Question: How do you/did you know what Law Firms to apply for a training contract with?
Job Hunting: Which law Firm? I had a very strong idea of what area of law I liked and that was a big deciding factor for me. Property is an area of law that the majority of firms dabble in. I applied for both niche property firms and those with an excellent reputation in property law (along with a couple of other firms that I liked for other reasons, but didn’t necessarily have a strong property department). After all, if I want to have a choice of qualifying in property I will need to have completed a seat in it.
I decided my factors to consider were:
- Reputation of the firm
- Seat options
- Prospects of a job on qualification
The Top 25 Firm:
- Reputation: My current firm is a top law firm with a great reputation in many of its practice areas, but commercial property is not one of them. It is a good department, but people don’t think of property when they hear our name. In fact, some people will say ‘I didn’t know they did property.’
- Seat Options & Prospects on Qualification: The key thing from a prospective trainee's position is that property take on 3 trainees each seat rotation (in my office) and this year a few NQs joined the team. But after a big retention last year, they are unsure whether they will be able to do the same this year.
Small “Family Run” Firm:
- Reputation: Sometimes it is easier to know what smaller firms are good at (they shout about it as much as they can), and what the job prospects are – from my experience they are more upfront about it.
- Seat Options and Job Prospects: At an interview I had last year with a small firm I was informed that their property department was struggling and they informed me it was unlikely they could offer a seat in property (let alone a job on qualification). I found it hard to hide my disappointment and needless to say that was not where my future was.
Small but Well Connected Firm:
- Reputation: Another comparable small firm, but made up of ex-top 50 law firm lawyers (with a stronger commercial property department and a lot of recent investment).
- Seat Options: they were certain they could give me a seat in property, but they also had a limited choice for my other 3 options which were not necessarily choices that I thought would be a good fit. But for plenty of people this would have been enough.
Medium-sized Regional Firm:
- Reputation: Strong reputation in the regions. Which is why, when I finally got the training contract that I accepted, I was sure it was the right firm for me. Great reputation.
- Seat Options: multiple property seats available and only a couple of us competing for a permanent job at the end of it.
It is not a straightforward choice with a wide range of firms out there (with a limited number of jobs). But:
- Be selective – have a list of criteria.
- Want the job (Some people simply don’t care what they do they just want a job – but I will stress that further down the line there are too many colleagues disappointed by what they do as they are not passionate about it and admit that things “just sort of turned out that way”.)
- Be realistic – there is no point in holding out for a job where all the current trainees are first class degrees from Oxbridge if you are sitting on a 2.2 from an ex-poly.
- If you can get it – do work experience or get to know someone who works there. Get the inside scoop – the reality is often different from the glossy brochures.
- Remember: law firms are not your only option.