National law firms
Why work for a national firm?
Here on the Student Guide we’re always banging on about how every firm has its own unique qualities, and this is true of national firms too. But still, it’s possible to discern a number of distinct attractive qualities which these firms have. Here are five of them:
- Mobility – As one trainee source told us: “My firm has fantastic national coverage and I like the idea of potentially moving between offices.” Working at a national, multi-site firm makes it possible to move across the country while remaining with the same employer.
- Quality – Many national firms are very well regarded in the market for the quality and complexity of the legal work they undertake. For example, Pinsent Masons is as highly regarded nationally for its AIM work as City slickers Travers Smith and Berwin Leighton Paisner; likewise Addleshaw Goddard outperforms both Clifford Chance and Allen Overy in the civil fraud arena.
- Variety – Often, though not always, departments within national firms are less singular in their focus than those at London’s City and West End firms. So in a corporate department you might see both capital markets and M A work, for both financial institutions and manufacturing clients. And an employment team might represent both employers and employees. At larger national firms there’s international work too. One trainee reflected: “I wanted to work in the North West, but be able to use my language skills on international matters too.”
- Community – Outside London, national firms are usually closely integrated in their local business community. Trainees may be encouraged to participate in events organised by the local Junior Lawyers Division, while firms may sponsor community pro bono projects, business awards, or university events. “I studied at the University of Manchester,” recalled one trainee “and when I was there I really noticed that my current firm funded events like debating competitions on campus.”
- Recognition – Compared to smaller local firms outside London, national firms have greater market recognition across the UK, in London and sometimes overseas too. After you’ve completed training you may wish to move to another firm or work in-house, in which case that recognition will be a helpful career booster. One interviewee told us: “I knew I wanted to work for a commercial firm in Birmingham, but I also knew I wanted to work for a large firm with a good national reputation.”
What is a national firm?
So now you’ve got your heart set on joining a national firm. Now here’s the problem: any firm with more than one office will call itself ‘national’. But you don’t want a wannabe, bandwagon-embarking, pseudo-national firm. You want the real deal, so what next?
Chambers UK is a useful tool for this, with its practice area rankings for ‘UK-wide’ and ‘national leaders outside London’. But a single-site law firm can legitimately lurk in these league tables too. So, in our view, a bona fide ‘national’ firm should have the following:
at least three offices in England and Wales;
There are twelve or so firms featured in Chambers Student which meet these criteria. We’ve done your homework for you in the table below: