The task of choosing a potential law firm that is right for you is a daunting one, especially, in such a vast and competitive legal market. There is a broad range of firms to choose from and places from which to practice. The problem is: where do you start? Here is an easy list to read of potential law firms that you may consider, hopefully narrowing down the search. Before you consider each of these in turn, you may want to ask yourself questions such as: how personal would you like your working relationship to be with a firm? Which practice areas interest you? This will help you sift through the selection process and, hopefully, make your decision easier.
The magic circle
The ‘magic circle’ encompasses the five largest law firms in the country in order of their turnover. These five firms are currently Clifford Chance, Slaughter and May, Linklaters, Allen and Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Gaining a training contract with one of these is no walk in the park, but it can be achieved with the right motivation and commitment. Firms in the magic circle have their main office in London, with other offices scattered around the world, tying their work into the international business world. The work here would be focused on the corporate and financial side, but all five firms offer a vast range of areas to practice in. Working for a magic circle firm is not for the faint-hearted and it would involve long days and weekends in the office. However, you would of course reap the inevitable awards: big money and big deals. So, if you are considering the top dogs, make sure you research thoroughly and are aware of what you are facing!
Big city firms
If you think you would strive working in a big buzzing city such as London, but you feel the magic circle may be slightly too intimidating, a large city firm could be the right option for you. These firms, including big names such as Ashurst, usually match the salaries given within the magic circle, but be aware that the workload is probably just as hefty too. A big city firm is likely to focus on corporate and commercial work and is also likely to have a growing international presence. These firms take on a large amount of trainees each year, with their work proving to be just as influential as firms such as Clifford Chance, making them a sound alternative.
These firms are likely to attract you if you still want to work as a part of large deals, but are perhaps not too fussed about the commotions of London. However, be aware that straying from London does mean straying from that higher salary. Good examples of successful national firms include Eversheds and DLA Piper, with both firms possessing several offices around the country. The work on offer is mostly commercially based. However, if you do your research, you may find some alternative work, such as private client, available. Another bonus to working within a national firm is the opportunity for travel, so if you wanted some experience within the city, chances are a national firm would have an office there. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that gaining a training contract here is substantially easier than that of city firms, the competition is ultimately just as fierce.
A regional firm is one which is likely to have one or a few offices in the same region, practising a range of different areas of law such as commercial, corporate, employment and family. These firms offer a more personal approach to training and to how you learn the law. Regional firms operate to serve the area in which they are based, meaning you are more likely to be able to identify the needs of the area and the individual. Though regional firms deal with businesses too, you will not see such high flying deals as those present in the city and at a national level. A great reason to choose a regional firm may be your reluctance to uproot your life when you are already settled. These firms could offer you sound training and the opportunity to remain in a familiar area. However, there are downsides. Training contracts within these firms are scarce as regional firms do not have the same resources and work load to be able to offer a high volume of places. Furthermore, you will see yourself earning substantially less than those working in London. However, this does balance out when you think of living costs if you were to live outside a city.
High street firms
High street firms are the smallest firm on my list, alongside niche firms. They are likely to be one office, solely in one area with their business focus being to provide legal advice to a smaller number of clients. The advice these firms offer are likely to be based around employment concerns, crime, matrimonial and family work and compensation claims. Though the range of clients will be smaller, you are likely to deal with cases quicker and have a higher workload in that respect. This could be of benefit to anyone considering working within a high street firm, as this would offer a more personal experience and a broader picture of the law in practice. As a trainee, you would be able to deal with particular issues in a more practical way, rather than from behind the scenes, drowning in paperwork (which is often the case in big city firms). However, it is extremely challenging to find a training position of a good standard within a high street firm, again due to the lack of resources needed to train a new lawyer. The best way to establish yourself here is to try to obtain as much work experience as possible by personally contacting these firms. Networking is crucial if you are committed to working within a smaller practice.
Niche firms can be seen all over the country, not just in the large cities, due to the growth in the demand for particular services. These firms can specialise in a range of legal areas, such as aviation, shipping, sport, media and intellectual property. Therefore, if you are looking into a particular subject or you are already certain that you know the field you want to practice in then a niche firm could be your golden ticket. You have to back up this passion with hard work and commitment as there is competition to gain a position in a niche firm, with many not offering training at all. This means gaining alternative work experience in your chosen field could prove to be invaluable to your future career.