‘I quit the magic circle to practise in Bristol — and I regret it’

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By Legal Cheek on

A Legal Cheek reader shares their story

For many aspiring solicitors, practising in London is the dream: more top firms, more training contracts, more money, the list goes on.

But is life as a City lawyer really all it’s cracked up to be? Or are there more attractive opportunities for budding lawyers beyond the boundaries of the Big Smoke?

Well, last week, Legal Cheek’s features editor Katie King explored just that. Using London as the yard stick, she explored whether solicitors should turn their backs on City life and jump on the nearest Bristol-bound train.

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The article — examining everything from property prices to quality of work — prompted one former magic circle lawyer to share their Bristol switch experience, and it makes for an interesting read.

We’ve reproduced the comment in full below — let us know what you think below the line.

“Having spent my entire life in London I recently decided to give Bristol a go after becoming disillusioned with London’s property market. I lasted less than a year before moving back to London.

I went from a MC firm to one of the firms mentioned in this article. I am somebody who rolls my eyes at phrases like ‘high quality work’ and ‘blue chip clients’. Work/life balance and length of commute matter more to me than the size of my payslip.

I was surprised to find that quality of work was actually important to me. Despite being a large Bristol firm most of the clients were ‘unsophisticated’ (i.e. they didn’t deal with lawyers on a regular basis). Their issues were mostly resolved by printing PLC precedent and filling in the blanks. I spent a disproportionate amount of time on the phone to clients explaining how to obtain a certified copy of their passport. This was fine at first but doing such mundane work soon became very dull.

Most notably, the quality of colleague in Bristol is shockingly low. As there is a smaller pool of candidates compared to London the competition for places is far less fierce. Naturally the quality suffers. Maybe it’s snobbery but I was genuinely amazed to find roughly half of associates and partners attended universities that wouldn’t be found in the top 50 of a university league table. People that simply wouldn’t get an interview at any good London firm. I tried to see past my prejudice but the quality of legal advice was also poor. I was frequently on con-calls hearing partners muddle through basic legal principles and provide outdated (and therefore no longer applicable) legal advice. This ‘lack of ability’ wasn’t unique to legal skills or academic success — conversations about current affairs made me feel like I was sitting in a sixth form common room. Essentially I found myself in an environment where I had little respect for people who I was supposed to be learning from.

Finally, I found this particular Bristol firm to be massively cliquey. There is a culture and it’s mostly ‘rugby and pints’ — it was a bit like a student union. All the associates have dated all the other associates and there is so much office nonsense that you just don’t have to deal with in London.

2/10 — wouldn’t move again.”

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