Being a City lawyer: the pros and cons

The good – and not so good – aspects of the job

4 good things about being a City lawyer

  • International work. Much of your work will involve other countries, and you will get the chance to travel. If you like the idea of taking a close look at how many organisations across the world go about their business, being a City lawyer is one of the best jobs you can have.
  • The money. It's a lot - you'll be able to pay off your student loan quickly, and buying a flat and significant financial security will soon be within your reach. You'll also get private health insurance, a pension and other goodies.
  • Meeting the challenges. The work is often intellectually hard in the same way that your university work is and you'll get plenty of opportunities to use your brain on its maximum setting. It's hard in other ways too - expect to be put into situations where you'll have a level of responsibility that might scare you at the time, but that will make you feel proud afterwards.
  • Camaraderie. You will spend a significant amount of time with your colleagues in volatile and testing situations. You'll see them at their very best and worst, and form close professional relationships with them.

4 bad things about being a City lawyer

  • The hours. You will work long and unpredictable hours, though more in some departments than others. Even when you're a partner, how much work you do and when you do it will be largely dependent on decisions made by other people.
  • You can make more money elsewhere in the City. Investment banking pays much better. Working "in-house", that is, in a company or bank's legal department, also tends to pay more than working at a law firm.
  • It's hard to explain what you do. As you'll be a highly specialised legal and commercial expert, it will be difficult to sum up your job to friends and family - and it may not fit their idea of what a lawyer is or should be.
  • The burden of responsibility. The client relies on you. As their lawyer, you're there to make sure their transaction is legally valid, or that an argument made in court is correct and that the necessary documents to back it up are filed in time. This means that as a junior lawyer, you'll do a lot of double-checking and some administrative work. And the more senior you get, the more important it becomes that you never take your eye off the ball. This isn't a job where you can ever just focus on the big picture, or let something slide.