A lot of students don’t know where to start when it comes to choosing their perfect law firm. While a lot of factors need to be taken into consideration, one thing can be certain- it isn’t as trivial as choosing some names out of a hat. In fact, it takes consistent hard work into choosing the right law firm. Here are some of the steps that will help you make your choice:
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In law, research is everything. The first step to picking your desired law firm is to know what area of law you are interested in. Once you know that, search on the internet or available law guides that detail the practice areas of many law firms in the UK. Even if you are still unsure about which area you would like to practice in, you can always read up about the different practice areas or talk to other senior students who have participated in vacation schemes before. Better yet, you could always intern at a law firm beforehand or even shadow a judge in your local court!
Even if you are still unsure, don’t worry as many trainees in law firms are still unsure of which area it is that they want to practice in- but do remember to keep an open mind!
Now that you are equipped with your research, you are one step ahead of all your peers! The next step is to attend any law fairs, open days or networking sessions that you can. When you attend these events, don’t just attend for the sake of getting free items (or free food!) because the employers will know that you’re not interested in their firm and that will just leave a bad impression. You should go to your top firms and have a small list of questions prepared to ask them.
That being said, do not ask stupid questions! Some of these come in the form of negative questions, such as “Is it true that Firm X is bad at xxx?” or “What do you hate the most about Firm X?” Remember that these employees represent and promote their firm and they will not speak ill of it! (Even if you are interested in knowing the answer to that question, perhaps phrase it in a subtler way). One way to help form your questions is to think about the purpose of the question.You should always aim to gain something meaningful from these meetings/networking sessions. For example, to know about the firm from a student’s perspective, you could ask a trainee there about their training process or how they perfected their CV.
These events can be overwhelming with lots of information, remember to take a brochure of some of the firms and be sure that you read it through later!
When you attend open days or networking sessions with your desired firm(s), engage with the trainees or associates working there. Events like these require you to be fully present (that means don’t check your phone every 2 minutes!) and you should always have a notebook handy to jot down important information. When interacting with trainees/associates, ask them about their interests, they like people who are interested in the projects that they are doing. Alternatively, you could ask them questions about the firm to gain deeper insight, such as:
What are some of the changes that Firm X has gone through in the last 6 months?
What’s in the future for Firm X?
What’s the culture like in Firm X?
Remember, people want to see that you are interested in their firms!
At this point, you should look back at the list of law firms that you made earlier and eliminate some firms. You should know that it is absolutely alright to dislike a firm- not all firms will suit everyone. That being said, you should not talk badly about a firm that you dislike in front of another firm as that will only show how unprofessional you are.
After networking events, be sure to keep in touch with a trainee, associate or anyone from the firm. If possible, connect with them on LinkedIn or jot down their email address. LinkedIn is very useful to keep in contact with employers, so you should update your LinkedIn account as often as possible and keep it purely professional. When you connect with someone on LinkedIn, you could put in a short message just to remind them that you attended Event X of theirs and that you hope to keep in touch with them in the future. If they do respond (either through LinkedIn message or email), reply as soon as you can.
Now that you know how your desired firm is like, why not put that knowledge into good use by applying to their vacation schemes or other similar programmes? It is very helpful to include firm-specific knowledge into your application as each application should be tailored to that one firm and one firm only.
My top tips for applications:
Take your time with each application and remember to look through some of the notes that you took previously.
Proof read it many times and even have your friends or seniors look through it.
And always start your application early and do not ever submit your application last minute!
Author: Mirabelle Tan Wei Chie
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