The questions you need to ask yourself when you’re finding, applying and interviewing for your dream firm
- What are the cultures and values of the firm?
This is important for working out where you will fit into the firm and if their culture is a place you feel you could be part of.
2. What is the firm’s latest strategy and business plan?
Is it looking for a merger, does it have any plans to expand to regions that interest you, is it shrinking or growing its sector focus inline with the challenges facing law firms and the up and coming areas of law? Think of the new and fast growing areas such as fintech, AI, how are these being incorporated into the firm if they are?
3. What is the trainee retention rate?
This is important – often trainee retention rates (the number of trainees who are kept on as associates) is a sign of how competitive seats for associates are, how much people felt supported during their trainee years, how many people were trained to a standard that was good enough to be kept on and how many people were able to be retained in departments of their choice.
4. What is the work/lifestyle balance like?
You can find pretty honest information about the average hours that people work at Chambers Student. Generally, in magic and silver circle firms you will likely be expected to work very long hours and quite consistently. Hours vary among other international and national firms, so you can expect of have some late nights but how often depends on the size of the firm, the size of each department and the quantity of work each department is getting at any one time. If you can’t imagine working past 7pm then you are better off looking at smaller national firms which can offer just as interesting work but with less of a time constraint.
5. Where does the firm fit in with your career plans?
It is important to look ahead because you could potentially be at the firm for a very long time! Think about where you want to be in your future – are you interested in being a partner? Then you’ll need to find out how many partners are externally sources, and how many are hired from internal senior associates. Do you want to be involved in business and innovation? Then look to see if your firm has a well-known and dedicated department and strategy for that. Do you want to be able to work part time if you potentially had a family? A lot more firms are now offering more flexible working and part time opportunities for parents, so that’s definitely something to think about for the future.
6. What is the firm known for?
For example, in the firm I am training at it’s biggest department is Financial Services. This is important because it means that department is likely to have the largest number of trainees and keep on the largest number of associates. Part of the reason I applied to the firm because in particular I wanted experience in financial services along with their other departments. Of course, it is absolutely fine to go to a firm and end up qualifying in a different seat to what you thought – that often happens – but if you know you have a keen interest in a certain department before you apply this is certainly something to think about. It is also important at interview to show you know about the departments that the firm is renowned for.
7. What kind of networks, pro bono and diversity initiatives does the firm have?
If you are interested in knowing more about what the firm is and what it does for the wider society, this is an important thing to look at. Personally I valued a firm that recognised the importance of pro bono work as more than just them doing their bit to tick the corporate social responsibility box.
8. Is the firm growing or shrinking?
This is important particularly if you apply for smaller national firms – you want to make sure that they aren’t suddenly closing offices everywhere or making cuts to the number of associates they keep on because they are struggling to break even financially.
You can find most, if not all, of this information on the law firm’s official website and at Chambers Students guide online.