freely knock on a senior lawyer’s door to ask a question, no matter how silly it may seem! 

 

Client contact 

Dealing with clients is a huge part of being a solicitor. During your training, you will learn how to manage and communicate with clients. This might be through observing your supervisor or by meeting with clients directly. 

Bear in mind that at larger firms, it’s unlikely you’ll be having high levels of contact with clients in your junior years. This is because big firms tend to have big clients, and the deals they’re involved in can be complex. Client contact at these firms will be largely reserved for partners and senior lawyers. 

At mid-sized and smaller firms you are much more likely to be put in front of a client early on. This could include drafting emails, calling a client or even attending client meetings, with (or sometimes even without) your supervisor. 

Compare how trainees rated their firms for client contact here. 

 

Salary 

There’s no getting away from the fact that how much you get paid might influence where you want to work.  

Some US and City law firms pay eye-wateringly high salaries which are sure to grab your attention as you browse their websites and brochures. It goes without saying that you’ll be required to work very hard in return for these competitive packages. Still, it’s nice to know that your hard graft is valued.  

Always consider the NQ salary when making your decision. NQ salaries are often significantly higher than trainee salaries and if you’re hoping to stay on at the firm post qualification, this is the amount you can expect to be paid longer term. 

Smaller firms will not pay as much as their City counterparts. The trade-off however is probably (though not always!) a much better work/life balance and earlier responsibility. 

Salary is a very important thing to consider when choosing where to apply. No amount of money will make up for you feeling unhappy when you’re working day and night, but feeling like your hard work is not adequately compensated can feel equally frustrating. 

Consult our salary winners table to find out how much you can expect to get paid at each firm. 

 

Work/Life balance 

Yes it’s fulfilling, but law can be an intense career path. Tales of missing out on birthdays, dinners and even holidays because of work deadlines are not uncommon and, although perhaps more frequent at larger firms, lawyers at all types of firms will likely encounter late nights at one point or another. 

Some law firms have a better track record of promoting a healthy work/life balance than others. Year on year we are told by trainees at certain firms that their colleagues respect that they have a life outside of work. If this is high on your agenda, have a look at our work/life balance table. 

Work/life balance is something that is likely to greatly impact your training experience and is not something to take lightly. 

 

Social life 

OK, so social life may not be your top priority when choosing a law firm. But in reality it’s good to know that your colleagues are going to be a sociable bunch who enjoy a drink at the pub or a game of football on a Thursday evening.  

The Future Lawyers Training Contract comparison table is an easy way to narrow down the firms which fit your criteria. 

What is a vacation scheme?

A vacation scheme is a period of one or two weeks spent at a law firm as part of the training contract application process.  

A vacation scheme is essentially work experience, the difference being that you will be assessed throughout for your suitability to get a training contract at that firm. It’s also likely that you’ll have an interview at the end of the scheme. 

During the scheme you’ll be given real work to do, and you should tackle these tasks as if you were a trainee. Don’t worry if you don’t have any legal knowledge yet; the firm will not expect you to be an expert on the law! Instead, they will be looking to see what your thought process was and, most important of all, that you approached the task with enthusiasm. 

It is essential that you are on your best behaviour throughout the vacation scheme. This applies just as much to your time at your desk as during a social event with your fellow vac schemers. Your prospective future colleagues and supervisors will be watching you! 

Having said that, you need to be yourself too. Of course the firm wants to see if you’ll be a good lawyer, but they also want to see that you’re someone that other people will want to share an office with. If you come across as arrogant, laid back or even too intense, you might give off the wrong impression. Be friendly and engaging, ask questions and take an interest in what’s going on around you. 

Remember that doing a vacation scheme is a two-way process. It’s as much a chance for you to find out if you like the firm as it is for them to work out if you’ll be a good fit. 

Vacation schemes are an integral part of the training contract application process and are very important. Many firms now recruit solely from their vacation scheme so this could be your one and only chance to show them what you can do. 

If you’re lucky enough to nab a spot on a vacation scheme, work hard and take every opportunity to find out as much as you can about the firm. 

Our vacation scheme deadline table has all the dates you need. Start researching now! 

How do I research a law firm and when should I start?

The training contract application process can be quite long winded. Before you commit yourself to it, you will need to be confident that this is a career path you want to pursue. So when should you start your research and how can you  find out which law firm might be the best fit for you?

Early doors

It’s never too early to start researching.

Many firms run open days or insight schemes for prospective trainees. Often there are targeted events for first-year students, regardless of degree subject, so you really can start to learn about a firm as early as you want.

If you’re thinking about a career in law or want to show your dedication to becoming a lawyer, sign up for an open day. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn about the firm and the legal industry more widely. It also shows the firm in question that you’re keen!

Read up

A law firm’s website is a good place to start your research. You can also consult guides such as Future Lawyers and The Legal 500 to find out what a firm’s specialisms, strengths (and weaknesses!) are.

Law/careers fairs

Most universities will have a law or careers fair, usually in the autumn term. Attending one of these fairs is a good way to start your research as there will be many firms exhibiting in the same place at the same time.

Law firms will usually send a variety of people to represent them at the fair. This could be a mix of trainee solicitors, graduate recruitment managers and sometimes NQs.

Have a look at the attendees ahead of time and start narrowing down which firms you might like to speak to. Once you have made a list of which firms you want to approach, jot down a few questions you might like to ask them.

When it comes to filling out an application form, you could mention that you met representatives from the firm at the law fair, so be sure to get their names!

Vacation schemes

If you’re a second-year law student or a final year student in another subject, you can start applying for vacation schemes. A vacation scheme is normally one to two weeks long and is essentially a period of work experience but where you are assessed throughout. There will probably be an interview at the end of the scheme too.

Although this may seem daunting, spending a week or two at a law firm is a great way to get to know the business. It’s also a chance for you to experience life as a solicitor and to decide whether you can see yourself doing it long term.

Some law firms run autumn or winter vacation schemes. The applications for these will usually close in September or October.

Most firms run summer vacation schemes and you will normally need to apply for these by the end of January.

Check our vacation scheme deadline table for exact dates.

Talk Talk

Find out as much as you can from other people. Do you know anyone who works in the legal industry? If so, ask them to meet up for a coffee or a chat.

Of course, not everyone has contacts in the legal industry so you might have to think outside the box.

A friend of a friend, a classmate’s sibling, or one of your neighbours could all be of help. You could also ask your university’s careers service.

Slowly does it

You need to leave enough time to do your research before you start filling out application forms.

And if you don’t get a vacation scheme in your first year of trying, don’t give up! You can continue applying in subsequent years and once you have graduated.

Just remember that every application form or interview is good practice.