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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.