Types of law firm
National/regional firms Beyond London, themost active cities are Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Liverpool, Cardiff, Newcastle andNottingham. National firms have offices in several cities (and perhaps alsoScotland), whereas a ‘regional’ firmmight limit itself to say, the north or the southwest, perhapswith an additional office in London. A regional firmcould have just one office or several. Clients aremostlyUKpublic and private companies, local and public authorities, and possibly also international businesseswith UK interests. As a rule of thumb, smaller firms are also likely to prioritise private client work. Expect to spend your training contract in a single region, potentially visiting different offices. Salaries vary by location, with Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol faring relatively well (mid £20,000s to £30,000s) compared to, say, Wales or Kent (from around £16,500 to mid £20,000s). Regional trainees typically work more manageable hours than their City counterparts; however, there is a strong emphasis on gaining practical experience and client exposure. Available seat options will depend on the firm’s business model, so do your research. For a profile of a solicitor at a national/regional firm, see Grace Malone of Burges Salmon in the “Employment” chapter, p164. General practice, legal aid and advice centres Tiny high-street partnerships and sole practitioners have been joined by large franchises (eg, QualitySolicitors) and alternative business structures. The revolution may lead to greater consistency in
training and supervision, but it will also bring new challenges – technology is being used more and lawyers may need to work weekend shifts. Some firms now market their services at kiosks or pop-up stands in shopping centres. Your clients will be ordinary people with a house to buy, a spouse to divorce, an ex-employer to sue, a will to write or an injury to be compensated for. Some will be entrepreneurs in need of a steer through an exceptional phase of their business plan. You will need good time management and people skills and must be a confident decision maker. It’s been a torrid decade for lawyers assisting publicly funded clients and opportunities for new trainees are fewer than ever. Legal aid has become unprofitable – so much so that many practitioners who remain in the field must bolster their income from privately paying clients, while the government has plans to cut legal aid even further. Even within law centres and other advice bureaux, priorities and clients must be selected carefully. This kind of work is only for those truly committed to universal access to justice. You will encounter abusive neighbours, rogue landlords, recidivist teens, individuals struggling to cope with disability or debt, and endless need in your local community. For an example of a solicitor at a general practice firm, see Danielle Reece-Greenhalgh of Corker Binning in the “Crime” chapter, p160. And for an example of a solicitor working in the legal aid sector, see Susie Labinjoh of Hodge Jones & Allen in the “Human Rights” chapter, p172.
Reality check: In 2014 theminimum trainee salarywas abolished and firms are entitled to pay trainees theNational MinimumWage. Whilemany – particularly in the commercial sector – continue to pay their traineeswell above that, some increasingly squeezed high street and criminal firms pay their trainees relatively lowsalaries.
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