Many of you will be making applications over the course of the next few weeks for vacation schemes and first year schemes in very large City firms. These firms offer great pay, financial support for the LPC, international secondments, very high value transaction work and roles in them are perceived as really prestigious, but, is the life style really for you?
Is it as good as it sounds?
City legal work isn’t for everyone. Believe it or not there’s a downside. Everyone knows you have to work hard, but have you really thought what that can mean? When you cancel holidays and family get togethers and are in the office late night after night, will that be ok for you? What about the work? Did you study law to help people, to make a difference to society? That won’t be the day job in the City. Does it really matter where in the world you are if you are always in an air conditioned office?
But no other firms fund the LPC?
I hear this a lot, and it isn’t true. Many firms outside the City “elite” both pay the fees for the LPC and provide money for subsistence. That’s certainly true of a raft of major national firms which offer high value work, sometimes based outside London. Great if the provinces is where you want to be. Even some much smaller firms are prepared to support financially with the cost of the LPC, sometimes on the basis that you do this over two years and work alongside your studies. The part time study route can make self-funding of the course a realistic possibility if you cannot secure funding too.
Only city work is intellectually challenging?
This isn’t right either, many different areas of legal work can be fascinating, challenging and rewarding. What’s right for you depends on the kind of law which interests you and the sort of activity which appeals to you. Do you want to be involved in interpreting difficult law or might you prefer to be negotiating complex financial arrangements or litigation settlements? Do you want to structure finances to minimise taxation or perhaps analyse medical records? What about spending time working one to one with clients or would you prefer to spend your time poring over documents in your office or in meetings? It’s worth really spending time thinking about your motivations and interests.
I want the money and prestige
Okay, the money is going to be best in the City, probably in a US firm, but the hours you’ll work and the cost of living in the City will eat into those earnings. You’ll end up paying a lot for your accommodation, your entertainment and on little “essentials” (like shirt ironing) which will make your life easier. When you take all this into account you might not be that much better off than the person working in a regional centre.
Prestige is an interesting idea. Will you feel more proud of yourself working in a City firm where, within the City community you are unknown or working in a small town where the traditional respect accorded to the local solicitor attaches to you?
So what is the best?
There is no objective “best”. The firm which is best for you is the one which makes you happiest. Don’t make assumptions about which this will be without at least thinking about yourself and your motivation.