Key Factors to Consider When Choosing Where To Apply

Which path to takeBefore applying for solicitor training contracts its important to know that law firms come in all shapes and sizes and undertake all manner of different legal work for an extensive range of clients.

Research is Key

For wannabe trainee solicitors it is vitally important to fully research the different types of firms and organisations which offer training contracts.

It is also paramount that prospective trainees understand, at least at a basic level, the different types of work that firms carry out for their clients.

Without a good knowledge of the different firm and work options available, it will be difficult for candidates to choose which best suits them.  It will also be apparent to recruiters if they haven’t done some thorough research to back up the decision to apply to their firm.

Avoid The Scattergun Approach

Some people choose to apply to lots of different firms with a scattergun approach in the hope of picking up a training contract just anywhere. This isn’t advisable as it will show through in applications and it will result in a case of pot luck as to whether the firm is right for them.

So, What Should You Consider?

So what do you need to consider when deciding which sort of law firm to apply to?

1. Size and culture of firm

The size of a firm will affect both the type of work it does and the culture within the firm.  The big, high-profile corporate work is often done within the very large firms where some report to feel like a small cog in a very large wheel.  The smaller the firm then the culture often becomes more collegiate.

Different sized firms will also attract people from different backgrounds so its worth exploring this – if you do not want to work in an environment with lots of Oxbridge graduates then you probably want to steer clear of the magic circle firms, for example.

2. Type of work/practice areas

Whilst trainees get to work in different departments, and therefore experience a spread of work, this is still the most important area to give consideration to at this point.

Research needs to be done into different practice areas to determine which ones appeal more than others. Also, which fit with the areas of law most enjoyed during studying or which has the student shown a particularly flair for?

3. Client base

This is often linked to the size of the firm and the type of work that is undertaken.  Consideration here should be given to what sort of clients an applicant would like to advise – multi-national corporations, entrepreneurs, insurance companies, individuals needing family law advice, etc.

4. Location

Not only is location important from a personal perspective, it is also important when considering the type of firm to work for and the type of work to undertake.

London has the largest number of law firms and training contracts on offer and many of the biggest firms are based there.

Whilst the regions used to struggle competing with London, there are now a host of very good national and regional firms that do high quality work.

If more high street work is sought then this is often found in smaller towns and suburbs.

5. Entry requirements and application process

Most of the firms who regularly recruit trainees will publish their entry requirements and application process. Competition is fierce for many training contract vacancies so firms can afford to be choosy and employ the best candidates.

It’s usually no good applying for a training contract at a firm without meeting their minimum entry requirements unless other exceptional experience or skills could make up for this.

6. Salaries and financial support during law school

Again, most firms will publish their trainee solicitor salaries together with allowances paid in respect of law school fees.

7. Hours

Whilst the salary for every trainee solicitor is important this is often proportional to the amount of hours expected of the trainee.

Work/life balance has been a hot topic within the legal profession for some time now and there are still many stories of people suffering from the stress of working long hours.

This is often only realised once trainees start working for a firm so it’s advisable to do some research into firms’ cultures to avoid any nasty surprises – websites such as Lex100 and Inside Buzz are worth checking out for this.

8. Training structure

It mustn’t be forgotten that the two years of a training contract are part of the ongoing solicitor training and development.

Some firms have developed extensive training programmes over and above the practical experience given and these can be extremely valuable for those wanting to become highly technical lawyers at the top of their chosen field.

Different Types Of Firms

Click here for a discussion of the different types of law firms you can choose to apply to for a law training contract.

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