While you may try to send training contract applications to a wide range of law firms simply out of the hope of landing a position, the reality is that many of them may not be a fit for you and what you’re trying to do. Here are some factors you need to consider when deciding which kind of law firm you should apply to.
Area of Law
The area of law where the law firm practices determines your experience and thus the cases you’re considered qualified to handle later. If you want to work in commercial law, you should apply to commercial law firms. If you want to work with families as they go through the trials and travails in life, you should send your application to firms that specialize in family law.
Or you could decide to work for a big box that touches various areas of law. Some firms like Tully Rinckey for instance will focus on everything from business law, all the way up to military and employment law, giving you more options to choose from.
If you’re interested in global business, international law firms should be seeing your resume, not the private client law firms that take nearly every type of case. You also have niche firms that focus on a specialized area like intellectual property law; if you want to specialize in this area, you should apply to these firms.
Another factor to consider is the lifestyle that comes with their client base. If you’re working for a big firm or in commercial law, your work life balance will be skewed in favor of work. Regional firms offer more predictable hours, but they may not pay as much. If you’re working in international law, expect to be receiving calls when it is convenient for your clients. If you want a more predictable job and not have to hunt for clients, you could apply for the government legal service or the legal department of a large company.
Approach and Strategy
Law firms often have their own unique approach and strategy. Those that work for a select pool of clients give you the opportunity to build deep relationships with them. Those that take on a wide variety of work let you go and pursue new clients. Another factor to consider is their strategy. Does the law firm focus on specific strengths like family mediation or residential conveyancing, or do they focus on everything related to a specific industry?
A law firm’s culture can influence the success of your career. For example, you should look at how they train people and decide who to keep. A law firm that has many partners trained by the firm is a good choice if you want to invest years with the same organization.
Conversely, a law firm with a large trainee intake means there may be stiff competition for training seats – and you’re not likely to make it. A small intake may mean you’re the only trainee in your department, but you could form much tighter relationships with co-workers. Ask current and former trainees about the law firm’s culture. Do partners socialize with everyone? Is there a strict hierarchy? Do trainees typically get to work in their first choice of law? How do they structure rotations through positions?
If your focus is helping the community at large, the law firm’s approach to pro bono work and corporate social responsibility should be researched before you apply.
The law firms you work for early in your career determine the general trajectory for the rest of your career. Issues like corporate culture and structure affect your odds of success. Perform due diligence before you send your application.