With this year’s application cycle opening dates fast approaching, it is likely that many of us, myself included, are beginning to look at firms that we are planning on applying to.
This may be for open days, vacation schemes, or training contracts. In terms of applications, it is not advised that you apply to every firm that you can think of. As a general application rule, if you can substitute the name of the firm you are applying to for a name of another firm in your answers, then your application is not specific or tailored enough. You will be much better off applying to fewer firms and having an in-depth knowledge of them, than making a large amount of less specific and tailored applications.
When submitting these kinds of applications, submitting more will not increase your chances, in fact it may even hinder them! When you are researching firms, you need to think about a few things, including what area(s) of law you are interested in, what type of law firm you want to work for, and what your own personal values are.
For example, if you are interested in a commercial legal career in the city, you will probably be looking at some of the bigger UK and US global or international firms. If you are interested in a different area of law, such as family law, you will be applying to different firms such as local or regional that specialise in this area, not firms that specialise in more commercial areas such as finance, litigation and M&A.
Do you want to work in the city? Do you want to work at a high street law firm? Do you want to work for a US firm? These are questions that you need to be asking yourself during your research. It is important to really dig deep and tap into what you want from your career so that you are ready to apply to firms that you could actually see yourself working at. Do you want to work long hours? Do you want to have a strong work/life balance? Do you want to work more ‘normal’ hours? These are also aspects that you will need to consider.
Big city commercial firms are renowned for a weaker work/life balance and US firms are known for their longer hours; however, these are things that applicants are aware of and are willing to accept when applying for a job at that particular firm. Regional or high street firms are more likely to have more sociable hours and a better work/life balance.
What are your values? What is important to you? How do you want to be treated in the workplace and how do you want your colleagues to be treated? It is important to research a firm’s culture and values, for example their diversity and inclusion initiatives or what awards they have recently received regarding initiatives that are important to you.
If you are passionate about equality in the workplace, research what a particular firm is actively doing to promote this, and what initiatives they have in place. What percentage of their partners are female? What is the firm’s paternity leave policy? Do they have any programmes regarding equality in the workplace? If you are passionate about LGBT+, carry out the same research process.
Essentially, you need to make sure that the firm itself, its work, and its core values align with your personal values, encompass what you want from your future, and that the firm would be somewhere that you would be proud to work.
Lily Osbourne – Canterbury Christ Church University