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Choosing the right legal firm

As a newly qualified lawyer choosing a firm can seem daunting.

The legal market is big, tough and very competitive and there are many levels and varieties of law firms in the market.

"It is important to do your research and have a clear idea of the sort of firm that will suit you before you apply," said Daniel Harris, Director of Legal Recruitment at Robert Walters.

Competition for places with Magic Circle and City firms is fierce, but with the prestige of these firms comes long working hours. National law firms often offer international opportunities whereas regional law firms offer a better work life balance and ability to focus on a smaller number of clients.

Which firm is best for you?

City Firms

Often considered the most attractive to qualifying lawyers due to their prestigious reputations, positions are in high demand and competition is fierce. Your career with a city firm is likely to involve long working hours but there are advantages:

  • Rewarding pay scales

  • Full funding and living expenses while completing your GDL and LPC


National Law Firms

National firms have well established networks of offices across the UK and have preferred partners overseas which means that international experience is highly possible. Here are some additional advantages of working for a national firm:

  • Reasonably good salary packages

  • A good work-life balance


Regional Firms

A regional firm’s expertise and business is usually confined to one or two regional hubs. The work is a mixture of domestic general practice and commercial work for local companies and individual clients. Here are the advantages of an opportunity with a regional firm:

  • A good option if you're content to stay in the UK and enjoy working with a small number of clients


Magic Circle Firms

You’ll probably be aware that the Magic Circle consists of the biggest and brightest firms on the UK legal scene. Firms in the Magic Circle are:

  • Clifford Chance

  • Allen & Overy

  • Freshfields

  • Linklaters

  • Slaughter & May


Only the best new lawyers can aspire to get in to these firms and competition is exceptionally fierce. The work mainly focuses on corporate and commercial law and hours can be very long, but starting salary packages are very high and there is no better environment to be in if you want to make your mark quickly.

Have you considered working in house?

Not many training contracts will be available in the in-house legal departments of large companies; it’s more likely that you can find a work placement here as part of your training contract with a City law firm. 

However, there are increasing numbers of in house roles available so this is worth considering as an option in the future.

Working in-house is a good career path for solicitors who’ve gathered some experience at law firms and now wish to concentrate on areas specific to the companies’ interests. The quality of work-life balance and good income prospects are the two major factors in deciding to work as an in-house lawyer.

It is important to do your research and have a clear idea of the sort of firm that will suit you before you apply.

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