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Effective firm research

So, we all know that when you’re applying to firms, you must be able to carry out research about the firm, its clients and the work that they carry out. You also need to be able to research which firms you want to apply to and why.

There is such an amass of information on the internet that it can be overwhelming where to look, and to know what you’re looking for. Here are my top tips to carry out effective firm research!

1 – Graduate website and main firm website

Many firms now have a main website for clients and general information as well as a graduates/recruitment website. You will need to refer to both.

The graduates website will give you all the information you need for the role you’re applying to. This will be most useful when finding out about what values the firm looks for in their vacation schemers and trainees. For example, perhaps a firm places a heavy emphasis on innovation whilst another really looks for teamwork skills. When it comes to the skills-based and firm-based questions, the values that the firm is looking for may impact what on which experiences you choose to write about.

The firm’s main website should also be used when choosing a firm and writing your application to them. You’ll find out about the firm’s sectors and practice areas, locations and size. There will usually also be details of recent transactions or cases and it’s always impressive if you can incorporate these into your application and explain why you have an interest in that deal/case.

2 – Firm news websites

Many firms now have sites (either entirely separate or incorporated into their main website) just about their work at the firm. For example, CMS have Law-Now and Pinsent Masons have Out-Law. This contains a huge amount of information on the firm, its work and its clients. It’s good to have a look through and see if the type of work carried out by the firm interests you!

3 – Rankings websites

I always like to look on rankings website such as The Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners.

Both websites contain a lot of information and rankings about firms. You can choose to view rankings with different filters such as by location or by sector expertise. This is particularly useful if, for example, you have a keen demonstrable interest in real estate and want to work within that area. By choosing the real estate filter, you can see the firms who have a top real estate team.

They also have firm profiles and an overview of all their ranked sectors. You may not be too influenced by firm rankings but remember that you have limited time and resources and cannot apply to every possible law firm. You must be selective when applying to firms and sometimes the rankings of the firm and/or its departments can have a small impact.

4 – Firm events

Possibly the best research is visiting the firm itself – Open Days, Insight Evenings, informal networking events etc.

By attending these events, you can really get a feel for the culture at the firm. It’s the idea of ordering something online that looks great, but once it arrives, it doesn’t quite look like its photo. Same sort of idea for law firms – all firms have shiny brochures and colourful websites, but until you visit them and experience the firm for yourself, you’ll not know the full picture.

It is definitely worth visiting the firms before applying and it’s also a personal choice. Your friend might love a firm and you may hate it. It really is a ‘decide for yourself’ kind of situation and the best way to find out about this is to visit the firm!

Usually at these events, there will be a presentation about the firm and the more you know about the firm, the more detailed your application will be. You will be able to include more information about the firm and it’s also good to show that you showed an early interest in the firm by attending the event.

What information to look for

So, now that you have some of the main resources to start your research, it’s not time to consider what exactly you’re looking for. I think there are 5 broad topics, some of which I have alluded to already in this blog post:

  1. The firm – statistics, sectors, rankings, transactions etc.
  2. The industry – commercial awareness, reputation of the firm, legal trends etc.
  3. The programme on offer – is there something different/unique about this firm’s Vacation Scheme or Training Contract?
  4. The training available – wide variety of seat choices in the Training Contract, support networks etc.
  5. The trainee experience – secondments available, the culture of the firm, CSR events etc.

As you can see, there is a lot to research about, but even after you’ve researched all of this information, you must remember to tie it all together with your experience and skills to show why you’d be a good fit in the firm!

Time management…

Start researching as early as possible. It is an extremely time consuming task and you must also keep track of any deadlines. It’s best to work on your research and application form over time rather than rushing just before the deadlines.

Good luck!


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