Can I move to a City law firm once I’ve done a training contract at an investment bank?

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In-house qualifier seeks to move into private practice

Image credit: ‘Confused Nick Young’ meme

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one future trainee mulls the next step in his career.

“I’ve been working for an investment bank for quite a while now and have been offered a training contract to start in a year or so. Obviously I would be a fool to pass this offer up, however I do not see myself with said bank for the entirety of my career. I’d really like to jump to a City firm rather than being stuck in one niche area of law. After that, who knows? I may want to return to the bank, but I’d still like to experience a City firm and different areas of law. My question is how easy it would be for me to move to a City firm after qualifying in-house at an investment bank, where the majority of my training will likely be focused on one area of law. It’s worth mentioning I have relatively average academics from A-level through to the LPC (nothing consistently amazing, but not rubbish either). Are academics still important at NQ level?”

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Depends how much of a massive City lad you are.


Lor Harley

Don’t worry about your academics: just make them up and give yourself the highest grades wherever relevant. I have always followed that maxim and it has never domne me any harm!


Harley Davidson

Come back Lord Harley, all is forgiven. You are the life blood of LC



The answer will entirely depend on the department joined. If, working in house you lack litigation experience then that may present a problem later on in joining a litigation based department. On the other hand working in house may present good transactional and regulatory experience which could easily be applied in a tranasctional setting (e.g. regulation, project finance etc)


Legna & Lived

Go for it Bobby. Train, qualify and then try . The world is your Oyster .

But whatever you do, dont give up



With average academics? Too many enablers on here – give up old sport, there’s no chance for you in city law.


Legna & Lived

I can tell that you are the one that disliked my comment, but it is okay. What is not okay is you being another pessimistic c**t. We don’t need people like you putting others down from an career or their goals. You could have been realistic and said that law is a profession that demands high academic/intellectual ability. Instead you call him old and tell him/her to give up altogether. Not Cool Douch*. Lets not forget that the majority of the lawyers (older) in top firms just got in because they went to a good school with no work experience and had good okay grades. But that was a different time.

To all those people telling to give up on their goals because of their grades or uni, Go choke on a D. I am sick of this.



Oh gosh – I’m so inspired by your Churchillian, rallying, grandiose* call-to-arms. I will give up my realist ways forever and join you atop the shimmering unicorn to the fantasy world you and your undoubtedly wide-eyed muppet friends inhabit.

*read: shockingly poor, illiterate gumpf.


s.32 Salmon Act 1986

“Lets not forget that the majority of the lawyers (older) in top firms just got in because they went to a good school with no work experience and had good okay grades.”

Wow. It’s depressing when the most outrageous thing about this comment is not the fact that it’s hideously biased against people for no better reason than the fact that they are richer and more successful than the author. The most outrageous thing about this comment is how stupid it is.

Look, if all the older lawyers in the top firms got there with okay grades, then what happened to their peers who had really stellar grades? Lord knows they aren’t running the judiciary…



Academics, unless completely rubbish, hardly matter once you are at NQ level. As long as he has a 2:1 I don’t see the issue considering he would have been in work for at least two years.


Knackered associate

Stay in-house, trust me.



Your training contract/experience at an investment bank should easily mitigate any sub-par a-levels. You will be fine.


All I want for Christmas this year is a TC

Bloody show off



Definitely take the in-house training contract.

If you have as you say ‘average’ grades, you will have a much better chance of getting into a City firm post-qualification than you will at gaining a training contract at a City firm.

Competition for City firm training contracts is fierce and the firm’s will have a strong pool of candidates to choose from who have exceptional grades.

Train in-house, as you will be sent on a secondment to private practice during your training anyway. Then you can compare and see what works for you.

Good luck!



At my firm an in-house trainee who was seconded to us sufficiently impressed that after they qualified they ended up moving from in-house to my firm. So it’s not undoable to move into private practice particularly if you do a private practice secondment.



This is good advice. If you are good then once you qualify your grades really don’t matter that much. The questions for laterals are about technical ability and what you can bring to the team as well as what you’ve done in your job to date. There’s several lawyers at my MC who have moved here after an in house training contract. In regulatory teams especially, the in house experience is highly valuable.



Since you’ve been offered a TC in-house and haven’t begun yet, make it clear to HR and your team(s) that you would like to do varied seat rotations across the bank (Debt Finance, Capital Markets, Commercial and a Private Practice secondment, for example) so that you get the full experience across different areas.

Make contacts with the panel law firm that you bank retains, make connections and see whether you could move across once you qualify.

Not that I have personal experience but I would use the opportunity to gain a wide range of skills and knowledge of the bank and see whether you can gain a NQ position once you qualify. Grades at that point won’t be the be all and end all. Its knowledge, experience and personality.


LL and P

This is really good advice. The only thing I would add is that contacts at NQ level won’t help you get a job. Stay at your bank post qualification for 1 year and then move. It will be very easy to make that move at that point, and firms will be lining up for your skills set and experience. Obviously if your A-levels and degree fall below the minimum, certain firms won’t look twice at you. However a lot of City firm still will consider you, particularly as you have outstanding experience.

So in summary, take the TC in-house, focus on getting good training and spending 6 months in private practice, take responsibility for your CPD and additional training (budget yourself to pay for courses that will help), get kept on post qualification and focus on working there fore years post qualification.



Which investment bank offers a training contract lol


Nick Leeson

We’ll give you one at our shop.



A lot of them offer them on an ad hoc basis to their paralegals, and the fact you don’t know this suggests that you don’t actually work in the city. It’s quite common for them to have two or three trainees at a time. Some companies like Unilever and Visa do them too, again for their existing employees.


A million love songs later ;)

Stay at the investment bank, trust me on this one the bankers order the law firms about and you will be on similar pay for working a lot less hard and will only need to get to grips with the issues facing your bank rather than loads of clients



Why would you not stay with the investment bank? You’ll be making top money and be the envy of people who want to go in house, which is basically everyone at some point in their career


Bored on Friday

The reality is that unless the OP is very skilled and strategic, the top jobs in an investment bank legal team will not go to internally trained lawyers. It will go to the 8 year pqe from A&O or Kirkland & Ellis who they will pay £350k to sit as a director of some niche but profitable part of the business. This is the reality. So even if the OP wants to work in-house in investment banking as a lawyer, he will need to jump ship at some point, before then jumping back in.



“stuck to one niche area of law” – you’ll only practice one niche area in most city firms anyway, although you’ll get a few seats to find your strongest suit. Don’t let that be the deciding factor.



I know several people who trained in-house and moved to a city law firm at 2 years’ pqe. It is completely possible. Once you have moved into private practice though, you might find that you want to move back in-house again but that is another story.


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