You’ve made it! After the long road to qualification you have been entered on the roll of solicitors and are now a full member of the Law Society (in case you missed our last post on the Road to Qualification, you can read it here). Now comes the fun part – securing your dream job at a respected law firm. This is where your choices come in to play, in terms of specialisation and the law firm you want to practise at. Below we explore what life is like in this challenging, yet rewarding, career path and explain how you can make yourself stand out as a star associate, also referred to as Assistant, Newly Qualified or Solicitor depending on which firm you join
Area of Specialisation
Do you know which area of law you want to specialise in? If not, the first few years as an associate should be spent exploring different practice areas so you can concentrate on the subjects you will enjoy working in for years to come. Being open to working on a wide range of assignments, including those outside your practise group, will help to broaden your knowledge and experience, assisting you with your options down the road.
Law Firm A or Law Firm B?
Most associates will choose to either stay with the firm where they trained, or move on to another firm depending on location, type of practice and specialisation. At the end of the day though, it comes down to personality and where the fit feels right, bearing in mind that different law firms have different characteristics and there is such a thing as variation from one to the next. A London firm may well have a very different feel to a Liverpool firm, for example, and may pay a very different starting salary.
Formal training does not stop with the training contract. In fact, every solicitor needs to keep their skills and knowledge current through the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Since 1 November 2016, all law firms must be signed up to the SRA’s Professional Competence Programme which gives solicitors the choice in their learning and development requirements to remain knowledgeable in their specific areas of practice.
The desire for most solicitors is to become partner, but the amount of time it takes to reach this status depends on you and the firm where you work. Law firms are partnerships which are owned and operated by the partners. In general, it can take eight years or more for partnership to occur at a large firm, and a few years less at a smaller firm, but again, this all comes down to capability.
As an associate, you will work under the supervision of a partner or senior associate, while taking responsibility for your own clients. The key takeaway is to always be open-minded. The recipe for success is to distinguish yourself as a stand-out associate which will help to pave the way for your successful career ahead.