updated on 04 September 2019
I first decided I wanted to be a solicitor when I graduated from high school. The intellectual rigour of a law degree, coupled with the high-octane nature of legal work, seemed irresistible. Three months into my undergraduate law degree at UCL, I realised that I had oversimplified matters.
Stage one: research the areas of law you find interesting
A new array of choices awaited, which began with deciding which fields of law I wished to practise. This required some amount of research, but before long I concluded that it’d be hard to narrow the choices down without having practical experience in any of them. I therefore resolved to join a firm that would have a breadth of engaging practice areas.
Stage two: research firms’ training programmes
The next step was to decide what sort of training I wanted. I found the move from pre-university to university to be a big step, so I knew I could not underestimate the leap from university to the world of work. To ensure a smooth transition, I wanted a firm with an established training programme, a wealth of development resources, and a strong support network.
Stage three: interact with firms
To get a taste of any firm’s culture and to learn more about its training programme and practice areas, it is important to engage with that firm at an early stage. To establish an appropriate benchmark for comparison, it is recommended to interact with a wide range of firms. Attending first-year open days is essential, in my view, to learning how firms differ from each other, and finding out what matters to you most as a future trainee. Importantly, it also allows you to network with members of the firm, make an initial impression, and indicate an interest in future involvement with that firm.
Stage four: find the right firm culture for you through first-hand experience
Slaughter and May exceeded my expectations regarding the firm’s work areas and the quality of training it provides. Its bespoke multi-specialist approach and range of contentious and non-contentious seats meant my decision on specialty could wait until I had learnt enough to make an informed choice. With its expertise, dedication to trainee development and tradition of organic growth, I knew I would be valued as a junior member of the firm. Admittedly, many of the top City firms can offer something similar, but I chose Slaughter and May for a different, distinguishing factor – its culture.
When I attended Slaughter and May’s first year open day, it was only my second interaction with a City firm. However, it revealed that Slaughters’ emphasis on intellectual excellence, teamwork and work/life balance were genuinely ingrained into its culture. Admittedly, it was not the only firm that caught my attention at that stage and I would go on to attend a few more events over first year – including law fairs and external networking opportunities. However, Slaughters’ open day put me in a good position to secure a vacation scheme, which eventually proved crucial when deciding between training contract and pupillage offers in my second year.
It can be difficult making decisions, but you can make it easier by taking the first steps in your first year of study.
For more detail, see Slaughter and May’s LawCareers.Net profile.