Advice

‘I want to be a City of London lawyer. Should I reject my regional training contract offer?’

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An aspiring lawyer requires readers’ advice

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one aspiring City of London lawyer has been offered a training contract at the regional office of an international law firm. Should he accept it?

“I have been offered a training contract (following a vacation scheme) at a large international firm, in one of its regional offices. I am in a predicament as I live near London and have family commitments which means it will be really difficult for me to move out of home at this moment. I also currently work in London as a paralegal and love everything about the City. I would also have to take a paycut for the trainee role.

Should I reject this training contract offer and reapply to other firms in their London office? Or should I accept it and deal with my family situation for the next two years and hope I can move to London after qualification? For background, since interviewing for the vacation scheme in January, I have completed a document review paralegal role, another vacation scheme at a London firm (a well-known firm but not in the City) as well as spending the past six months as an in-house paralegal at an international company. These experiences make me think I have a decent shot of getting a City TC this time around but obviously the thought of rejecting a training contract seems very silly.

Note the firm require repayment of LPC fees if I leave on qualification which means I could be tied down.”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.

77 Comments

Legal Genius

REJECT ASAP! Only place worth practicing corporate law is the City.

NQ

Some small-minded responses here… There’s nothing wrong with working outside of London and you would likely be able to move across to the firm’s London offices at some point after your training contract is over. If not, you’ll have trained at a top law firm and can look for other jobs as a qualified lawyer, which is a much better position to be in than a student without a training contract. It’s a lot easier finding a job as a NQ than it is to secure a training contract.

That said, if you’ve thought about it, you really, really want to work in London and you’re confident you’ll be able to secure a training contract at a London firm, then hold out. Training contracts aren’t easy to come by these days, especially in the City, but by the sounds of it you’re doing just fine.

In terms of salaries, they might appear substantially lower outside of London, but in reality a significant part of that higher City salary is to cover the higher cost of living. The remainder of it you’ll have to earn by practically living in the office day and night, but I’m sure you’re aware of that.

Finally, only you will know how important your family circumstances are, but if you’re looking to work at a top firm in the City then chances are you won’t be seeing them much in the next few years anyway. You will need to think about how important those commitments are, how long they are going to last, the logistics of living/working away for at least a couple of years and, ultimately, what’s best for your career in the long term. Good luck.

Hugo van der Meer

Consult with both practices. Explain your predicament, then decide. You have a duty of care to your future, that is the most important criteria.

Legal Eagle Beagle

Accept, qualify then look for a NQ place in London. London TC places are competitive

Anonymous

Do you want to be a Lawyer or do you want to be a Londoner? If you can’t answer that question immediately, I doubt you have the dedication required to get the most out of the TC and not burn out by 3 -5 PQE.

Anyways, if it’s PM or WLG, do it. The teams there are highly regarded and you should have plenty of opportunity to lateral to London as an NQ – either internally, which I know people in regional offices who have been able to do so, or to another firm. I can’t comment on the quality of work in the Birmingham offices, but DLA and ‘Sheds would also look really good on your CV and should give you scope to lateral to City.

Just don’t talk about London for two years whilst training otherwise you’ll be cast out for having an attitude problem.

Kirkland NQ

LOL, DLA and ‘SHEDS have never looked good on any cv, especially if you want to pop bottles with us at the ‘Land

RecRoota

Tell that to 7 of your colleagues who trained at DLA & Shedders

Anon

In most core practice areas you can move quite easily to the City – certainly to a SC shop like Ashurst, having practiced at a DLA, Sheds, Pinsent, CMS, SPB, OC, Burges Salmon style firm in the regions. Would also include places like Mills & Reeve.

Do banking or corporate at one of those and you will not struggle.

Also no harm in accepting and applying elsewhere. Dark move but people pull it.

Anon

Reject – trading 2-3 years of your life for an adequate training contract is not worth moving upheaving your life out of London. And that timeframe is subject to you being able to find a decent firm in the city afterwards – its very difficult to climb up the ladder in corporate law.

Anon

moving and*

Anonymous

Reject- no point being tied in a sh*t hole you’d rather not be in for potentially 4 years, just so you can strut around calling yourself a lawyer yet in the regions your bank account is more like waiter.

anon

“Note also that this firm requires a 100% repayment of Legal Practice Course (LPC) fees if you choose not to apply for a newly qualified (NQ) position if there is one available or refuse to accept an NQ position if there is one available. The firm also requires a 100% refund if you leave the firm within 12 months of qualification or 50% if you leave in the 12 months after.”

This has DWF written all over it, shameful.

MC Trainee

“Note also that this firm requires a 100% repayment of Legal Practice Course (LPC) fees… [if you] refuse to accept an NQ position if there is one available”

equals

We have reason to offer you the scraps or force you to practice in an area you’re disinterested in or give you an uncertain NQ contract or offer you low pay.

Depends how competitive you believe you are. Beggars can’t be choosers so take it if you believe you’ll struggle to find something elsewhere – how confident are you that you’re a desirable candidate?

Anonymous

This is utterly appalling. What a joke. Properly Dickensian. I’m sure if you perish in the salt mines they’ll pursue your family for the debt, as well.

Don’t do it

The fee repayment thing demonstrates that this is not a firm you want to work for. If they are willing to use the threat of financial sanctions to stop people leaving, rather than relying on people actually wanting to stay, it is not somewhere you want to work. Trust that this stingy attitude will bleed into the way you are treated throughout the TC and beyond.

If you want to be in London then apply in London. There’s plenty of TCs around and as long as your grades and university are good and you are normal then there’s no reason you can’t get something.

Mike

Sounds like DWF.

Happy Elf

Not enough info. Why did you end up with an offer somewhere are miserable as Birmingham and not have London choice? Are your academics such that that was all you can get? The universe has spoken and told you where you belong. Either toddle up the M40 or think about a career change.

City NQ

Qualifying as quickly as possible is the key! So if you can land a City TC without having to wait the 2+ years to start (unlikely) then that would be ideal.

The safer and more realistic option though would be to qualify in Birmingham then jump ship to London upon qualification. Your prior experience should be enough to get you in at a decent City shop.

Honestly there is no point in working in regional offices of international firms – you’ll be working London hours for Rochdale pay.

Regionally trained - US 2PQE associate

Don’t reject the TC offer! There is no guarantee you’ll secure another one!

Broadly speaking, training in the regions is known to be a lot better than that in the City – whilst deal size varies massively, you’ll get great hands on experience in the regional office of an International firm. Qualify into corporate/finance/com lit and make a lateral move at 1PQE.

Many have moved to SC and US shops having trained in the regions (look at K&Es current Corporate team, most recent partner promoted was regionally trained..). Other strong city firms like Ashurst, Macfarlanes, Travers hire regularly from regional offices of international firms.

Ignore the sh*te from 2nd year aspiring lawyers in these comments. They don’t have the faintest clue how the market works…

Good luck!

Anon

Which US shop? Drinker Biddle?

Regionally trained - US 2PQE associate

Greenberg Glusker LLP. Soon we will merge with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and none shall stand in our way.

Regionally trained - US 2PQE associate

Back to your seminar, child!

Regionally trained - US 2PQE associate

Stop pretending to be me. Good that such arrogance shall not be tolerated after the Chinese People’s Liberation Army merger.

Greenberg Glusker HR

Don’t speak ill of the mighty Glusker.

Anon

Yes. Nobody takes regional solicitors serously. It is a mark of professional failure.

Anonymous

Still better than qualifying in the offshore firms in the BVI or Dubai. Those are the real graveyards of careers.

Anon

Don’t think Dubai is a career graveyard if you work for a top firm and it’s in a profitable/growth area. Plus you’ll live the good life unlike in a shytepit like London

Dubai is a complete hole full of gauche LMC idiots

Dubai is the definition of shytepit, brother.

What’s even worse is that everyone who goes there seems to be given some koolaid on arrival that makes them think Dubai is the greatest place on earth. At least Londoners are realistic about its shortcomings.

Anon

The status of the firm is irrelevant. For example, Clifford Chance Dubai is not really Clifford Chance. It is full of CC people who were sent there by head office because they aren’t good enough to be in London, or non CC people who applied there because they couldn’t make it at a firm in a proper jurisdiction.

Anonymous

Practically open money-laundering (and unlike say Hong Kong or Singapore, it doesn’t look like (at least from afar and on the ‘Net) there is much regulations or regulatory regime in place to ‘pretend’ that this doesn’t take place), for a start…

Anonymous

You cannot qualify in most of the offshore jurisdictions. They only admit qualified foreigners with a certain amount of years of experience. But you go on inventing stuff.

Anonymous

Probably you have never been there. Otherwise you would know that it means staying in the office of your firm there post-qualification, after the TC. From what I have seen in Dubai – staying there leads you to nowhere and harms your career. Most of the people try to move back in a couple of years and really struggle, usually having to come back to a lesser firm and / or lower position.

BVI is worse though as there is amost no escape.

Anonymous

What firms let you “qualify into” BVI? You have probably never been there.

Dubai is not offshore. But we can agree that qualifying into Dubai is a serious mistake.

London lawyer

You can’t qualify in an offshore law firm (at least not as an English solicitor); and Dubai is not offshore. But agreed that offshore jurisdictions are packed with people whose careers have tanked. As for places like Dubai and Hong Kong, they too are full of second rate people.

Anonymous

No, Dubai is worse (and much worse) than ‘offshore’…

Not about Dubai particularly, but for one thing, if any of the Local Rulers in the Gulf or their Government *really* do not like you (either as person or as a lawyer, or both) personally, or your line of work generally, or who you are, may be or they think you might be working for, or with… they have their own ‘courts’ and their own ‘laws’ to make sure that you get the point!

Anonymous

Hong Kong isn’t. Its one of the few places in Asia-Pacific with a reliable regulatory regieme so lots of work gets done there.

Anon

Offshore firms are ambition graveyards, full of second raters who have failed onshore.

Anon

One of the posts above was close to the mark:

Do you want to be a lawyer, or do you want to be a Londoner?

I’d narrow it down further. Do you want to be a lawyer, or to you want to be a corporate/banking/finance lawyer in London?

Do you really like the corporate work you have been doing? Really? Or is it the romance of the City that draws you in? Some people like the work, many people find it dull. Some people find it dull, but wouldn’t trade the money for anything.

You say you have family commitments. Are they compatible with long City hours anyway, long term? Or did you see City work as something to stumble out of after a few years into something with fewer working hours?

I’m not saying go to the regions and do PI – no one deserves that awful, conveyor belt, dead end of a career. But it is possible to do enjoyable work in the regions – eg in employment law to name one area.

My advice is to think really carefully about what you want out of life. London is great – I enjoy living here and I’m glad I moved here after university. However there is a part of me (I’m in my mid 30s) which slightly resents the fact I’m tied here with no escape now career wise, forever trying to fight astronomical house prices and watching my friends in other cities lead comfortable lives with palatial residences.

London is still top for prestige. But it’s possible to be a massive success and become rich working elsewhere. And corporate work is dull. Also, regional family law firms excepted, you are unlikely to find a bigger concentration of wankers than in the City.

Anon

Take it if it is with PM, Gowlings, DLA or Eversheds. They are good firms working on decent international transactions. Some of the regional partners head up national and international teams. Get qualified and then decide next steps whether it is Birmingham, back to London or elsewhere. If you are good the firm won’t want to lose you if you turned round in a few years and say you want to go back to London. They will try to convince you to stay in Birmingham.

GreyRedBlue

As others above have said – it is *not* the fact of training in the regions, and not in London, that is the issue. It is the fact that the terms of your contract will force you to work for this firm in whatever practice area they choose for you. You will have absolutely no bargaining power if they know that you cannot afford to repay the cost of LPC etc.

It is all well and good people advising you to take the TC because “you never know if you will get another one” and that you can maybe move to work in London following qualification. But the risk is this: you end up qualifying into a practice area you detest or for which you have no flair (because you had to accept what they would give you at the end of the TC), and then you end up unhappy and unfulfilled for at least two more years in Birmingham, a city where you have no support network and no connections.

Life is long. Qualification should nowadays be seen more as a marathon than a sprint. Unlike other trainees who move to London from around the country, you already have your roots here. Your family clearly matters to you, you are performing well in the London jobs market in law-related roles. TC outside the City but in good West End firms (e.g. Howard Kennedy) sound more than possible.

(I note one thing: you have said nothing about your qualifications. As long as you have a strong Oxbridge or Russell Group 2:1, you will be good to go in London, although don’t lose hope if the MC firms don’t open their doors.)

The alarm bells are loud and clear: the firm that has offered you a TC wants to lock you in for an unreasonable period of time following qualification. It doesn’t want to woo you; it wants to own you.

My basic advice: keep on trucking in London, don’t be flattered or tempted by the current TC offer, and resist giving in at this stage just because no other TCs are on the table.

Annab

Read loads of responses, but honestly yours is genuine and wise. Hope she gets it🌸🙌

Anonymous

She? Sexist arse.

HI

It will never go Pop, business is booming

f

(DWF that is)

Leather Pantz

Fuck off Andy.

f

Reject, apply for a training contract at a massive investment bank/ asset manager- amazing work life balance and massive salary with massive bonuses

anonyandromeda

What are you smoking? In-house legal teams at banks do not get bankers’ remuneration… this is common sense buddy!

Truth innit

They’re also second rate.

Anonymous

When a man is tired of Birmingham he will have been there for at most 10 minutes.

Nonny

Birmingham is fine… it clearly isn’t London. But you can have an enjoyable life there in the suburbs.

tips@legalcheek.com

Suburban life is boring. Some people do not want to become Stepford wives and need some culture / museums etc. Birmingham is not very good for that (though the art gallery is decent), easily beaten by Manchester, Bristol or Liverpool. Not speaking about London.

The galleries, yah?

Agree that those other cities mentioned are superior. However there are plenty of decent places to drink, and eat, in Birmingham.

Not everyone like the galleries either – I’ve lost count of the number of people who list that as a benefit of living in London, yet last visited the Tate Modern about 7 years ago.

tips@legalcheek.com

I go to an exhibition / museum almost every weekend, so quite a crucial point, but yes, people are different.

The things probably would change when have kids etc. – then the suburbia becomes very convenient . But before that (the person in question is probably in early 20s) suburban life is extraordinary dull.

Y

If you don’t want to live and work in Birmingham, reject the offer. There is no point making a commitment for at least 4 years to something you have a reasonable chance of being miserable about.

John

Stolen from The Student Room!

1PQE - Projects Associate

My personal story: training in my firm’s regional office was one of the best things that happened to me. Our London office didn’t offer a Projects seat (I didn’t know that when I applied) but our regional office did. Head of Projects took me on and I qualified there.

I didn’t enjoy my corporate and litigation seats at all and at one point thought of leaving the profession. I found Projects and loved it. I was lucky to have trained outside London for that reason.

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