updated on 15 September 2021
City or regional? It’s the question every budding lawyer must face. Today’s law graduates and junior lawyers have a different set of priorities after experiencing a year and a half (and counting) of restrictions on their daily lives.
While wanting a successful career and finding a firm with the right culture will rightly always remain high on their wish lists, there is a greater desire than ever for a good work-life balance. As we emerge from this pandemic into, to use that cliché, ‘the new normal’, this is an opportune moment for regional firms to tempt talented individuals away from the bright lights of major City firms.
Flexible working options
While a relatively normal office life will no doubt return, most firms are now offering more flexible working practices since lawyers have had the chance to appreciate the importance of maintaining a balance between work and home. Work at a regional firm offers the chance to live in a more spacious and affordable home, likely with a garden, in contrast to the prospect of waiting years to buy a small flat in London, while paying sky-high rental prices as you try to increase your savings. The chances of rural homeownership are a more realistic prospect.
Loyal client base
Established regional firms tend to have a loyal local client base. They often maintain relationships with local families going back several generations, as well as a newer, expanding client base of individuals and companies that are often drawn to a firm’s reputation for its specialism in a particular field. The clients want a premium professional service without the premium professional fees charged by City law firms. For this reason, regional firms are attracting interesting and varied work from big brand names, as well as respected companies and individuals seeking cost-effective legal services without having to sacrifice the quality of service.
Opportunities to grow
There are considerable opportunities for junior lawyers to excel in regional firms. It is not only easier to have your successes noticed within this environment, there is also more opportunity to spend time one-to-one with senior lawyers, and to be rewarded more quickly through progression and promotion within the firm. Juniors have the chance to hone their talents due to the closer day-to-day proximity to partners.
Junior lawyers in smaller firms are more likely to be given greater responsibility at an earlier stage in their training and careers. It is likely that they will be given the chance to take on more responsibility based on their ability rather than after a specific time frame or when it is their ‘turn’. These firms offer the chance for ambitious juniors to be recognised for the energy they put in while those who prefer a more relaxed 9:00am to 5:00pm also have a place within this environment, which is perhaps more conducive to a happier family and work/life balance than the culture that tends to operate at City firms.
I chose the beautiful cathedral city of Salisbury – home to both the best preserved of the remaining Magna Carta manuscripts and fantastic pubs and restaurants – as my place of work. The daily commute does not involve being sandwiched into a bus or train with fellow City dwellers, but instead consists of a short drive through an avenue of oak trees, before turning the corner to catch sight of the cathedral spire, followed by a 15-minute walk to the office.
When weighing up the benefits of regional law firms compared to larger city firms, it is easy to see why many capable trainees are opting for a different type of legal career but every bit as stimulating as a career in the City.
Robin Thomas is a trainee solicitor at Wilsons Solicitors LLP.