The Student Column: 10 top tips on how to research the legal market

Sivaloganathan Kumaran completed a Masters in Engineering at Durham and undertook his GDL and LPC at BPP Law School. Sivaloganathan attended a Bristows Science & Engineering Open Day in April 2015 and subsequently successfully applied for a training contract with the firm, which began in September 2017. Here, he reflects on his experiences and shares ten pieces of advice on researching the legal market.

1) Have a structure

Knowing where to begin can be daunting. With so many firms to research a useful start can be to group them into lists; categorised by size, location or even practice areas that pique your interest. Expanding these lists as you research more widely is a great way of building awareness, especially as a means of comparing key players in different parts of the legal market.

2) The legal press

Armed with a particular practice area or firm in mind, consuming the relevant legal press is the logical next step. The Lex 100’s firm profiles and Chambers Student’s Bonus tab provide useful overviews, while Legal Cheek’s Morning round-up and The Lawyer serve up key current affairs in a palatable format.

3) Look out for language

When researching a particular law firm in depth, one of the best resources can be that firm’s website or recruitment booklet. Often they will showcase their key deals, historical trends and recent developments. Most importantly, pay attention to the core values adhered to and the language they use to describe themselves (e.g. if a firm describes itself as global, what sets it apart from other firms with an international presence?).

4) Go prepared to law fairs

Law fairs can be vast, with plenty of faces, gimmicks and freebees dotted about. Time is of the essence, so for the sake of efficiency know which firms are attending beforehand and go armed with specific questions. This pays off far better than a scatter-gun approach; law fairs present a real opportunity to gather personal experiences so that you can gauge what characteristics matter to each individual firm.

5) Societies and networking events

Active membership of a society is another great opportunity to build experience and form lasting impressions. University law societies often host talks, skills sessions and the occasional ball which, apart from being good fun, will allow you to build more meaningful relationships with legal employers. Getting involved in the organisation of events is also a great way to build your networking skills.

6) Open days

Apply early to attend open days as they can really help you distinguish firms from one another when it comes to applications, and you from the other candidates during selection. In contrast to law fairs and networking events which provide an opportunity to get to know a firm’s employees, open days provide an insider’s view on the work life and deals a firm conducts.

7) Twitter

Social media in general can be useful, but twitter stands out for its ability to give a succinct roundup of a law firm’s activity. As well as a firm’s main twitter account look out for its graduate recruitment one as this can be particularly helpful for providing application tips.

8) Google Alerts

A useful means of bringing legal news to you, Google Alerts updates you every time new results emerge on your requested search terms which should include the firms you want to stay in the loop with. Though a word of advice: it can be handy to divert these searches to a separate email account or inbox folder, as multiple search terms quickly build up clutter!

9) Discuss

Staying motivated to understand the legal market is greatly helped by people who are striving towards the same goal. Having someone to bounce ideas off, flag up key issues and even attend events with can help to keep you interested.

10) Be consistent

Even the most interesting aspects of research can appear dull after a while. Set aside some time each week to habitually build your knowledge of the legal market. Though procrastination has its upsides too!