Getting to Know a firm

Getting to Know a firm

This month, our experts looked at how to figure out which firm is your best match, how to get and keep in touch with it, and how to decide whether you might want to apply. Check out what they had to say below.

"It can be hard to differentiate between firms, especially as so much of the graduate recruitment marketing material can appear to be very similar.

It's crucial you go beyond these to gain a full understanding of each firm. Use their corporate site for information about their deal work and also trade publications and directories like The Lex 100 (very useful for comparing firms).

Nothing beats actually meeting a firm though - this will give you a real insight into their work and culture, and what they expect from their trainees, so make sure you're aware of when they'll be visiting your university and / or any open days you can apply for.

Firms will expect you to know what they've been working on (and why this interests you), who their main competitors are, and what differentiates them from these competitors so research should be pretty in-depth."

"When researching law firms, candidates should use a range of sources including: firm websites, social media channels, legal and business press and meeting representatives on campus. Representatives may include future and current trainees, associates and partners, as well as graduate recruitment.

Some firms also employ students as campus reps who can provide useful information. However, there really is no better way to find out about a firm than meeting current employees, so sign up for networking opportunities and apply for open days and vacation schemes. Your research needs to be thorough; we expect candidates to have some knowledge of Norton Rose Fulbright's strategy, global expansion and industry sector focus. You can't simply re-hash what we say on our website though!

We like candidates to think about our business and our clients independently, so use a variety of sources to inform your views before you apply or attend an interview."

"Although open evenings give you the opportunity to visit the office, most firms will also attend events across the country each Autumn, from University law fairs to presentation evenings, and we would suggest you find out where your chosen firms will be visiting and make the effort to go and say hello!

Speaking to recruiters and trainees at events will give you something to talk about on your application form when you explain your motivation for applying and, if you make a good impression, will help your application stand out. If you’re successful in gaining a vacation scheme place, it will help you to feel more comfortable and settle in quicker if there are a few friendly faces you recognise.

You will also notice that many firms are starting to dip their toes into social media such as Twitter, and this is a great way to interact with recruiters and trainees if your location makes it difficult to meet in person.

Having any form of engagement with a firm before you apply means you can start understanding the personality of the firm, which is incredibly important when deciding whether it's a place you could see yourself developing a rewarding career."

"The most important factor to take into account is whether the firm can deliver your ambitions. For example, do their largest and most prestigious practice areas match your own areas of interest? It's worth ensuring that the firm is investing in the growth of these areas since it is more likely there will be opportunities to qualify in an area you're really interested in. Check how much input you'll have into the departments (seats) that you see. It's no good joining a firm with a key practice area of interest if you won't have a say over whether you experience it.

Also think about the kind of clients and deals they work on; are they one of the top or mid-tier firms who work on high-value international transactions for global companies? What kind of exposure would you have to high level work and clients as a trainee with that firm?

Finally, consider where they're based and where they have other offices. Are there opportunities to work in any of the other offices? International firms will expect you to have a global outlook and be open to working overseas at some point in your career."

"It is important to ensure that you are making an informed decision when choosing where to train, and the only way of doing this is to research the market thoroughly. Part of finding the right firm is about personal fit, so when choosing where to train you will need to assess your own motivations and interests, rather than simply applying to the same firms as your classmates and friends.

When selecting a firm to apply to, try to be flexible on what practice areas you are interested in, unless you are certain that there is a particular area you are drawn to. It is also important to consider what else you are looking for in a firm (whether it is international, full-service, particular sectors etc.). Once you have put together a shortlist of firms that you are interested in, try to attend one of each firm's open days. These are an ideal opportunity to see the firm in practice, to meet people from the firm to understand first-hand what they enjoy about the firm, and to assess the firm's culture."