How to choose the right law firm for you

July 7, 2021

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6 min read

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Applying for Insight Days, Vacation Schemes and Training Contracts can be a rather daunting prospect, especially as there are so many law firms to choose from. This article aims to break down some of the key factors to consider when determining how to choose the right law firm for you.

Insight Days

Whilst some individuals may have a clear cut view of their ideal workplace and their aspirations for the future, many do not. It is through obtaining experiences and insight into the reality of a law firm that enables you to obtain greater clarity. 

At the stage of applying for Insight Days, the following factors are useful to consider:

Research

Underpinning any successful application is thorough research to obtain a clear understanding of the firm. Initially, such research may include: an awareness of a firm’s global or national presence, statistical data on employees, profitability margins and even salaries. Although these are important, when applying for Insight Days, instead try to focus on what you hope to learn from the firm which is not accessible on the website or recruitment resources. What do you hope to learn from the firm? How would clarifying these points of information help you? For example, would it encourage or discourage future applications?

Maintain an open outlook 

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the various types of law firms. There are Big City firms, Regional, Local, In-House Departments and even Governmental opportunities. Aside from the information available online, it is tricky to fully comprehend how in-person firm cultures differ. Therefore, if uncertain about which type of firm is right for you, it may be useful to apply for Insight Days at different types of firms. The prospect of experiencing firm life in different environments may provide a direct insight into the work environment you prefer. Furthermore, if successful on several applications, it would provide a constructive opportunity to directly compare your personal experiences with the firms.

What area of law are you drawn to?

Whilst keeping an open mind as to the various areas of law available, if there is a particular area which you are already keen on, then try to obtain direct experience as soon as possible. Whether through direct questioning, or more general work experience, determining if this area of focus is right for you or not at an early stage could be beneficial in determining the type of law firm you seek to work at in the future. If your perception of an area is disproven by real-world experiences, then this could be influential upon your future decisions. 

Be prepared with questions

Whether attending in-person or virtual Law Fairs or the Insight Days themselves, be prepared with the questions you need answering. A useful method of drafting questions is having a notepad or document nearby when researching the firm you are exploring. When assessing the available information, think about what remains unanswered. Where are the gaps? By noting down these missing points and then raising questions around them, it could convey a level of preparedness during these communications, which shows an in-depth consideration into the firm’s representations of itself. Hopefully, by obtaining answers to your queries, this will provide both further clarity and confidence in whether the firm is the right choice for you.

Vacation Schemes

Many Vacation Schemes conclude with the opportunity to interview for a Training Contract at the firm. When choosing the right firm, this adds weight to your choices at this stage of applications, where the prospect of future legal employment is potentially within reach. 

At this later stage of the application process, consideration of the following factors are recommended:

Delve deeper into your research

Once familiar with the general information of a firm, now delve deeper into the areas, sectors and unique characteristics of the firm. Is there a particular niche area you wish to explore? Are you seeking to work in a growing specialism which the firm is also growing in? What are the key values and characteristics that the firm’s recruitment pages promote and do you identify with them? By considering key questions such as these with the view of both potential experience and employment in the forefront of your mind, this enables a balanced outlook with the objective facts available and the subjective opinions you hold. 

Is this a place you could see yourself working? 

By keeping this question in mind both in the initial research process and while on the vacation scheme itself, this can help determine if the daily lifestyle adopted at a firm matches  your personal outlook. Does the firm culture presented on recruitment materials match your personal perception whilst on the vacation scheme? Is there a clear firm culture? How are the corporate and social responsibility values put into action? How do the employees contribute to such values? Whilst this is a largely subjective test dependent on what you personally seek from a firm, it can help to narrow down potential opportunities and offers further in the process, if there are several firms which you are deciding between or are fortunate enough to have received offers from.

Be particular

When applying for firms, it is important to be clear about your priorities. What are you individually searching for and does the firm you are applying to offer these? It is quite rare that every single factor will be met. Then, it is a matter of narrowing down which firms meet the majority of what you are looking for. Often, this list of similar firms can quickly become quite long. However, it is more productive to ensure quality applications are submitted over quantity. Keeping a strict focus on your priorities and being realistic about the application process can ensure that you as an applicant provide more precise and well-constructed applications.

Training Contracts

This is the crucial stage which determines your ability to obtain the training required to qualify as a solicitor (after completion of the LPC or SQE).

Building upon the factors above, here are some final points to reflect upon when deciding how to choose the right law firm:

What is the actual training structure? 

Perhaps an obvious point, but you should carefully consider whether the structure of the firm’s training contract would influence your application to a law firm. For example, is a traditional 1 seat every 6 months structure desirable? Or perhaps 1 seat every 4 months? Or even a 3 month paralegal position prior to commencing 1 seat every 8 months? These structures influence your exposure to different legal departments and areas of expertise, and so should not be ignored when looking at the law firm itself. Further, is a client secondment or firm secondment abroad important to you? All of these considerations combined will determine your training experience and exposure to opportunities and so should not be disregarded.

Think practically 

Once at the training contract stage, if successful, this contract secures the next two years of your life. Just how important are the perks which big city firms offer, over the niche areas of law offered in a smaller firm? Would this impact your enjoyment of the job and daily life when training at work? In practice, is the salary provided by the firm proportionate to the affordability of the location? By considering the daily work within firm life and your personal life, this enables a more realistic consideration of what to expect, as opposed to the enticing ‘glamour’ of a particular firm.

Future Goals 

If you have specific long-term goals for your legal career, how would the particular firm you are applying to help you achieve them? Is the firm willing to provide sponsorship or support for further training opportunities for qualifications? Does the firm support academic pursuits alongside a practical legal career? Is the firm growing and seeking to expand in locations abroad which you have language expertise in? By identifying these unique features which would aid your personal aspirations and career goals, this could secure both long-term retainment of your employment on the firm’s behalf, whilst providing supportive long-term career progression within the firm of your choice.

Verdict

To conclude, there is no “right answer” to choosing the right firm. But there are key factors to keep in mind throughout the application process and real-world experiences at the firms themselves. Ultimately, only you can make a decision based on a mix of subjective factors and objective facts which are important to you, to determine your future.

Report written by a LittleLaw Reporter

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