How to choose what law firm to work for

Competition between law firms to attract and keep hold off their best people has and will always be high – simply take a look at the recruitment marketing tactics used by firms. Their careers websites and recruitment advertising are brilliantly crafted to seduce trainees to want to start their careers with them, whilst luring those already qualified to jump ship from where they already work.

But how do you know which law firm is right for you, and what are the key factors to consider when making your decision between different job offers?

We know what it’s like to be faced with such a dilemma – we are former Solicitors ourselves, each with over 20 years within the legal sector. From our own personal experience, and that of many of the candidates who we help to secure their next role, two things in particular play a critical role during the decision making process – retention levels and culture.

Why retention matters:

The recruitment market, at least where the legal sector is concerned, is rather predictable. Retention rates are at their highest levels since 2008, while for those who aren’t kept on by their firms on qualification will nonetheless find themselves to be a valuable commodity, with someone else invariably lying in the wings to take them on.

Indeed, according to figures published earlier this year, the retention rate of trainees-to-qualified Solicitors in England and Wales currently stands at 80.9%, compared to 74% in 2009*. But what does this actually mean?

Well, for starters, it demonstrates a commitment among legal employers to not only pull out all the stops to attract the best talent, but to keep it too. While we realise these figures relate to trainees, experience shows that those law firms who retain their NQ’s tend to invest in their people at every stage of their career; they invest in their people and their people, by default, reward them with their loyalty.

Why culture matters:

High retention rates also tell you a lot about the culture of the firm, too. If they are investing in their people there is a stronger sense of togetherness, as everyone within the firm recognises the business is in it for the long haul and is planning for the future accordingly.

This also impacts on your future promotional prospects too. Long-term investment goes hand-in-hand with company growth, and with growth comes opportunity – the opening of new positions.

Understanding the culture of the firm before you take the job can make the difference between you enjoying long-term success with your new employer, or quitting as soon as the honeymoon period is over – before you have had the chance to accomplish or learn what you set out to do. After all, it is estimated that we each spend 70% of our waking hours during the week is spent at work, so it makes sense that you are working in an environment that is right for you.

Our role as a recruiter is to match candidates to the right roles – if you leave that role within a given period of time it’s a failure on both our parts for failing to truly understand the culture of the firm. If this happens, everyone loses out: we lose our fee, the client loses the investment they made in you, and you will lose out on an opportunity to work for a different firm that may have been a better fit for you.

Thankfully, that has never happened to us. We only represent clients that we would have wanted to work for ourselves when we were legal practitioners. We know a great law firm when we see one because we have worked at some of the best in the country.

But we can only tell you so much about a given firm’s culture – you need to do your own homework: take a look at the profiles of the people you will be working with on LinkedIn, check the press to see what news stories they have published recently, and look at the firm’s social media profiles to get a feel for the ‘personality’ of the business and its people. Take a direct approach too – speak to people already working there and ask them what do they say about the office environment, why they stayed as long as they have and what advice they would give to someone like you joining the firm for the first time.


As the old adage says, knowledge is power – the more you know about where you are going the greater your chances of career success.


*Source: Chambers Student