Wise words from lawyers in our network
Don’t just take “a job”, be true to your interests and get the position you really want. You are going to be working for a long time so it’s important that you enjoy what you are doing. If your heart is in private client don’t settle for a family position just because that’s offered to you. Also choose the right firm for you. Only you know what that is.
Senior Property Solicitor
As a person who has been responsible for recruitment, the qualities that I would most value would be the confidence and ability to work independently, combined with being sufficiently confident to ask for guidance when needed, so that your firm can trust that clients are in good hands with someone who can be both proactive when necessary, and astute enough to share problems before they become issues. Also, don’t forget that you can also change specialisms early on in your career, so be willing to be flexible enough not to miss great opportunities.
Commercial Property Senior Associate
I’d say… keep your options open and remember that it is the type of work that you enjoy that is most important - this is what you should consider more than, say, if you prefer members in a particular team/ department - remember, you are likely to have 40-50 years of work ahead of you. Secondly, even if you are considering a move, don’t burn bridges. Forming a network of lawyers / like minded people is important. Finally, remember you are still learning after qualification. Don’t think that you are expected to know everything by the time you qualify. Keep learning and remember that, even if you are in a seat you don’t particularly enjoy right now / at the end of your TC, you can learn important skills/ knowledge for what you do want to do moving forward.
Commercial Litigation Solicitor
I’d say to keep your options open. Although you may qualify into a particular area of law in your last seat of training, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay in that area if you have a burning desire to work in a different area of law. The learning really doesn’t stop post qualification and there are firms who are happy to help in your development.
Commercial Property Associate
My own experience was that when I qualified in 2009, the financial climate was such that the firm I had trained with did not retain any of their 4 trainees (myself included). This was a real blow, as I liked the firm and wanted to stay. I was told that at any other time, we would have all been retained. I had found it really tough to get the training contract in the first place and had moved half way across the country to work for the firm in question! My advice to anyone facing a similar position is to recognise that sometimes these decisions are purely financial and not a reflection on your abilities. Dust yourself off and act quickly in making applications for NQ roles. I wrote speculatively to lots of local firms who weren't necessarily advertising for a specific post. Utilise contacts you may have made whilst training, and beg favours from existing colleagues, who will have a wider network of friends and former colleagues. I was lucky to gain an NQ position with another firm based on a speculative application and went straight from qualification to NQ role. A colleague knew one of the partners and put in a good word for me prior to my interview, which I think also helped!
Private Client Associate
Think about what you want long term. For example, if you want to be a litigator, get a job in litigation even if it isn’t exactly the area in that disciple that you were looking for. You can always move later. Don’t judge a qualified job solely on your seat. The department might be completely different in another firm. Remember that law is a small place, even if you can’t stay in your current firm, try to make a good impression. Firms talk to each other. Hedge your bets, if you haven’t had a qualified job confirmed at your current firm, look around for other options. Don’t take your foot off the gas now, these last six months might make all the difference in getting the job you want.
Defendant Insurance Solicitor
I would just say be as prepared as possible and maximise your options. Ascertain as soon as you can the likelihood of retention by your firm - and if that’s likely to be in your desired qualifying area or another law type in which you completed a seat. Would you be happy staying at the firm in a different work type, on the assumption that a qualified role would come up eventually in your preferred area of law?
Look at other firms and ensure your cv is as on point as possible and that your training record/diary has been as fully completed as possible in order that you can talk fully and in detail about the work you’ve completed as a trainee. Think about the bigger picture too - would you like to remain in the same geographic area or would you be happy to relocate for the right role? If your last seat is the one you wish to qualify into, really maximise that experience and learn as much as you can from your training principal and the cases you are given. Have a bottle of champers on standby ready for qualification!
Private Client Solicitor
Hindsight is a beautiful thing. I think I would advise a trainee that it’s never too early to start preparing for when you qualify - you should ensure your CV is updated and is relevant to the sort of role you wish to obtain. A trainee should carefully think what they what to do post qualification. Whilst not impossible it is more difficult to change specialism after you qualify. If a trainee wants to qualify into an area they haven't had exposure to, this is probably their best opportunity to do so.
Trainees should not under/overestimate their worth to a firm. The trainees I have spoken to have stated that they feel indebted to the firm that provided their training and chose to stay there to "pay them back". Whilst this is admirable, it is sometimes not that right decision for individuals. I would seek advice from a range of sources (colleagues, friends, family and recruiters) when deciding what to do next.
Housing Litigation Solicitor
I suppose I would say it’s important to have a clear idea of the direction you want your career to take. Before I qualified I considered taking better paid roles in an area I was far less interested in (matrimonial finances). I made the decision that I want to continue working legal aid and sought out a job (with Thornton Legal’s help!) which allowed me to focus on legal aid work when I was one year qualified. I’m glad I didn’t move as an NQ into an area I was not particularly interested in.
I think it's imperative that you make yourself known to the people who make the decisions. Don't believe graduate recruitment too much when they say everyone has the same chances and that it goes off your reviews - I can't imagine anyone hires someone they can't remember - so go and have a chat with them. Be honest and say that you're keen to apply for their team and why. Talk about the work you did in their team and what you would like to do in the next couple of years if you joined that team. Don't go for a job that you really don't want, that said, be open to the idea that your perfect job might be something you didn't even consider when you were a student. Don't be too swayed by the team - people change and move on - if you like the type of work that's most important. That said, there are lots of teams in lots of firms and if you don't fit in one that doesn't mean that you can't do that type of work. Look around and don't be scared to move! Also, one that I witnessed, don't be rude about teams that you really don't want to join. The people in that team are probably proud of what they do and have chosen it as their career so saying "Uh, god no" when people ask if you might apply for their team is not a wise move and makes you look bad. A simple "I don't think it's for me" is fine!!