Amy, a 1st year trainee solicitor shares some advice about how to effectively research law firms
Amy Leech, 1st year trainee solicitor
It's that time of the year where law firms start advertising and opening their applications for insight evenings, vacation schemes and training contracts. It can be daunting seeing all these application forms for the different firms out there. How do you know which ones to apply for?
Why law firm research is important
It is vital to understand whether the firms you apply for are a good fit for you. For your applications to stand out amongst the crowd, you need to show you understand how the firm operates, what it can give to you and what you can bring to it!
When drawing up a shortlist of firms, a useful starting point is to explore their profiles on websites such as www.LawCareers.net and www.allaboutlaw.co.uk. These websites will provide easily comparable information in terms of location, size, offices, number of training contracts available etc. Legal directories such as the Lex 100 and The Training Contract and Pupillage Handbook are also useful resources, providing independent information about law firms.
Always choose quality over quantity when researching law firms. Whilst it is not wise to throw all your eggs into one basket, attempting to apply to 30 firms all at once will be very overwhelming and may result in generic applications. Effective research will take time, so bear this is mind when choosing how many firms to pursue.
Once you compile a list of firms you like, begin your research by looking at the firms' websites. On there you should find lots of useful information such as the history of the firm, key clients and some firms may have graduate careers blogs (like this one!) and/or legal update blogs.
Social media is a useful tool that law firms are now using. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are common places for a law firm to share legal updates and news as it happens - a great way to keep up to date with the firm on a daily basis!
What information to look for?
You need to be aware that there are different tiers of law firms. Do you want work for a global corporate firm in London, a well-established commercial national firm or a small high street firm practicing a niche area of law? Be mindful in your research to look at whether there are any significant changes ahead e.g. the firm merging or becoming an alternative business structure.
You should find out about the firms ethos and values - is their culture 'you'? Also check out who are the firm's main clients and competitors. Explore any recent cases or transactions the firm has acted on and reflect on the impact of these, why the firm was successful and who the opponents were.
So you have conducted your research, produced a final short list of great firms to apply for.what next? You can show off and use your newly found knowledge at law fairs and insight evenings!
Insight evenings are a great way to get to know a firm better. You will learn information outside of the firm's websites and blogs that can add value to your applications. After my research, I first interacted with Shoosmiths at one of their insight evenings. They are normally organised by the firm's graduate recruitment team and you will get to listen to talks from trainees, NQs and even partners.
Most insight evenings will provide you with the opportunity to network. This is a great way to get your name known and to ask tailored questions defined by your research on the firm. Also, don't always feel the need to talk about law all the time; the firm wants to get to know the real you..let your personality shine!
Remember the names of people who you speak to and email them after to thank them for their time. The more interactions you have with a firm, the more they will remember you when reviewing your applications for vacation schemes and training contracts.
Social media again is a useful tool at insight evenings. Before attending mine at Shoosmiths, I tweeted them to let them know I was attending and what I was most looking forward to learning about the firm. At the evening itself, the graduate recruitment manager gave me recognition before I'd even introduced myself, just from engaging on Twitter!
Research effectively, utilise social media and interact as much as you can with your chosen firms. Putting your name and brand out there combined with excellent research will make your applications stand out!