Careers clinic: law

Solving your job-related problems - here we focus on the legal industry

A nice cup of...

Q. What does "coco" mean in a law firm context?

Ross, University of Bath

A.**Sadly not a chocolatey beverage, but a practice area. "Coco" stands for corporate/commercial, that is, everything to do with how companies are set up and function legally. The corporate side of things will tend to involve working for clients involved in merger and acquisition deals or those who are preparing to list their shares for sale publicly on an exchange. Commercial work is all about assisting clients with the legal aspects of the day to day running of their business, particularly the contracts they enter into with other parties. Lawyers might specialise in one side or the other, or do both kinds of work.


Q. I know I want to work for a big City law firm, but haven't got time to apply to them all. However, when I look at their websites they all seem the same to me, so how can I decide which ones to go for?

Kellie, University of Edinburgh

A. You're right to want to focus on a small group of firms - a handful of well-researched and targeted applications is much more likely to result in a training contract offer than a large number of rushed ones. But I think you're going wrong by just looking at firms' websites to find out which one might suit you. There are other sources out there which will help you get a better sense of how City firms measure up against each other - and there are some big differences between them. Try looking at articles in the legal press, profiles and rankings in guides to the legal profession, and of course The Gateway - you'll find plenty of articles about specific firms in the law section of our website And there's no substitute for talking to people who work in the legal profession at careers events.

Hear today

Q. I made several training contract applications a few weeks ago, but haven't heard back from some of the firms yet. Should I assume they've rejected my application?

Obioma, University of Oxford

A. Don't worry Obioma! Law firms are generally polite institutions, so they'll usually at least send you an email if they decide they don't want to take your application forward. So if you haven't heard anything from a firm, it's more likely they're still ploughing through the thousands of training contract applications they're likely to have received before finally deciding who they want to interview. So sit tight and see what happens, or you could always give graduate recruitment at each firm a call or email - as long as you're polite, we're sure they'll be happy to update you and will see your interest as a sign you're keen to work for them.


Q. I did a vacation scheme at a City law firm recently and think I made a bit of a slip-up. Some of the other students and I had a late night out after lots of free drinks at a networking event the firm put on for us, and I ended up dozing off in a presentation by a partner the next day. Have I ruined my chances of getting a training contract there?

Patrizia, Durham University

**A**. Plenty of other vacation scheme students, and fully qualified lawyers, have got carried away when "networking", so don't feel too bad, Patrizia. But it's fair to say you won't have made a great impression on that partner at the presentation the next day. Lawyers are fastidious folk, and tend to see a slippage of standards in one area as a sign you can't be completely relied on in others. But I'm sure you made a good impression in many ways during the programme, so you may find this one incident doesn't hamper your chances. The next time you're at a professional social event, though remember to take the drinks a bit more slowly, even if you don't have to pay for them!

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