Law in the City: the facts and the fiction

Jack Collins, Managing Editor of law careers website AllAboutCareers, tells you the truth about working at a City law firm

In order to secure a training contract with a top City law firm, you need to study at Oxford or Cambridge.

FICTION

Understandably, City law firms want to hire the best talent. Consequently, plenty of Oxbridge graduates do end up working for City firms. However, every City firm also hires talented graduates from a wide range of universities across the UK. Having a strong academic background is important when applying for training contracts, but that doesn't mean you have to have attended Oxford, Cambridge, or any of the other Russell Group universities to get in. Furthermore, candidates for training contracts are not only assessed on their academics, but also judged on their skills, motivation, commercial awareness, and on what they can bring to the firm.

Every solicitor who works in a City law firm is a white male.

FICTION

Over the past decade or so, gender balance and ethnic diversity in City law firms have improved massively. In this day and age, the common stereotype that all lawyers are white males couldn't be further from the truth. According to the Law Society, a huge 61.7 per cent of new trainees in the year ending 31 July 2010 were female, and 19.9 per cent of the trainees who chose to disclose their ethnicity were from ethnic minority groups.

Jobs with City law firms are only for people who are �well-connected".

FICTION

In a recent study by AllAboutLaw.co.uk, a whopping 79 per cent of law students who took part in an online survey were convinced that training contracts for City law firms were primarily awarded to candidates with �family connections" (or similar advantages). This is certainly not the case. Every candidate is judged on their individual merits. Understandably, the battle to get a training contract is incredibly competitive at the moment. But if you have the right skills, the right attitude and the ability to impress on your application form and in your interview, you will have the same chances as everybody else.

Work will completely dominate your life.

FICTION

You may have heard horror stories about solicitors basically living in their office, staying up all night, drinking coffee and meticulously going over documents while the rest of the UK is sleeping. It's true that many City firms now have beds on their premises in case their employees need to pull a late one and many solicitors might have to burn the midnight oil when important deals are happening and deadlines are looming. However, it's not the case that your professional life will take over completely and your social life will be hidden away in a box under the stairs until you've retired.

In fact, many solicitors in City law firms enjoy a healthy work-life balance. According to the Law Society's 2010 Solicitor's Omnibus survey, 73 per cent of solicitors in 2010 were offered flexible working arrangements by their firm, 10 per cent of solicitors were working part-time, and only 27 per cent felt that their work-life balance had deteriorated over the past 12 months.

As a trainee with a City law firm, you will earn an excellent starting salary.

FACT

You've probably heard that trainee solicitors in City law firms get incredibly large paychecks from day one. And to be honest, that's pretty accurate. Of course, it depends on your opinion of what constitutes a large paycheck, but I think the average starting salary for a trainee in a City law firm tells its own story. How does �36,500 sound? Not bad, eh?

Your life as a solicitor in a City law firm will resemble that of a character in a John Grisham novel.

100% FICTION

Ok, so you might have read The Firm, The Associate and The Partner and enjoyed each gripping account of the legal world. However, rest assured, if you do become a solicitor with a City law firm, it's highly unlikely that you will be fraternising with the FBI on a regular basis. And you probably won't be risking your life at every single turn. We just thought you'd like to know.

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