The Big Debate: Big City Law Firms or Small Local Law Firms?
Looking for vacation schemes or training contracts and not sure where to start applying? Take a look at our rundown of the two main types of law firms, and don’t forget to vote for your winner!
The Big Debate: Big City Law Firms
“There is a certain prestige involved in working at a large City firm” – Hannah Capstick
Working at a big City firm provides you with the opportunity to be involved in diverse and intellectually stimulating work that is often at the cutting edge of the law. The size and success of these firms means that the opportunities for career progression within them are extensive. However if you do choose to leave them, their impressive reputation means that you will have your pick of future employers.
A key advantage of working at a big City firm is the financial package that you will receive. The average starting salary for a trainee at a big City firm is £40,000, and this increases to £70,000 or more upon qualification.
However, financial benefits are not limited to your salary and can also include a bonus, health insurance, life insurance, subsidised gym memberships and childcare vouchers. These impressive employment benefits can significantly reduce your outgoings and provide you with financial stability and security.
Another benefit of working at a big City firm is the opportunities that are open to you. Firms such as Linklaters and Freshfields have offices around the world and employ leading specialists in their fields. This means that trainees have the opportunity to do secondments in locations ranging from New York to Tokyo.
Moreover, by working under the supervision of leaders in their fields you will be working at the cutting edge of the law. The quality of work that you will be involved in and the kind of clients that you will be employed by will be unrivalled.
Finally, there is a certain prestige involved in working at a large City firm. Solicitors coming from such firms have worked extremely hard and gained extensive experience as a result. Their counterparts at smaller, regional firms will be unable to compete with the kind of client contact, high pressure situations and attention to detail which they will have gained experience of. This will undoubtedly give them their pick of future employers.
The Big Debate: Small Local Law Firms
“If you’re looking for an opportunity to progress quickly at a firm, working reasonable hours and in a more relaxed environment, a smaller, high street firm may be for you” – Radhika Morally
Small local firms are usually based in a single office in a town centre, but are at times known to have associate offices in the surrounding local areas. Although they are smaller in size than City firms, the number of employees still varies, as does the areas of law one can practice in.
There are a number of reasons why smaller local firms can provide you with a more fulfilling career than that of a big City firm:
Being in a smaller firm with less employees will most likely mean that you are relied upon more and therefore given more responsibility.
There is arguably more room for growth; the more regular association with senior partners will make it easier to become known and stand out. Your progression and development as a lawyer is therefore more likely to be recognised and rewarded, allowing you to progress more quickly.
Increased Levels of Client Contact
Furthermore, you are likely to have much more client exposure and contact than you would in a City firm. The fact that the clients are most likely to be those from the surrounding areas provides you with opportunity to see how the law affects individuals and the local community.
Quality of Life
Smaller, high street firms are much more likely to be flexible and are guaranteed to have more reasonable working hours, as opposed to the huge workloads in the city. Many smaller firms are now offering remote working and/or flexi-hours to attract new recruits, which allows for a healthy work/life balance. Whilst some may be put off by the lower pay, this is offset by the vastly reduced stress levels and living and transport costs.
More Relaxed Working Environment
The smaller number of employees allows for the development of stronger relationships and camaraderie between staff members, automatically lending itself to a more relaxed atmosphere, as opposed to the high pressure one of the city.
Therefore, if you’re looking for an opportunity to progress quickly at a firm, working reasonable hours and in a more relaxed environment, a smaller, high street firm may be for you!