There are potentially hundreds of law firms you can apply to, but time is a bit tight. Here’s some advice on how to narrow your search to those firms which are a good fit for you.
How should I begin my search for the firm which best suits my interests?
Always remember, it is never too early to start researching.
Firstly, it is important to question what you want from your career. Starting questions would include: what type of law do you enjoy and what location do you want to work in. If you are unsure, there are a number of sources that could help including your university or your family and friends.
Once you have answered these initial questions, there are a wealth of opportunities available. Publications, such as Lex100, provide an overview of all firms. This will allow you to read about a firm's opportunities, what locations they have available and what the type of law they specialise in. It can be hard to differentiate between firms, so when comparing, start your research on their own websites. That will allow you to start making a shortlist of firms that interest you.
Additionally, a firm may either attend your university and / or host open days at their office. This is the best opportunity to decide whether a firm suits your interests as it will give you a real insight into their work and culture.
Norton Rose Fulbright
When choosing the right firm for you, it is beneficial to invest time in researching firms to be able to shortlist the firms which you connect with the best. Firstly, it is important to identify what your key priorities and interests are; what motivates and drives you, perhaps by looking at what you have had exposure to already, and what you have learnt from your studies. Then ask yourself; are the firms that I am looking at have a practice area I am interested in? What recent deals have they been involved in? Do they have international scope? What development and progression opportunities do they have?
As a student, utilise the resources that are available to you, by attending campus events, open days, work experience or vacation schemes, where you are able to network with current employees. This way you really get a genuine feel for the firm, their culture and values. Don't forget, it is a personal choice where you start your career and the bigger firms aren't necessarily always best for you.
Take the time to understand the firms you are applying for because at the end of the day, they will shape the lawyer you will be.
When I feel like I have identified my preferred firm, what should my next move be?
Hopefully, you will have identified your preferred firm through some in-depth research combined with meeting current employees at events and open evenings. Once you feel comfortable that the firm is going to be the right place for you to train and grow your career, the next step is to apply!
Each application form you submit should be tailored to the firm you are applying to and using your research effectively will help you to do this. Although there are bound to be many similarities between the firms you are applying for, you should also have a good understanding of their unique qualities and 'personalities'. We look for people who are motivated to apply to TLT because they can align themselves with our values, ambition and the way in which we do business. Articulating this successfully at each stage of the process should allow you to become a preferred candidate for your preferred firm!
Try to get to know them better – research online and in the press and read student forums and trainee interview pieces to try to get a real picture. These days there is no excuse for not doing a huge amount of online digging.
Next reach out to your network to try and get some personal information – do you know anyone who has done a vac scheme/open day there? Do they have a campus ambassador you could talk to? Firms' websites and brochures often say similar things so you really need to try to get under our skin.
Also research their competitors, it would be unwise to just apply to one firm but now that you have a good rationale for an application consider which other firms might also fit this bill – are you going for certain intake sizes or strengths in certain areas of law? Though firms have different personalities there are many who will overlap and fulfil your criteria for a great Training Contract.
Your final move should be to apply! Use the recruitment process as a two-way dialogue to get to know the firm better and find out whether they really are your preferred firm. Good luck!
Shearman & Sterling
What should I do if my favourite practice area and favourite firm aren’t a clear match?
For many Law firms trainee recruitment is a long-term investment. We're not looking to fill training contract places, we're looking for our future generation of lawyers and partners. Our attraction campaigns and selection processes are all designed to deliver the candidates that we believe want a long-term career with us.
In any recruitment process you need to be prepared for the question "Why us", you need to be very convincing in your reasons, and that means genuinely believing the responses you're giving. If you have a very fixed idea about where you want to qualify at this early stage then really give some thought to the type of firms you're applying to and make sure you can match the right type of work with the right culture.
But I'd really encourage you to be open minded at the start of your training contract.
If the experience of your preferred practice area is purely academic at this point, the chances are you'll find it quite different in practice and that might reinforce your desire to qualify here, but equally it might not live up to expectations. You might find that something you hadn't previously thought about suddenly excites you in a way you hadn't thought possible during your studies! The training contract is all about trying new things and getting as much variety and experience as you can, before you finally narrow your field.
Womble Bond Dickinson
Working out which is the right firm for you can be a difficult process when there are plenty of law firms', all with their own strengths, for you to explore and familiarise yourself with.
When undertaking your research it is important to have an open mind and a flexible attitude and to truly consider the firms' in regard to what they can offer you.
You may currently have your heart set on a certain practice area, however, you are in the very early stages of your career in law and your preferences are likely to change over time, along with the legal market and those 'stronger' practice areas. When you begin your training contract you gain exposure to practice areas that you may previously not have considered, broadening your knowledge and developing your legal skill set and perhaps even altering your views of where you originally thought you wanted to qualify.
It is important, therefore, when researching firms' to take your research further than just the practice areas. Training quality, firm culture, secondment opportunities and quality of work are to name a few factors that should also help in your decision-making.
What are the best ways to find out more about a firm and how in-depth should my research be?
It can be hard to differentiate between firms, especially as so much of the graduate recruitment marketing material can appear to be very similar.
It's crucial you go beyond these to gain a full understanding of each firm. Use their corporate site for information about their deal work and also trade publications and directories like The Lex 100 (very useful for comparing firms).
Nothing beats actually meeting a firm though - this will give you a real insight into their work and culture, and what they expect from their trainees, so make sure you're aware of when they'll be visiting your university and / or any open days you can apply for.
Firms will expect you to know what they've been working on (and why this interests you), who their main competitors are, and what differentiates them from these competitors so research should be pretty in-depth.
When researching law firms, candidates should use a range of sources including: firm websites, social media channels, legal and business press and meeting representatives on campus. Representatives may include future and current trainees, associates and partners, as well as graduate recruitment.
Some firms also employ students as campus reps who can provide useful information. However, there really is no better way to find out about a firm than meeting current employees, so sign up for networking opportunities and apply for open days and vacation schemes. Your research needs to be thorough; we expect candidates to have some knowledge of Norton Rose Fulbright's strategy, global expansion and industry sector focus. You can't simply re-hash what we say on our website though!
We like candidates to think about our business and our clients independently, so use a variety of sources to inform your views before you apply or attend an interview."
What do you recommend I should bear in mind when deciding whether a firm is right for me?
It is important to ensure that you are making an informed decision when choosing where to train, and the only way of doing this is to research the market thoroughly. Part of finding the right firm is about personal fit, so when choosing where to train you will need to assess your own motivations and interests, rather than simply applying to the same firms as your classmates and friends.
When selecting a firm to apply to, try to be flexible on what practice areas you are interested in, unless you are certain that there is a particular area you are drawn to. It is also important to consider what else you are looking for in a firm (whether it is international, full-service, particular sectors etc.). Once you have put together a shortlist of firms that you are interested in, try to attend one of each firm's open days. These are an ideal opportunity to see the firm in practice, to meet people from the firm to understand first-hand what they enjoy about the firm, and to assess the firm's culture."
The most important factor to take into account is whether the firm can deliver your ambitions. For example, do their largest and most prestigious practice areas match your own areas of interest? It's worth ensuring that the firm is investing in the growth of these areas since it is more likely there will be opportunities to qualify in an area you're really interested in. Check how much input you'll have into the departments (seats) that you see. It's no good joining a firm with a key practice area of interest if you won't have a say over whether you experience it.
Also think about the kind of clients and deals they work on; are they one of the top or mid-tier firms who work on high-value international transactions for global companies? What kind of exposure would you have to high level work and clients as a trainee with that firm?
Finally, consider where they're based and where they have other offices. Are there opportunities to work in any of the other offices? International firms will expect you to have a global outlook and be open to working overseas at some point in your career."
What can I do to engage with a firm, if I'm unable to attend any of its open days?
Although open evenings give you the opportunity to visit the office, most firms will also attend events across the country each Autumn, from University law fairs to presentation evenings, and we would suggest you find out where your chosen firms will be visiting and make the effort to go and say hello!
Speaking to recruiters and trainees at events will give you something to talk about on your application form when you explain your motivation for applying and, if you make a good impression, will help your application stand out. If you’re successful in gaining a vacation scheme place, it will help you to feel more comfortable and settle in quicker if there are a few friendly faces you recognise.
You will also notice that many firms are engaging in social media such as Twitter, and this is a great way to interact with recruiters and trainees if your location makes it difficult to meet in person.Having any form of engagement with a firm before you apply means you can start understanding the personality of the firm, which is incredibly important when deciding whether it's a place you could see yourself developing a rewarding career."