Is a career at a City law firm for you?

There’s never been a more interesting time to join the big business world of City law. Don’t for one minute imagine that you need a certain type of background. City recruiters know it’s all about how far a person can go in the future, not where they’ve already come from.

The legal services sector is undergoing plenty of change: deregulation brought about by the Legal Services Act has shaken up how services are delivered, alternative business structures are well established and mergers are continuing apace among commercial firms. The international firms in the City, meanwhile, continue to pursue business globally, adjusting their regional and client sector focus to suit the shifting economy and the multiple post-Brexit circumstances that could become reality. The past couple of years have seen yet more firms enter the Australian legal market and office openings in North Africa, Asia and the Middle East. City firms evidently understand the importance of emerging opportunities around the world and this is one of their key selling points to prospective lawyers seeking internationally-oriented, highly interesting careers.

High workload, high reward

The City law career path has enduring appeal, despite the reputation among many City firms for long hours and the other demands placed on solicitors. The career is undeniably exciting: perfect for those who like to push themselves and want to work in a 24/7 world that bridges time zones. On occasions - and reasonably often during a busy phase of the economy - a lawyer will have to deprioritise personal and social commitments in favour of their work. The rewards come in the shape of an impressive salary and other benefits, incredible career experiences and - for the right people - a great deal of job satisfaction. Many City lawyers will tell you that the biggest buzz comes from working collaboratively with really talented, motivated individuals, be they clients or other lawyers.

What City firms are looking for

The process for entering the profession is highly competitive, perhaps more so now than ever before. Yet City recruiters are crying out for applicants with the right combination of talents and attitude. The personal qualities which automatically spring to mind are an excellent academic record; a commercial mindset; an international outlook; attention to detail and ambition. Each of these traits is important, whether you lean towards transactional work or disputes. An international outlook, for example, is crucial because most of your work in a City firm will be international. English law is frequently used to govern deals that have absolutely no link to the United Kingdom, simply because companies around the world have confidence in it. Scan through the English High Court's case lists, meanwhile, and you will find litigants from almost everywhere in the world. The City's law firms are working hard to ensure it stays that way.

Even at trainee level, international placements are widely available; indeed, at some City firms they are mandatory. Opportunities regularly crop up in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, plus there are a few in the United States. Does that mean you need to be fluent in another language? Not necessarily. However, if you do speak a foreign language, an international firm is going to find this an interesting aspect of your skill set – particularly if you know some Mandarin, Arabic or Russian. That said, the language of business in most overseas offices is English, and plenty of trainees are seconded overseas without speaking the language.

On Friday 8 December 2017 the CityLawLIVE student careers conference is once again taking place in central London. Partners, associates, trainees and recruiters will be in attendance from several firms, including Baker & McKenzieCharles Russell Speechlys, Cooley (UK) LLP, Howard Kennedy, Kirkland & EllisRopes & Gray, RPC, Sidley Austin, Vinson & Elkins and Watson Farley Williams. The conference is also sponsored by Nottingham Law School, from which representatives will be available to give advice.

The event will provide up to 200 students with the kind of insight into the City law career path that could be invaluable in landing an all-important vacation scheme place in 2018 or a training contract in 2019 or beyond.

If you want to enhance your prospects and learn more about the City and what its lawyers do for clients from around the world, then this event is ideal. You might be wondering how well your academic performance will be viewed, whether your particular language skills will be of use or whether you have sufficient commercial awareness to impress. You may want to learn more about the range of legal areas in which City firms work. The conference aims to address all these issues and more. There will be opportunities for face-to-face networking with partners and other firm representatives in between the various panel discussions and workshops.

The CityLawLIVE event is aimed specifically at second-year law and final-year non-law students, but all applications will be considered. The conference website invites applications from students and graduates of all universities, provided they have achieved good grades. Broadly speaking, we will be looking for the same high level of applicant as our sponsor firms – for details on our criteria and what we're looking for, read these tips.

Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, the delegate rate for this event has been heavily subsidised. Students are asked to contribute just £29; however, no payment is due until a student accepts a formal email offer of a delegate place from CityLawLIVE. The application system will be open until midnight on Sunday 29 October 2017. We use AllHires and as such you may wish to store your academic grades in its MyLocker tool for future ease of transfer to firms' vacation scheme and training contract application forms.

Videos from the last five years’ conferences are available on our YouTube channel and you can follow CityLawLIVE on Twitter for our daily commercial awareness news feed.

If reading the above has made you more certain than ever that the City is where you want to be, and you have the excellent grades and work experience to back it up, apply now and you may find yourself one step closer to the dream.

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