Advice

I’ve been offered a training contract at a mega-paying US outfit, but my heart is still set on another firm

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I’d really appreciate readers’ advice on this

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one aspiring solicitor is caught between his head and his heart.

Since completing an informal placement at a top English firm (firm A) I went into my final year intending to work there and only there. I remain in regular contact with the firm and honestly believe I had/have a strong chance of getting an interview there. I applied for a TC in my third year and was invited to do a critical thinking test.

Just before applying to firm A, I applied to firm B, a top American firm. I had no intention of working there, I just wanted to go through the application process — a sort of ‘dry run’ before applying to firm A, and had heard the American application processes were the most rigorous.

However, I failed the critical thinking test to firm A, and was offered the place at American firm B. I failed the test frankly due to idiocy in not practicing it enough beforehand, which I can only put down to arrogance and immaturity at the time. I had spent a lot of time practicing a different but similar style of test, and thought that would be enough.

My current situation is therefore as follows: I have an offer from a top American firm, which pays accordingly. I honestly believe if I submitted my application to firm A on the day the window opens (around October time), I will be invited for an interview, and have been told as such. However, I have to give my answer to firm B’s contract this month (September). The money paid by firm B is just too much to turn down, in order to do a blind leap of faith into the unknown in the hope of possibly getting a chance at firm A.

My question is therefore this, if I accept firm B’s offer, and am subsequently offered a place at firm A and accept this, what are the probable consequences? Has anybody got an anecdote of anyone doing something similar? I appreciate help in advance.

If you have a career conundrum, email us with it to careers@legalcheek.com.

49 Comments

Not an Idiot

Take the sure thing. Imagine turning it down and getting rejected from Firm A. Not worth the risk IMO.

Anonymous

TAKE

THE

MONEY

NOW

Anonymous

It’s like saying “this girl wants to bang me but I’ve got my heart set on another one.”

The correct answer to that being, get on with banging the first girl until such a time as the second one wants to bang you.

Anonymous

If your heart is REALLY set on the other firm I suggest you hold tight. You’re receiving offers from ‘top US’ firms so I would guess your CV is fairly strong anyway. And reading between the lines (correct me if I am wrong) it sounds like the other firm (A) has basically said there’s an informal offer on the table already.

Anonymous

REACH!!!

S Club 7

🎼 For the stars…

Anonymous

Depends on who firm A is…

DLA = No

Slaughters = Yes

Anonymous

Agreed. I’m not sure Disability Living Allowance would compete with a mega-firm…

Anonymous

Rumbled – he used the word ‘top’! Must be an inside LC job..

TC hopeful

Omg, a TC is a TC they are bloody hard to get. I am still applying and applying and applying. Just take the TC and be thankful!!

Anonymous

What he/she said. Get over yourself and take the damn opportunity – and count yourself lucky considering the ridiculous supply/demand skew there is for people in the professions..

Anonymous

You’ve failed the critical reasoning test by even asking this question. Therefore reject both to reflect this.

Anonymous

Also consider self exile, you cretin.

Anonymous

Try this.

Do not join either firm. Working in corporate law will suck the joy and humanity from you and leave you an empty husk of a person. Because you will practice law that contains virtually no human emotion or values at all you will become very, very boring and dead behind the eyes. People – even other lawyers – will edge away from you at social events if you tell them what you do. Over time you will become a social leper unless you invent a fictitious cover story, learn it well and stick to it. Living this dual existence is likely to make you mentally ill.

In the long -term you will have no friends and probably no marriage. You will however have a vulgar house (with leaded windows) in the home counties and on retirement you will receive a framed picture and a vote of thanks from the partners.

Anonymous

Very strong advice here. Do anything else – sell organic cupcakes, get into painting, design luxury yachts. Anything.

Anonymous

You sound like a twat!

Tommy

Takes one to know one, fucko.

US Associate

A bird in the hand in worth two in the bush.

You still have to go through the interview process in Firm A which is a lot more difficult than the critical thinking test that you have already failed (speaking from experience). Even if you do get by the critical thinking test there’s further tests and assessments throughout the recruitment process and if Firm A is a Magic Circle firm, you still have to convince the partners interviewing you on the day that you’re the right one for the job.

I’m guessing if it is a MC firm then it is not Slaughter and May as they do not have a pre-interview critical thinking test. So on that basis, it’s probably one of the other MC firms. In that case they are most likely very similar to the top American firm, Firm B, and rated similarly across they’re practice areas. So take Firm B offer. The prestige offered by Firm A is worth nothing to be honest. You’re risking a lot by turning B down and ultimately it might be the wrong decision.

I think that the SRA rules state you can’t accept two offers. Assuming you have time to kill this year you could however, if you’re fixed on Firm A, keep the Firm B offer in your back pocket and apply again this year to Firm A. You can always withdraw your acceptance to Firm B before you accept A’s offer if you get one.

Both firms are going to be hard to work for so ultimately the allure of A has to be substantial to outweigh the money and quality of work in B.

Libeturd Leftie

^^^^ This is strong prudent advice. So many people get caught up with perceived ethos of firms chambers and are in for a shock when they actually experience said firm/chambers.

IMHO accept firm A complete your TC and then if it is your desire to then move, move. At the very least you will (hopefully) have a substantial wad of cash in the bank, tangible and transferrable skills, a greater insight regarding the marketplace and a firmer grip on our career goals.

Anonymous

There are no SRA rules anymore – they dropped out of the code in 2015.

Firms are not sticking to the code either (only supported by the Law Society, AGCAS and AGR) so candidates don’t need to either really. Reneging an offer when you have another is becoming more common, and is no different to how the investment banks have to deal with recruitment/reneges.

Anonymous

Take the firm offer. Law firms love to butter people up but until they have coughed out a contract you just can’t trust them. Also they are all pretty similar. Record your time. Get paid a fraction. Spend 90% of your time traversing office politics 10% of your time doing any advisory work.

LegalRec

You cannot accept two offers but you can pull out of one upon receiving an offer. Circumstances change.

Regrets

Take the firm B offer. You don’t have to stay there forever, you’ll get good money while you are there and it looks good on your CV. If you turn it down then fail to get an offer at firm A and end up at a less renowned firm you will regret it.

I’m Australian so no doubt the market is different but I turned down an offer from a top tier and took some warped moral high ground to accept an offer at a boutique practice that later imploded. I’ve always regretted it. Even if I’d only stuck it out for 2 or 3 years it would have been worth it to have it on my CV.

Anonymous

Lather her up, get that TC secured. Make your mark tiger, run like the stallion you are. Don’t be afraid to get a bid fierce. Slap on your best garms.

Anonymous

Is firm b one that you would be able to survive 2 years at? Do some research to figure out your personal answer to that. If yes, accept the tc but also apply the other firm, and then if firm a offer you a tc you can tell firm b you’ve changed your mind (bad practice, but since the sra rules no longer apply it’s fine to do so). If no, then don’t accept. Others have said above that it’s difficult to get a tc, let alone a high paying one, which is very true, but if two years there is going to make you miserable/not be able to make it through the two years, it’s not worth accepting it. If you’ve got an offer from firm b, the likelihood is that several other firms are also possible for you, so don’t take a job you will hate, even though the security is obviously tempting.

OP

That’s now the plan, thank you. Of course I could stick it out at B, I’m very fortunate to have got such an amazing offer, but I’ve had placements at both A and B and I know I felt a lot more part of Firm A. That being said, I enjoyed my time at Firm B too, so if Firm A doesn’t materialise, I’m still in a good position

Anonymous

If you’re really asking this question despite the obvious answer and not just looking for an ego boost, you really don’t deserve the TC tbh

Anonymous

You’re not even trying to obscure the fact that you’re writing these now.

Anonymous

I wrote something to this end initially and it appears to have been deleted. This is just click bait, not a real career dilemma.

Anonymous

Fake question again posed by LC on a slow news day.

Anonymous

Go for it !! not everyone gets a chance to work in a place like Firm B and if you don’t like it there you will get good experience. You will thus be able to enhance your CV and gain a taste of what it’s like. You can always leave and apply for Firm A. It might in fact increase your chances of getting into Firm A. Don’t become fixated on it you never know you actually might really like Firm B.

MC mid level associate

It depends upon the firm itself (and into which practice area you wish to qualify) rather than the location of its HQ. In your situation, I would take the role at the US firm because it is a sure bet. Half the battle in law is getting some experience besides your name so you can make a lateral move as an associate down the track.

All of the above is provided that you have done your due diligence on the firm and its strengths/weaknesses. Your experience at firms like Kirkland or Sullivan & Cromwell or Reed Smith would be completely different. US firms are doing well in areas like M&A/Private Equity/Banking, but not so much in litigation, so its worth also considering what you want to do in advance.

Anonymous

What the actual F****?! People are dying to find any TC and wusses like you have the money/heart dilemma….Get a life, seriously!

Peter

I refer to the post @11:37am. Quit before you get sucked in. Did you like playing Sim City as a child? Consider getting into town planning maybe.

You have been warned

In response to – “My question is therefore this, if I accept firm B’s offer, and am subsequently offered a place at firm A and accept this, what are the probable consequences? Has anybody got an anecdote of anyone doing something similar?”…

A friend was in a very similar position. He accepted an offer from “Firm D”, but he had his poor little cotton socks set on “Firm C”. Firm C really schmoozed him over a number of years. He was their campus brand ambassador. Even at university he would carry his Firm C branded golf umbrella round with such pride. The timings fell in a similar way and he accepted the offer from Firm D. It all went a bit pear shaped from there.

Deciding to apply for Firm C on the sly, he did not tell them that he had accepted an offer from Firm D. As such, he continued his various ties with Firm C and the umbrellas kept flowing. Thankfully for my friend Firm D did not have a huge UK presence so he was at little risk of being found out. He was always on edge though, like somebody on a train who hasn’t purchased a ticket.

Then it got interesting. It turns out my mischievous friend has in fact been sleeping with one of the partners at Firm C. After a few too many wines he let his secret slip. She was furious to have been lied to in such a way. Really furious. She kicked him out and did not answer any of her texts or calls. Feeling sorry for himself he looked her up online and located a social media profile of hers, under a slightly different name perhaps for privacy reasons.

Having viewed the profile it was clear that the partner at Firm C has a husband, but she had told my friend that she was single. Now, furious at also having been lied to, my friend decided to get his own back. It should be noted that my friend’s parents split up when he was 12 after his mother had an affair with the local milkman, so this really hit a sore spot. He decided to type up a long message and send this to the husband, to explain the whole story.

After a few drams of whisky and redrafts of the message he hit send. It was now nearly 3am so he collapsed in bed feeling a great sense of revenge with a degree of anticipation for the response in the morning. He should have waited and done some checks. In a horrendous turn of events it turned out the husband of the partner at Firm C is a partner at Firm D.

Things really blew up. The three of them were all of sudden completely at war with each other. My friend had not only severely jeopardised his chances with Firm C, he had got with the wife of a partner at Firm D and potentially ruined their marriage. He was upset, very worried and when I met him for a beer at the pub he actually cried. I had never seen my friend like this. I explained it was not his fault and that it was all a string of unfortunate events that he could not have foreseen. He didn’t listen.

My friend told Firm D that he had made a mistake and informed them that he no longer wishes to commence his training with the firm. He also felt too shamed to apply to Firm C, stepped down as campus brand ambassador and became somewhat of a recluse for a month or two. He got his head down and applied for other firms similar to Firm C and resurfaced socially a couple of months later.

The longer my friend went on applying to firms, the more rejections he got. He became paranoid that partners across City firms had heard about what happened and that he was considered to be a poisoned chalice. He had similar problems with relationships and was now lucky to meet a girl behind the counter at a chip shop, a big contrast to the beautiful women he somehow always used to be able to attract.

This was 3 years ago. My friend has struggled for work of any kind and has spent all his life savings, most on alcohol and drugs (they don’t work, they just make it worse). He used to rent a reasonably nice place in Angel and now he flat shares in a six bed down in Colliers Wood with some Greek and Italian restaurant workers. He regularly gets involved in arguments on social media with anybody with differing political views. He seems to be sharing a lot of content about conspiracy theories to do with the moon landing, Princess Diana’s death and the moon landing. The last time I saw him I went to his house to watch a football game and in the first half he ate a whole 400 gram block of cheddar cheese.

My friend has ruined himself by doing what he did. I suppose it is just the story of one man, but you have been warned.

Larry

Haha, that is a big price to pay just to get your baps buttered! The guy does sound like a bit of a melt though. He felt bad so just ran away from it all? Take those US$ riches and make it rain 100s over the women that flock to your salary. Come on dude!

T L D R

tl;dr version:

– Guy has offer from US Firm D, wanted TC at UK Firm C (he was campus ambassador)
– Guy accepted at Firm D, still planned to apply to Firm C
– Guy told partner at Firm C what he was doing, she got mad and ignored him
– Guy stalked partner and found her husband online and sent a message telling all
– Turns out her husband is a partner at Firm D
– Guy goes funny and cuts ties with both firms and applies elsewhere.
– Guy is still applying years later and is going down a very slippery slope in life.

Anonymous

This should have been the LC story!!!! Amazing story telling skills.

‘like somebody on a train who hasn’t purchased a ticket’.

A+

LegalReccy

I would take the offer with Firm B, as that is on the table. Best to make sure you are secure, as there is no telling what will happen if you turn that down in favour of Firm A and they subsequently don’t offer.
There are no consequences, as such, with turning down the offer from Firm B further down the line if you do get another offer that you would rather take. At a more experienced level you may face the disadvantage of ruining your relationship with that firm, but I don’t expect this extends to trainees.
In summary, take the Firm B offer as a safety net and continue with Firm A if you wish. Who knows, by the end of the application process with Firm A your opinion of them might change some what.

Anonymous

Someone with a TC offer from an American firm must be smart, confident etc etc
Why on earth would they ask a dumb ass question on LC?
I think this is all fake as it’s a slow news day for LC.

-If I’m wrong, take the damn TC.

Cockney Geezer

More fake click bait for LC mugs.

Anonymous

When applying for trying contracts my heart was set on mid-tier UK firms, but due to the timings I ended up with offers from two US firms on the table and little prospect of hearing back from the UK firms before I had to give a response.

In the end I did my two years at the US firm, didn’t like it and hated the total absense of work/life balance, so rang a recruiter and managed to get a qualification offer at a mid-tier UK firm. I’m now much happier, have had the experience of US firms to know that for me money alone cannot make up for the life you have to lead at these firms, and would never go back.

Go to the US firm and leave if you don’t like it at the end of the TC. At that point you haven’t grown accustomed to the salary or taken out a massive mortgage, so you can still easily get out.

LegalReccy

This is a very good point. Also I have found a lot of firms would rather take on Lawyers who have trained at a leading UK firm over those who trained at a US firm. The training is a lot better at UK firms; their US counterparts often lack the same level of resources and support and adopt a more ‘sink or swim’ approach. Better to get good training at a UK firm, and switch for the big money later.

OP

LegalReccy, this was my take on the matter too. I don’t want to stay at a city firm beyond 5 years PQE, so want as good a platform and training as possible – even if it’s just the name on the CV. If a one or two year stint at a top paying US Firm ends up being my exit plan, qualifying and working at Firm A will undoubtedly offer that opportunity to do so (albeit not with Firm B)

OP

There were a lot more constructive responses to this than I expected, so I appreciate that. To those criticising the use of LC as a forum to platform such a question – it’s not exactly a question I feel comfortable emailing the contacts I’ve made over the last couple of years. As has been pointed out, the legal profession is a small world.

I’ve decided to accept the TC from the US firm. It’s pretty clear to do otherwise would have been stupid. I still intend on applying to firm A, and walking on the (now signed) contract with firm B should I get offer the TC from A. However my worry is that with Firm B being a US firm with a much, much smaller intake, they maybe wouldn’t let the matter go so easily – are there any possible risks on my career other than just ticking off a few GR partners? Can Firm B really do anything about it?

Anonymous

No, nothing they can do about it OP.

Kam

Accept firm B and leave if you can if and when firm A gives you an offer.
If you can’t leave at that point then stay at firm B, and try to join A at some point in the future.

Anonymous

Accept Firm B.
Train there.
If it’s a major US firm you will possibly be able to join firm A on qualification. Don’t burn bridges, mess people around or upset anyone too much. It’s a small world. Networks/contacts are important.

Anonymous

Take the offer from the US firm. A city TC will be a painful grind either way so take the cash. Don’t even apply to firm A. Maybe look to going there when you qualify. If you can bear dropping down from the utterly ludicrous £100k+ firm B will offer if they want to keep you.

The only caveat to this would come if there was a significant difference between the two firms’ quality of work/training, especially if you were looking to qualify into a specialist area where firm B has a poor reputation. But given that most qualifying into specialist areas know next to nothing about them when at uni, take your own preference with a pinch of salt here. E.g. I know plenty who found Land Law tedious as undergraduates but ended up finding commercial Property Litigation fascinating. I didn’t even bother to take EU Law when it was an option (I’m so old it wasn’t compulsory!) but then have had over 20 years specialising in it.

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