CV Tips

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Interview Tips

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Interview Questions

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Questions to Ask

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First Impressions

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The Resignation Process

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Interview Confidence

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Changing your mind after accepting a job offer

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Being Open Minded About The Jobs Market

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CV Tips

Your CV is your own personal sales document that will help to sell your skills and secure your perfect job.

It’s worth spending some time on it and, while we will guide you through the process, think about each of the points below.

Format

It’s helpful to provide your CV in Microsoft Word format and use a popular font such as Arial, Verdana or Helvetica. Make sure you spell check the document and read it and re-read it.

Education

This is crucial and is an area in which Partners and internal recruitmengt teams pay attention to. Include GCSEs A-Levels, degrees and LPC grades. If you omit any of this information it can look like you have something to hide. Also include the schools and universities you attended, as well as the relevant years.

Languages and IT Skills

If you have language skills, now is the time to mention it, particularly as many law firms now work internationally. Regarding IT skills outline your level of proficiency with relevant software packages such as Microsoft Word and Excel.

Business Development and marketing initiatives

Business development skills are important because they demonstrate that you can bring business into the firm while marketing skills show an awareness of the importance of promoting and publicising the company.

Work experience

Chronologically profile your work history, including the organisation you worked for and its location, plus your job title and, if applicable, your practice areas. Describe your key tasks and responsibilities. Mention any non-legal work experience only if it demonstrates that you learned skills such as team working.

Referees

You don’t necessarily need to give references at this stage. Stating ‘references available on request’ will usually suffice.

Name, address and contact details

It sounds obvious but ensure all your contact details are included and are up to date.

Awards

If you won awards at school or university include them on your CV. Don’t miss an opportunity to sell yourself and your skills.

Social Media

With the increasing popularity of social media many more law firms are subscribing to sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter. If you have a professional presence on social media sites and have drafted law-related blogs it’s a good idea to mention these on your CV. If you have a LinkedIn profile include the link on your CV.

Tailor your CV

If there is a job spec then tailor your CV to make sure you highlight that you have the relevant and required skills and experience.

Activities and interests

Rather than listing irrelevant hobbies such as reading or listening to music highlight your involvement in sporting teams and other organisations. Mention any positions of responsibility you’ve held or awards you’ve gained. Experiences such as starting a new club or society at university can help you to stand out.

About us

Thornton Legal is a specialist legal recruiter, connecting law firms with the best legal talent. We regularly recruit for international, national, Legal 500, regional and boutique law firms, and our approach is based on quality over quantity. We consult, support and advise but, ultimately, the choice is always yours.

Interview Tips

Looking for some tips to help you ace you next interview? Here you go!

At Thornton Legal we will support you through the entire recruitment journey, preparation is the key for you to interview to your full potential.

Find out all you can about the firm including:
  • Specifics of the job
  • Who you will be meeting with and, if possible, find out what they’re like
  • Company background
And
  • Look at the company’s website and jot down questions you have that may arise from it
  • Do some internet research to find out any recent news on the firm
  • On interview day arrive early having researched the location, parking etc in advance
First impressions last
  • Dress as if you already work there – i.e. smart business dress
  • Greet with a firm handshake and a smile – be confident
  • Maintain eye contact throughout the interview, sit straight and speak confidently
Think about this

Once the interviewer knows you can do the job, 80% of the decision to hire is based on chemistry.

Interviewing is selling
  • In order to sell, you have to know what the customer wants to buy. Highlight your skills and strengths according to what the firm is looking for.
  • Listen to what the interviewer is asking and answer clearly and concisely. If you are unsure of what is being asked, ask for clarification.
What you may be asked
  • Get ready for ‘tell us a little about yourself.’ Give a short one to two-minute summary of your background, highlighting areas that pertain to the job description
  • Be prepared for open-ended questions. The interviewer not only wants to hear your answer but how you answer. Don’t waffle or tell them your life story. Concentrate on a brief summary, recent experiences and major relevant experiences.
Some specific questions
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your most significant accomplishments?
  • Why do you want to join us?
  • How would you go about generating business for the firm?
Ask intelligent questions:

This provides a great opportunity to show off your interest/enthusiasm in the job and the firm. Avoid asking question that have already been covered during the interview or questions around salary and holidays which may have already been provided.

Like these
  • What are the qualities that you are looking for in the person for this job?”
  • “Who would I be working with outside the department?”
  • “What scope is there for career progression?”
Or these
  • “What about marketing activities? Blogs, social media, networking?”
  • “What are the next steps?”
The interviewer is looking for these things
  • Your appearance – be business-like
  • Whether your interest in your specialism is genuine
  • The sort of temperament/personality you reveal
  • How you will get on with the rest of their staff
And these
  • Whether your responses correspond or conflict with the information on your CV or application form
  • How you seem able to cope with pressure and deadlines
  • Whether you are organised and able to manage your time

Interview Questions

Interviews can be a daunting prospect. By and large, the better prepared you are, the easier the process and the greater the likelihood of something good coming from it.

Its impossible to prepare for every interview scenario but here is a helpful snapshot of just some of the things our candidates have been asked recently and how to go about answering them.

Why are you looking to leave your current firm?

This is often one of the first questions that come up at interview, and having some kind of well thought out answer is fundamental. Firms are looking to hear positive reasons for seeking a move. Answers that revolve around salary factors alone or involve excessive negativity about your current employer are unlikely to be met with a favourable response. You should concentrate on the appealing nature of the role and the firm you are interviewing with. Conversations around the reputation of the firm, the quality of the work on offer, career progression and the opportunity to develop should be the focus of any conversation.

Why do you want to work for us? Why do you think you are suited to the role?

These kinds of questions test your knowledge of the firm and the role itself. We can’t emphasise enough the importance of doing your research on things like: size, reputation, training, progression, quality of work etc. It’s a real opportunity for you to showcase your knowledge, skills and experience and where you might fit into the role, the department and the culture of the firm. If possible, try to emphasise what you can do for firm and not just what they can do for you.

Tell us about yourself

This is a very open-ended question but flummoxes a lot of candidates. Interviewers are keen to hear how you have interpreted the question and is a real test of a candidate’s verbal communication skills. We would recommend focusing on a brief summary of your career to date, recent experiences and significant relevant achievements. Afterwards you could even ask if they would like you to expand on particular areas. Examples of relevant achievement could mean a consistent billing history, an ability to win clients or any interesting or impressive work you have done of late.

How well do you work under pressure?

A fairly standard question but one that can be answered badly by using clichés or hyperbole. You should try to emphasise that you work as well under pressure as they do at any other time but that when the pressure is ramped up you are able to prioritise important tasks so that your workload is manageable. Simply being able to give one or two specific examples of scenarios you have faced and how you have dealt with them can help you stand out from other candidates in the process.

Are you applying to other firms?

The focus here is on demonstrating that you've not been applying for multiple jobs without much thought. If you are in the process with other firms, it might be useful to mention firms/opportunities with similar attributes to the one you are interviewing with. Good candidates should be able to highlight a particular interest in a role and commitment to that firm without too much teeth pulling.

What are your salary expectations?

A key part of your pre-interview research should be to try to identify the likely salary range on offer. This can often be included in the job advert itself. It’s important to state that you expect it to be within that range and not to ask for something that may rule you out on account of unrealistic salary expectations. Good recruiters will already have covered this subject off with the firm prior to you attending the interview and as such you will need to check what has been discussed between the firm and the recruiter pre-interview to ensure everybody is on the same page. If you are looking to increase your salary this can be a useful opportunity, if asked, to justify a realistic increase based on your experience and your suitability for the role.

How would generate business for the firm?

Firms are increasingly looking for something extra to help distinguish between candidates who, on paper, have similar skills and experience. An ability to be client facing, win work and network with potential clients can help make the difference in this scenario. Candidates who can demonstrate a history of spotting business opportunities and developing new clients will find this question a lot easier. If this is something that you are unfamiliar with, it may be helpful to concentrate on your ability to manage existing client relationships and securing more work from them off the back of providing a first-rate client service. An underrated and often ignored aspect of generating new business can be as simple as suggesting that different departments communicate with each other and ensure that they try to cross sell other legal services to existing clients.

What's your greatest weakness?

Remember that it is only natural to have weaknesses. What firms are looking for is evidence that you can show how you have worked on these weaknesses to turn them into strengths. One approach is to admit a particular weakness that does not impact on the job you are interviewing for and then describe how you overcome it by using strengths which are relevant to the job itself. A useful example of this could be overcoming a lack of public speaking skills by extensive preparation and organisation. Be aware that the interviewer may ask for more than one weakness, so go prepared.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

It may be helpful to give consideration to what the interviewer is looking for in this scenario as some can be wary of candidates that seem to lack ambition and do not aspire to make partner within a realistic time frame. Others can be conscious of the extent to which they can realistically accommodate a further partner in the short to medium term. This question can be a useful opportunity to ask for information about what career ladder the firm has in place and whether they have specific criteria for promotion from Solicitor to Associate or Associate to Partner. Don’t be afraid to ask for examples of other employees of the firm achieving promotion.

How do you manage your time?

Time management is an essential skill in any workplace. Being able to provide a slick and sensible answer to this particular question will impress any interviewer. Be sure to mention how you handle different aspects of time management including work prioritisation, meeting deadlines, avoiding multi-tasking, handling interruptions and maintaining work/life balance. If you are able to provide specific examples, all the better.

Other typical interview questions/topics include:
  • What are your main achievements to date?
  • Describe the most complicated project or complex task you have encountered. How did you tackle it?
  • Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult client and how you handled it.
  • Give me an example of where you have had to deal with a difficult team member. How did you resolve the issue?
  • Give an example of a time when you showed initiative.
And...
  • Have you had experience of writing articles, presenting at seminars/conferences? How did this come about?
  • Are you flexible to move/travel?
  • What's your view on...? (current affairs question)
  • Have you any questions to ask?

Questions to Ask

We have put together 9 key questions (in no particular order) to consider asking when preparing for an interview.

One of the best ways to make sure an opporunity is right, is to ask questions at the end of your interview. If you don’t prepare in advance, you run the risk of the interviewer assuming you are not interested in the role/ firm or haven’t prepared and are winging it.

What would make someone successful in this role?

This question allows you to understand what would be expected of you. It also portrays that long-term growth within the firm is important to you and you are wanting to achieve this.  

How do you evaluate employee performance?

This question lets the employer know you eager to meet whatever goals they set. But if they expect unrealistic results, this can help determine your decision.

How would you describe the work culture/environment?

This allows you to understand if it is the style of firm you want to work for. Finding out about the culture, ethos and working environment will factor into your decision-making process.

How is the department structured?

You will get an idea about the size of the department and who you will be working closely with and could give you an insight to the line of reporting.

Where do you think the firm is headed in the next 5 years?

By asking this question, it allows you to know the firm’s future plans to see if they fit in with yours. You want to know if and how the firm is growing, so you can grow with it too.

What are the biggest opportunities and/or challenges facing the department right now?

This question may help you learn where the department will be focusing its energy over the coming weeks and months. It also conveys your willingness to help the team and helps you understand key trends and issues in the industry from the interviewer’s perspective.

What do you enjoy about working here?

This question should give you some real insight about if this is the employer for you. If the answer is bland, vague or negative then maybe this firm isn’t the right place for you.

Once the successful candidate has established themselves, what are the opportunities to work flexibly?

It’s important to get an understanding of whether your future employer values flexible working and how this would work in practice.

What are the next steps?

This question will wrap up your interview perfectly. It will show you are eager to move forward in the process and will give you the hiring timeline, so you can follow up appropriately through your recruiter.

Activities and interests

Rather than listing irrelevant hobbies such as reading or listening to music highlight your involvement in sporting teams and other organisations. Mention any positions of responsibility you’ve held or awards you’ve gained. Experiences such as starting a new club or society at university can help you to stand out.

About us

Thornton Legal is a specialist legal recruiter, connecting law firms with the best legal talent. We regularly recruit for international, national, Legal 500, regional and boutique law firms, and our approach is based on quality over quantity. We consult, support and advise but, ultimately, the choice is always yours.

First Impressions

When you do land the perfect job here are some tips to create the best first impression in your new role:

In no particular order, consider the following hints:In no particular order, consider the following hints:

Arrive on time, even better, early

It’s a good habit to get into from the outset and will ensure you’re ready and fully prepared for the day ahead.

Positive mental attitude

Always be positive, even if you’re not always feeling it. It will rub off on colleagues and ensure you’re seen as an optimistic, upbeat problem solver.

Dress appropriately

It’s important to dress like you mean business. Observe the dress styles of your new colleagues to get an idea of what is appropriate in your new work environment.

Get to know your colleagues, remember names!

Taking time to get to know your new colleagues will help you to feel comfortable in your new role and settle in quickly. Introduce yourself and ask them about themselves and, importantly, remember their names! Even if it means jotting them down initially.

Be organised and proactive

During your first days in your new role listen carefully to everything you’re told and take notes. If you’re unsure, ask and be organised from the word go to ensure you stay on top of your workload.

Avoid office politics and gossip

While it is important to be friendly and engage with your new colleagues, avoid gossip and office politics, no matter how tempting it can be to join in. You start a new role with a clean slate and you want to keep it that way rather than clouding your initial impressions of the firm and the people you’re working with.

Ask questions and ask for help

If you’re unsure of something ask for help as people will expect this from a new colleague. As processes and procedures are being explained, ask questions to deepen your understanding and knowledge.

Show appreciation

When colleagues do take time out of their busy schedule to show you the ropes and help you out, show your appreciation.

Show commitment

Don’t be a clock watcher and do volunteer for tasks over and above your role to show your enthusiasm and commitment to your employer.

Be quick to observe and slow to judge

Spend your first weeks observing how your colleagues approach their work. You will learn a lot and showing humility rather than judging people will stand you in good stead. Making mistakes is inevitable but turn them into positives by learning from them.

Participate in social events

This shows willing and that you’re keen to get to know your colleagues. You can learn a lot about the culture of the company in a more informal setting and it also helps to boost team building.

About us

Thornton Legal is a specialist legal recruiter, connecting law firms with the best legal talent. We regularly recruit for international, national, Legal 500, regional and boutique law firms, and our approach is based on quality over quantity. We consult, support and advise but, ultimately, the choice is always yours.

The Resignation Process

Making the decision to hand in your notice can be a difficult nerve-wracking part of looking for a new role.

If you’ve made the decision to leave, there are some formalities you will need to go through. The information below is designed to give you an insight to the resignation process and how best to handle it.

Notice

As tempting as it is to go full steam ahead and hand your notice in as soon as you are offered the new job, don't hand your notice in until you have received written confirmation of the offer of employment from your new firm. Ensure that you give formal written notice of your intention to leave to the correct person (we can provide a resignation letter template), then negotiate a leaving date and clarify final pay and any outstanding holiday entitlement. We would always suggest checking in advance your contract/terms of employment to see how much notice you are obliged to give, who your notice should be handed in to and what, if any, restrictions you might have in terms of future employment. It is also worth identifying whether there are any course fees payable if you leave within a certain time period.

The Counter Offer

The stark reality of the legal profession is that there is a serious skills shortage in many practice areas and the vast majority of firms will make a belated effort to try to tempt you to stay. This can often be the promise of promotion, or a salary increase. In can sometimes be a promise to improve work culture or reduce your case load.

It often come with flattery or in some instances a “guilt trip” that they won’t be able to cope without you! Such things can be confusing and lead to mixed feelings about your decision to move on. What should you do now?

Think about

We would suggest thinking about the following questions to help you eliminate doubt and be confident in your decision:

  • Why have I been offered more money now when it wasn’t on the table previously?
  • If I stay, will the situation improve just because I said I was leaving?
  • If I stay, will my loyalty be questioned and affect my chance for advancement?
  • Will I have to go through this process again next time I'm ready for a new position?

Our experience of recruitment tells us that over 75% of candidates who accept a counter offer tend to leave within 12 months for another role, particularly when it relates solely to a salary increase.

More often than not, the issues that caused you to look for a new role in the first place remain and promises made don’t end up materialising.

You need to stay strong, stay committed when the counter offer comes, be polite and say “no thank you”.

Working your notice

It’s important to remain professional throughout the resignation process. Maintaining a positive relationship with your bosses and colleagues will make working your notice period much easier and could allow you to return to the firm in the future. Co-workers will be curious about why you are leaving. Whether they corner you at work or call you at home, be diplomatic about your reasons for leaving. Negative comments have a habit of finding their way to Partners and sour an otherwise healthy relationship.

Finally, do not underestimate the importance of your performance during your final weeks. It is a mistake to “mentally check out” and wind down while working out your notice. Give it your very best effort right up until the last minute you’re there.

Us

At Thornton Legal we're experienced in guiding you through what can be a difficult time. If you have any queries, give us a call. We would be happy to help.

Interview Confidence

Do you struggle with confidence in an interview?

Everyone gets nervous for an interview. It’s only natural. However, it goes without saying that employers are attracted to those who show confidence and enthusiasm in their interview. You need ensure what’s on your CV translates to the interview room, but how do employers judge this? We have put together some tips to help..

Prepare

The better prepared you are, the easier the process. It is impossible to know exactly what questions you will be asked, however the majority of interviewers follow the same formula, starting with ‘open-ended self descriptive question’ followed by questions about ‘your career to date’, questions to identify ‘how you work’ and ending with any questions you have. 

Common interview questions

A good starting point is to prepare answers to common questions. Instances of your teamwork, communication, suitability, leadership, organisation, time management and a difficult situation, can go a long way in answer a number of different interview questiions. Preparing for scenario questions will go a long way in calming your nerves.

Positive thinking

Positive thinking helps you feel and act confident. Don’t doubt or think negative, instead think of all the skills you have to offer. And think how this can be applied to the role you’re interviewing for. Show these transferable skills with examples of work you have done and how the same strategy can be applied to this role.

Ask Questions

A great way to show you are confident and engaged is to ask questions. Remember, interviews are a two way street. You should want to find out everything about the firm, role etc that hasn't been volunteered already by the interviewer.

Body Language

Body language is considered the most important aspect of communication as it sends signals to how we are truly feeling. In summary, maintaining strong eye contact, a firm handshake and a relaxed posture, will visibly show that you are confident, comfortable and interested in the role.

More about body language

Whatever you do, do not fidget! It’s distracting and is a sign that you’re nervous. Do not look at the floor, it suggests that you are disinterested. Do keep your arms open and not crossed and dominate the space around you. It visibly shows that you are at ease. And remember to smile when appropriate!

Conclusion

Interviews can be a daunting experience and doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you follow the above five pointers, it will be sure to put you at ease and help your self-confidence. At Thornton Legal we will guide you through the entire recruitment process, including supporting and advising you through the interview stage. If you are ready to kick-start your job search, get in touch.

About us

Thornton Legal is a specialist legal recruiter, connecting law firms with the best legal talent. We regularly recruit for international, national, Legal 500, regional and boutique law firms, and our approach is based on quality over quantity. We consult, support and advise but, ultimately, the choice is always yours.

Changing your mind after accepting a job offer

What would you do if you had accepted a new job only to realise that the company, position or location wasn’t the right fit?

Perhaps you have accepted a job and realised that the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence and you actually like you current job, or you have spoken to other people in your network who wouldn’t touch your new job with a barge-pole whose opinion you trust?

What if you've resigned?

If you have resigned from your current role after being made an offer of employment and your boss has offered you more money to stay, and you have accepted… what would you do then?

Does your intuition tell you that you have made an error of judgement that you have to pull out from or would you stick with the new job for fear of damaging your reputation?

Many people find themselves in this sort of circumstance at least once during their career. 

Yes, you can change your mind

However, it’s important to know that it is possible to turn down a role after accepting a job offer. Indeed, if you have second thoughts after putting yourself forward for a position, this might be your instincts telling you to reconsider. After all, there’s nothing worse than having to go to work every day to a job you just don’t enjoy.

If you’re currently rethinking your acceptance of a job offer, there are some things you can do to exit the deal tactfully without having to face any serious repercussions:

Already accepted a job offer? Read your contract carefully

If you have already accepted an offer of employment and signed a contract for the role, you need to read through the entire document with care. Look for any stipulations about rescinding your acceptance or giving a specified amount of notice should you change your mind.

Most contracts won’t have any specific clauses about this sort of thing and generally focus on salary levels, confidentiality clauses and responsibilities. However, while it is likely there won’t be any legal repercussions if you change your mind, it might be pertinent to get some advice from a lawyer or expert before accepting a job offer.

Tell the recruiter or employer as soon as possible

If you decide to decline a job offer, you need to be 100 percent sure about your decision. As soon as you have made up your mind, you must tell the recruiter and/ or company immediately. It’s critical to do so, as the employer has already invested time and money in the hiring process. They will quickly need to assess the situation and alter their plans.

Do not damage your reputation by ignoring the recruiter or employer. It is far better to be honest as soon as possible, especially if there is a valid reason for turning down the offer. The recruiter and hiring company will be understanding and respect you for your honesty. Additionally, you may need the assistance of the recruiter in the future or want to work with the company as a client.

Be polite always

The best way to come out of an awkward situation, such as reneging on an acceptance of a job offer, is to make sure all your interactions with the recruiter or employer are polite. Call them to communicate your decision and apologise personally. Sending an email or text message will leave them with a lot of questions, they will question your professionalism and be dis-inclined to deal with you again.

Be honest

Do not make up vague reasons for turning down the offer of employment. Stick to concise – but honest – explanations, such as receiving a counter-offer from your existing company or even saying that on reflection that this is not a good fit for you at this time. Explain that you know that this outcome is not ideal, how disappointed everyone will be and apologise again. Tell the recruiter that you appreciate the hard work they have carried out on your behalf and tell them that you would be happy to work with them in the future.

Conclusion: It’s not the end of the world if you have second thoughts

While having to go back on your acceptance of a job offer is never going to be the preferred choice, It is unlikely to affect your career negatively over the long term, especially if you don’t make a habit of doing it.

Receiving an offer from a company is exciting and sometimes it is easy to miss or overlook important factors that become more apparent after further consideration.

So, before accepting a job offer it’s important to take time and carefully consider if the position is truly good for you. If you spend time digesting all of the information to fully understand what the position entails, you are able to make an informed decision to accept or decline.

Keep in mind that employers don’t want new hires who would rather be somewhere else.

About us

Thornton Legal is a specialist legal recruiter, connecting law firms with the best legal talent. We regularly recruit for international, national, Legal 500, regional and boutique law firms, and our approach is based on quality over quantity. We consult, support and advise but, ultimately, the choice is always yours.

Being Open Minded About The Jobs Market

Being open minded as to what’s going on in the job market is a sensible approach to take and doesn’t necessarily mean that you are destined to leave your current place of work.

If any of these questions ring true, perhaps it's time to have a chat with one of the Thornton Legal team about what your options 

Feeling unhappy or unfulfilled?

If this is the case, it would be silly not to consider a change. Mental wellbeing is often overlooked and undervalued.

Curious?

The “what if” scenario. Everything could be okay but “what if” you could find your dream job.

Lacking promotion opportunities?

Unfortunately, most internal promotions are slow moving and very structured. You can often move directly into a more senior position at another firm, thus propelling your career forward.

Saving for a new house, car, holiday?

Loyalty doesn’t always pay the bills. Lateral moves tend to attract higher salary increases (15-20% on average) than internal pay rises (4-8%).

Looking for a better work/life balance?

There may be roles available that are less demanding e.g., working for a smaller firm with less onerous billing targets.

Just looking for some sensible career advice?

If you want to know what is possible with your career then talk to a recruiter.

Worried about changes at work?

Large firms don’t tend to put an individual before the benefits of the whole firm. If things change for whatever reason, then you should be aware of what else is out there.

Do you know your value?

Even if you have no intention of leaving, making your current employer aware of your value is vitally important.

Lastly

Even if you are open to opportunities, then it doesn’t mean that you will act on all of them. Every conversation has value, and all information can be of use. Thornton Legal is a recruitment consultancy that focusses specifically on the legal sector, and we are always happy to have a general chat about the market on a confidential/no commitment basis.

About us

Thornton Legal is a specialist legal recruiter, connecting law firms with the best legal talent. We regularly recruit for international, national, Legal 500, regional and boutique law firms, and our approach is based on quality over quantity. We consult, support and advise but, ultimately, the choice is always yours.

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