Posted by Sheridan Hendzel, Solicitor
Finding the firm that fits
You’re trying to climb through the plethora of material covering specialist areas, remuneration packages, health benefits, diversity policies and key clients. We’ve all been there. So, how do you narrow down your search for prospective firms to train at?
Whilst location and size are choices for you alone, your general wellbeing and happiness within a firm is something I can help you with. I wanted the balance of specialist, well-structured training and an enjoyable environment to work in, so I asked myself the following questions:
1. How busy or time-challenged do you want to be?
You may hear from existing trainees that the work-life balance is great. And whilst this is helpful, there are other factors to take into account. Assuming that you want to go home at a reasonable time on most days, have a look at the size of the firm and the amount of people listed to work there, are they making sure there are enough members to simultaneously deal with the multiple matters/contracts/key clients and/or huge deals they are promoting?
2. What environment do you want to work in?
Remember, save in exceptional or rare circumstances, your role at the firm will be 5 days a week, 48 weeks of the year. Do you strive for an open office to share with hundreds of colleagues? Would you prefer to be in your own office, picking through legal matters? Do you want as much guidance as possible? Keep in mind that the size of the firm doesn’t necessarily correlate with better training, more responsibility or more supervision and guidance.
3. Does the firm have other accreditations, awards or reputational bodies to back up the kind of culture it promotes?
Believe it or not, there are still firms out there that aren’t quite cutting the mustard when it comes to risk and compliance. Being Lexcel accredited is a good sign as the auditing process for firms to meet standards is rigorous and, if you know what your true vocation is, an advanced accreditation in your chosen specialist area is even better.
It is also important to balance that with the culture you long for. Royds Withy King have been listed in ‘The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For’. This is an independent recognition, ranking companies based on anonymous staff feedback on topics such as how they feel about their management, their working conditions and their employer’s values. Personally, I attribute this to the firm’s dedication to corporate social responsibility, ensuring recruitment where there is growth and organising lots of social events as well as several sporting events for us throughout the year. Check out if your shortlisted firms have anything similar to showcase.
4. What are your career aspirations?
It is no secret that female candidates are dominating training contract places in recent years, however, the majority of senior/partner roles remain occupied by males. If you are a female candidate striving for partnership, have a look at the firm’s current partners. Even if you are a male candidate, you should still research the firm’s attitude to diversity in the workplace to get a better feel for the culture of the firm and the people that it attracts. The same goes for mature applicants who may want to see a wide age-range rather than all trainees being recruited straight out of university.
You may not have all of the answers to the questions above and, even if you do, nothing beats visiting a firm or meeting your potential future colleagues at a law fair to get some inside information. It will help you to find a firm that fits your personality because you’ll be spending a lot of time investing in it and you want it to invest just as much in you.
There are many more factors to consider when choosing a firm. Come and discuss these with me at the University of Law in Bristol on 9th November.
For more details of our careers fairs, take a look at our Events page.
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