How to enter into Private Practice
31st March 2014
Private practice has become an increasingly attractive profession to aspiring lawyers for several years and this view does not look set to change in the near future. With a growing demand for private practice professionals among firms, and a particularly growing need for commercial property and commercial litigation lawyers, more and more trained lawyers are looking for a way into private practice.
While there is an increasing level of demand for private practice solicitors, the competition for such roles remains high, which is why many turn to specialist legal recruitment agencies in London for advice on getting into the sector in the City. This guide will take you through the different entry routes that could see you gain employment in private practice from a number of avenues and offer hints and tips on getting ahead in your prospective law career.
Fresh out of university, few firms will give you a look in without a sheer amount of experience or substantial connections, but for those who are determined to gain entry into private practice law and work their way to the top there are a number of ways to take that first step onto the private practice career ladder.
- Graduate Schemes
Most top firms in London offer schemes that give graduates a chance of employment. These are often very competitive, but, should you gain a place, if you work hard, make your mark and give a good impression to the firm then they should take you on after the scheme finishes. Numerous websites advertise these schemes, with graduate career resource site milkround.com offering a list of firms and schemes. You can also go direct with many of the top firms such as Eversheds and Norton Rose Fulbright advertising their graduate schemes via their websites.
Law graduates have the luxury of gaining all the relevant qualifications and training they need to enter private practice and a legal career, with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Council being responsible for ensuring that degree courses comply with the required conditions. A list of the institutions that offer law degrees meeting these requirements can be found on the Solicitors Regulation Authority website. Candidates without a law degree must join the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives or take the Common Professional Examination (CPE)/Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).
Often solicitors opt to make a move from their in-house legal job positions to private practice as these positions often offer a larger lawyer salary and more job stability. There are ups and downs to both professions as in-house legal roles often offer a better home life/work balance opposed to private practice, which has been known to demand longer working hours. Yet, private practice is also known to offer a pay packet to match these hours as you rise through the private practice ranks and this different kind of working environment appeals to the ambitious.
Working in-house offers a great way into private practice as not only does it give you experience appealing to a private practice firm, but it also means that you come with all-important contacts desirable to a firm. Whether you have worked in-house for a bank, organisation or financial services, these type of contacts would be very interesting to a firm so be sure to exploit this at interview stage and in your CV. When it comes to moving to private practice from in-house, the main appeal you will hold to your new employer will be contacts and opportunities, whereas your downside will be your lack of experience in developing new business, a very important aspect of private practice.
So when applying for private practice jobs, be sure to bear these points in mind both at application and interview stage.
From the outside
When applying for a role in the private practice sector, whether that be from an in-house job, education, or other role, contacts are still very important. A legal recruitment agency will offer knowledgeable advice as they are experienced in aiding lawyers make the move into private practice, yet contacts and experience will also help.
LinkedIn is a great way of starting to make contacts should you not have any already, and it is also a way of following companies and firms you are interesting in as well as staying ahead of the latest job opportunities in the sector. Try contacting someone in the industry who has a job you are interested in via LinkedIn and offer to buy them coffee; you can then ask them questions about their role and how they got there. While you are unlikely to gain a job this way, if you can make a good and memorable impression you have not only gained an influential contact, but gained truthful information on how to get into the sector.
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