Exclusive research: Gen Z aspiring lawyers seek ‘friendly’ firms with good pay and top quality work

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By Emily Hinkley on


Young lawyer hopefuls less bothered about swish offices, perks and WFH policies, new Legal Cheek Student Perceptions Report reveals

“It’s as simple as being friendly,” summarised one student when we asked for the top three factors that might sway their choice when selecting law firms to apply to.

The comment comes as part of The Legal Cheek Student Perceptions Report 2023 which takes a deep dive into the issues that matter to aspiring lawyers. Two thousand students gave their opinions on everything from desirable practice areas, to what they think the firms are looking for and how they decide where to apply.

In a profession that has gained a reputation for being ambitious to the point of cut-throat, what this new generation of future lawyers found important was surprising. Respondents came from a broad range of backgrounds and disciplines, but three quarters (75%) fell into the category of Generation Z.

The number one factor in selecting whether to apply was the firm’s reputation for being friendly, with 30% selecting it as one of their most important factors. “If people are going out of their way to say the firm has a reputation for being unfriendly, then I’d probably avoid it like the plague,” said one respondent.

Quality of work came in second for aspiring solicitors, as 28% included it as a key factor. The general consensus was that no matter how great a firm was for quality of work, a reputation for treating trainees poorly was a deal-breaker for many applicants — even if that firm was in the Magic Circle.

The 2023 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Remuneration at trainee and newly qualified (NQ) solicitor levels only ranked third on this wish-list, as a quarter (25%) included it in their top three influencing factors. This is at odds with how the profession — especially in the corporate sphere — has been traditionally viewed and could suggest a shift in the way students are approaching this often lucrative career path.

The factors that respondents considered least important were WFH policies (9%), perks (9%) office facilities (5%) and social mobility schemes (5%).

The emphasis on friendliness hinted at a general desire to feel appreciated as a trainee. Many students believed that this was related to trainee retention rates; there was an assumption that a firm with a low retention rate could indicate that those trainees did not feel valued at that particular firm.

Additional pull factors suggested by the students included a high profit per equity partner, impressive growth rate, a commitment to corporate social responsibility and firm values that match the applicant’s own.

For details about how to get a copy of The Legal Cheek Student Perceptions Report 2023, please contact team@legalcheek.com

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