Researching law firms

Before applying for a vacation scheme or training contract at a firm, you need to do some research. This is important for two reasons:

  • Your application will most likely be rejected if recruiters can see that you haven’t engaged with or found anything out about the firm.
  • Research will help you to decide whether a firm could be for you, or whether you should apply somewhere else.

We suggest using this set of questions (originally from The University of Law) as a how-to guide to researching a potential employer.

A lot of this information can be found on the LawCareers.Net directory pages – just search for the firm name.

Here’s the list of questions – some answers may require more digging than others. Having done one firm, you can roll this out for all those firms that you are targeting.

Basic details

  • Name of firm
  • Age of firm
  • Number of partners
  • Location(s)
  • Number of offices
  • Category (eg, corporate, national or high street)
  • Main practice areas
  • Deadline for applications

Recent cases/deals

  • Identify some recent cases/deals.
  • What do these cases say about the firm/organisation?
  • What did the organisation do?
  • Who were their opponents?

Place in the profession

Who are their competitors (eg, in practice areas or location)?
Who are their main clients?
What is the ethos or culture of the organisation?
Does it have a mission statement or guiding principle?
What is the organisation’s reputation and on what is this based?
Has anything happened to the organisation recently (eg, merged or become an ABS)?
Are there likely to be any major changes soon (eg, looking to merge)?

The firm and you

  • What are your career prospects at the organisation?
  • What are the retention rates?
  • Where could you go if you decided to move on after qualification?
  • Have you met any employees of the organisation?
  • Have you asked anyone else in the legal profession their view of the organisation?

We hope this is a useful place to start. To perform well during the application process (and particularly at interview) you need to understand what makes the firm tick. Armed with information, you can also then work out what you don’t know and still need to find out, and ask some probing questions of the recruiters and lawyers you speak to.