Posted by Charlotte Newlyn, Trainee solicitor
Location, Location, Location… or maybe not?
Providing an insight into one trainee’s introduction to London life, Charlotte Newlyn debunks the City myths and suggests tips on finding your perfect firm.
You consider a lot of factors when choosing which firm is right for you: size, specialisms, principles, opportunities, to name a few. The most common ‘springboard’ from which we launch our search, however, is location.
It is therefore of the utmost importance that you properly consider all of your options and don’t inadvertently rule out what could be your ideal future employer.
“I’ll never work in the City!”
That was me in 2014, when graduating from university.
Despite my good grades and participation in sports and charity work, I never thought that I would get a training contract in a London law firm. London seemed like an impenetrable wall of ‘Magic Circle’ firms, where trainees were impossibly intelligent, well-connected and worked all hours of the day and night.
Training contract and move to London
With the opinion that London was not for me, I looked elsewhere for paralegal experience. Searching various platforms, I found Royds Withy King (Withy King as it was then) were offering the perfect role in Bath. I knew that my best chance of obtaining a training contract was to work for the firm first – some people’s strengths are shown through their work ethic and output, not in a snapshot CV and interview.
Within 10 months of working in our Bath office, I applied for one of our training contracts, more confident in the fact that I knew our systems, principles and work types. Midway through the application stages, internal news circulated that we would be merging with a London firm and, having grown up in nearby Surrey, I did briefly consider whether I could train in London, but I still didn’t think the City was for me.
However, the decision was made for me when I was offered a training contract in our new London office. Through the haze of excitement and relief at the offer I had been made, no less with the firm of my choice, I did wonder what my working life would be like for the next two years. I was preparing myself for a big change.
But I was about to find out that London wasn’t quite what it seemed…
If you have the same opinions now as I did just a few months ago, then I have some great news: London is not as scary as you might think, it is not exclusive and it is certainly not out of your reach. I have found working life to be lively, varied and engaging in our capital city.
The hours you work, the work you do and the social life you keep all depend on who you choose to train with, not where you choose to work. Being in the capital attracts a huge variety of clients and work in all sectors, both individuals and commercial clients, which translates into great exposure for all of our trainees. The reason I chose dispute resolution as my first seat was because I was aware of the variety of work undertaken, ranging from contractual disputes, to high-value banking disputes and aviation claims. And working in dispute resolution in London has not disappointed.
As our firm is a founding and active member of the international network Interleges, I am also gaining experience not only in our own legal system, but also in the partnerships that the UK holds with other countries.
When making a choice about firms, I looked for a progressive attitude, strong CSR commitment and positive principles regarding work/life balance. As a result, I now work for an ambitious firm among friendly colleagues with an ‘open door’ policy and enjoy monthly socials to reconnect with those I don’t see in my day-to-day schedule. I also know that I am having a direct impact on local communities by taking part in volunteering and fundraising activities organised by our dedicated Charities Group. Our London office is supporting the charity London Mind for 2017 – 2019. In essence, these core values do not change regardless of the location of the office and so, the latter should never be a deciding factor.
Having made the move to Bath in 2015 and then to London in 2017, both places in which I had never worked (or lived) before, my advice to all those seeking a training contract would be to look for the firm that best reflects your work ethic, career aspirations and additional interests. Widen your search, forget all you think you know about a location, and avoid missing the firm that’s potentially perfect for you!
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