Training contract seekers reveal their biggest law firm ‘green flags’

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By Sophie Dillon on


Good salary, work-life balance, diversity and more 💚

Following Legal Cheek‘s popular Instagram poll about law firm red flags, we decided to quiz our 100k Insta followers about their law firm green flags. What do students love to see when it comes to choosing their perfect law firm? What puts students in their feels during application season? We were keen to find out …

Amongst the numerous responses, salary was — of course — a big feature, with good pay being a clear green flag when it comes to deciding on target firms. Salaries seemed to be a big deal, with one student commenting in all caps: “NQ SALARY”.

But beyond compensation, our respondents hit upon a number of cultural features of firms that would make them keener on applying.

“Study leave, good career progression options, appreciating the experience you have instead of looking at the experience you don’t have, one student told us. Friendliness from the interviewer — it’s the little things that count!”

Another student gave her stamp of approval to those firms where the “seniors genuinely [support] your personal professional growth, they don’t feel threatened by your ambition and create the environment for you to flourish 🫠”.

On top of juicy perks like “free meals”, “free coffee” and “mental health days”, which were big green flags for this cohort of commenters, a positive “retention rate” was also a recurring feature of the Insta comments section.

Another theme was working hours, with those firms that have good work/life balance coming out on top.

One commenter endorsed “people in leadership who work part time or reduced hours and are transparent about it being on account of parenting duties (e.g. Courtnee is finishing at 2pm today so she can attend her daughter’s school athletics carnival).”

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Another student was more attracted to “firms that don’t expect you to work super long hours all day every day and understand that your career isn’t your whole life”.

And, when it comes to applying to a firm, there were a number of ‘green flags’ raised by our readers. They emphasised the the importance of  “genuinely nice graduate recruitment”, and “prompt responses” from HR (i.e. “not getting bounced around different people” within the firm).

On this, a big green flag for our readers was a “streamlined application process” including receiving “feedback”. Although the feedback wasn’t without the occasional gripe, with one student demanding “Better application systems!” They say, “nobody wants to waste five hours to type every module, and every grade. We live in an AI world. Just implement a reader and let me upload my transcript… ffs.”

Finally, the comment section revealed that genuine diversity at a firm is one of the greenest of green flags. Commenters included “strong social mobility ethos/EDI efforts” and “diversity in higher positions” as factors which give law firms their stamp of approval.

Other students endorsed firms which have “Black women in positions of leadership 🙌🏾💫”, and firms where there have been “real reviews from disabled employees who have been treated with care and dignity”.

What would make you keener on applying to a law firm? Let us know in the comments below 👇


law goblin! to the rescue!

Not having been involved in the Post Office scandal


Hardly any prospective trainee gives a flying sh*t about that. Most students are struggling to get training contracts and will accept a TC from any sizeable firm. Only the best can afford to be picky. If a mediocre candidate turns down a TC application on ethical grounds, they are nothing but arrogant.


Arrogant? Hardly. Perhaps foolish more than anything, given their likely struggle in finding work elsewhere, but there’s certainly nothing wrong personality-wise with sticking to your guns and refusing to work for a dodgy firm.


Not expecting AAB+ to even apply or or they do at least mentioning that they take extenuating circumstances into account

Astonished commenter

I am frankly amazed to learn that people are attracted by good salaries


Not expecting AAB+ to even apply or if they do at least mentioning that they take extenuating circumstances into account


“seniors genuinely [support] your personal professional growth, they don’t feel threatened by your ambition and create the environment for you to flourish”

Not to kill dreams, but this will always, always be, at absolute best, until you’re about 5 PQE.

The partnership model means the top people are at constant, unspoken war with each other for the biggest slice of the pie. Even if the pie is growing super fast, you can bet your life when it comes to equity points being handed out every one of the partners wants more for themselves and fewer for their fellow partners. That is the nature of the entire structure.

Some firms soften this with locksteps, but it’s there in one form or another in virtually every firm now, because it’s a fundamental to retaining star rainmakers.

Some rare firms manage to stop this culture permeating the whole place and do support their juniors, but once you’re a realistic partner candidate people will view you as a competitor to beat not colleague to support.

Kirkland NQ

There’s one and only green flag, that trumps every and all red flags, individually and collectively: a firm that gives you the ability to purchase a Lambo on qualification.


Actually having a diverse trainee intake that’s also present in senior positions..


If this is a genuine comment, I worry for you. Why would you not want to work at the best firm and ignore what race, gender, or other group the staff happen to belong to?


Alan I worry for you with comments like that


!!!Breaking News!!!

More Money, less hours and free stuff combined with a boss who gives me freedom makes this a great place to work. #youdontsay


What should also rank high is junior salaries beyond the NQ year. 95% of firms have glowing NQ salaries competing with the best of them.. but then for the next 6 years… unless you’re in a City firm, you’ll be getting a 2% increase a year… and suddenly you no longer feel well rewarded…

Ask those at PQE one whether they feel well paid at firms who advertise great pay at NQ level…

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