Why I gave the city a miss by Fiona Geldart

Stowe Family Law|September 25th 2009

Obtaining a training contract is never going to be an easy task, especially during this difficult economic time. In this post, I seek simply to make readers realise that although times are tough and jobs in the legal profession may be harder to come by than they used to be, there is light at the end of the tunnel and that big city firms are not necessarily the place to be anymore.

Speaking to most aspiring lawyers, I get the impression that they seem to think that in order to succeed in the legal profession nowadays you have to work in a big city firm – preferably in London. However, it seems to be those firms who are suffering most as a result of the economic climate. Many are struggling to keep their promises of a training contract to those they have offered them to; instead offering their prospective trainees compensation to begin their training contracts a year later.

I know firsthand the frustration and uncertainty this causes; my other half suffered that same fate. Smaller firms, on the other hand, have dealt with the crisis with more aplomb. They waste less money advertising. The process itself is more flexible without the various application forms, assessment days and interviews, which only provide a shallow glimpse of a person. Perhaps more importantly, they are keeping their promise that when an individual is offered a training contract, it will still be waiting for them when they turn up on their first day.

The process of finding a training contract is a long, drawn out process, dreaded by many. After a while, the rejection letters become hard to take, with some giving up completely. If anyone reading this is in that situation, I would say to you not to give up, but to continue plugging away. Spend time researching firms and if training contracts are not readily advertised, contact firms and make enquiries. If you are an individual who has their heart set on working for a big city firm but are struggling to progress through the application process, perhaps open your mind slightly and consider turning your attentions to the smaller firms.

In my opinion, gaining work experience placements with a smaller firm is one of the best ways of obtaining a training contract. The staff will make an effort to get to know you and you will be treated as a person rather than a number, as is often the case in the big firms. Work experience is an excellent way of making a good impression on the firm and gives them the advantage of seeing you in action in the working environment, rather than just basing their impression of you on a one-off interview.

You may have gathered that again I am speaking from personal experience. During my second year at university I contacted countless firms to offer my services to them in exchange for gaining some invaluable first-hand experience of how a law firm functions day-to-day. Stowe Family Law, which were at that time Grahame Stowe Bateson (Private Client) Family Law Unit, were the first to respond, offering me an interview for a two-week placement at which I was successful. You could say that this was where my career at Stowe Family Law started. I enjoyed the two weeks so much that the following year I returned to complete another two-week placement. During these four weeks I gained invaluable first-hand experience as to how a law firm functions. I was extremely impressed by the extensive caseload of Stowe Family Law and the dedication each member of staff showed to their work.

I was fortunate enough to be offered a training contract with Stowe Family Law and as promised, it was waiting for me on the commencement date. I am looking forward to what I hope will be a long and successful legal career.

In conclusion, a message to all who are searching for a training contract at the moment; do not let the current economic climate deter you from pursuing a legal career, keep contacting firms far and wide, and most importantly, do not be blinded by the bright lights of the big city. It is the smaller firms who are fulfilling their promises of training contracts to prospective trainees, and they are the firms who are more likely to offer you a position of permanent employment at the end of your training.

Fiona attended Leeds Girls’ High School before studying Law at Bangor University, obtaining a First Class degree. She studied her LPC at the College of Law, Chester, before joining Stowe Family Law for her training contract.

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  1. Laura says:

    You are right! You don’t have to go to a big city to become successful in Law. The type of law firm is simply down to what interests you most.

    If you are searching for a good life/work balance with your training contract then perhaps a regional training contract is the one for you. You are probably aware that long-working-hours are associated with a career in law, but this tends to be more common in the City law firm culture. On the other hand, the majority of Regional law firms have the flexibility to avoid the 80-hour-work-week stigma. This means that young lawyers are able to work more flexibly, resulting in a greater work-life balance.

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