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Is a career in city law worth it?(13 Posts)
My ds is currently applying for training contracts for a mix of Magic Circle and US Law firms in the city. He is a 2nd year at Oxford.
What I would like to ask, is the sacrifice of extreme hours worth it?
One firm apparently has average working hours of 9AM to 9:20PM!
The honest answer is, it depends what you want out of it and what sort of person you are.
The money is very good, better than you will make elsewhere. The deals are often very interesting and high profile and you get to work with some very bright people and you learn a lot. The Magic Circle firms take training very seriously and the trend is increasingly to give responsibility early on so you are challenged from the start.
On the downside, the hours are truly appalling. You often don't notice it that much because you are busy and so is everyone around you, but in my view it is something city firms have really failed to get hold of. Because the clients pay big bucks they want blood and no-one ever tries to manage them or charge a premium for silly hours, which I suspect would mean clients suddenly decided it was not that urgent to get the document tomorrow after all.
Work is often weekends as well as weekdays. He will be expected to be availably by phone and email at any time.
You also meet some seriously entitled wankers who believe they are god because they make a lot of money and the City colludes with that - money is all and a partner who makes big money for the firm or has the ear of coveted clients can pretty much do as they like.
Being a city lawyer is a highly stressful job and some people do drop out along the way. Many people hate it after the initial gloss wears off but recognise they will not earn that sort of money anywhere else.
On balance I'd say if your DS does succeed in getting a City training contract (and they are very sought after) then he should take it and reassess his position 18 months in. With that background he could easily move in-house or to a provincial firm if he decides the City is not for him. Equally he could decide he loves it.
As the pp said it would be a great addition to his cv if nothing else and would genuinely help him get a position in a top regional firm. However, even at top regionals its not a 9 to 5.30 job.
I’ve done it. I wouldn’t do it again.
That said, the training and experience I got was invaluable. It looks great on my cv and I’m bloody good at my job because I was trained by the best in the country.
For me, I realised I’d been sacrificing family life. The worst point came when my DM died and I didn’t get chance to say goodbye because I was in a fucking meeting and didn’t see my phone. That sort of thing changes your perception on life.
For a young, single academic lawyer that is passionate about their job, it’s brilliant. For a mum sacrificing her family for cash, not so much.
Do it for two years, work your ass off, see out the training contract and if he enjoys it, stay. If not, move on.
They pay really well but you work for every single penny and if you worked out your pounds per hour you’d actually cry!
It depends if he has the stamina and if he really wants to do it. The average hours you found of 9am to 9.30 pm is unrealistic, hours are generally longer than that and weekends too in the big American firms and the magic circle. In my opinion it’s not a healthy working pattern.
Personally I’d go for a London law firm that isn’t in the magic circle. Similar type of work, pay not hugely different and better work life balance (not with all of them, you have to be quite careful).
I was also laughing at the 9-9.30 idea. It’s much worse!!!
But definitely better as a file to start somewhere “better” in the food chain and move down as required. Many of his friends will probably end up doing similar one way or another so it will seem pretty normal for a few years after graduation.
Be a banker. You work the same hours but get better pay and they like law graduates.
If you aren’t doing it for the £££ then go somewhere less intense than magic circle or US firms.
Working hours of 9.00am to 9.20pm would have been great - I don’t think I ever worked fewer than 100 hours a week! You have to sacrifice your entire life for the first two years at least. Then it might calm down a bit, depending on what department you qualify into. I’ve worked in US and UK law firms and prefer US firms as the pay, benefits and working hours are generally better
Thanks for all the tips.
Oops, I think the website I was reading the times on stated office work hours, ee the hour one enters and leaves the building.
I am questioning whether it is worth it for him as house prices anywhere nice are ridiculous. I guess it pays off for those who can stick it.
Interesting in regard to US firms, I was told theyre worse to work for, much longer hours
US firms are awful - I would not recommend. Great money overall, but for the hours you work it probably averages as minimum wage. No guarantee of a bonus, and absolutely no job security - I’ve seen people disappear on random days and no one mentions them again. You may only be kept for 6/12 months with no warning. They also haven’t evolved at all on flexible approaches to working - men suffer on this too (ie barely any paternity leave).
Would recommend magic circle and silver circle for good training, then silver circle and west end firms once you’re a few years qualified for more civilised hours.
Please have him note long term career prospects too. Lots of people decide to go “in house” (ie work as a lawyer but in a business not law firm) a few years down the line. What he focuses on in private practise (ie at a law firm) narrows what he can do later on in house. Clever friends of mine didn’t do finance or corporate law but IP /commercial and now work at the most interesting businesses around - tech start-ups, fashion houses etc
I'll go against the grain here and state that Magic Circle training can be extremely hit and miss. I trained at a MC firm and really didn't feel like I learned much at all. The size of the transactions meant that you worked on a tiny portion of the deal (normally compiling contact details and lists), you had very little understanding of what the deal was about and you worked all night, forwarding emails and proof-reading documents running into thousands of pages, with very little understanding of the transaction and the underlying law.
By way of example, I spent a six month seat in the litigation department, never having seen a Claim Form, never having made an application and knowing nothing about the practicalities of dealing with the Court (or arbitration tribunal). Conversely, when I moved to a regional, smaller firm, I was suddenly making applications, drafting Court documents and being given far greater client contact and opportunities to advise.
There is something to be said for having MC training - for some reason, it opens doors everywhere. But the hours are gruelling, the transactions can be extremely dull (I had no interest in securitisation or other complicated financial transactions) and there was very little law involved a lot of the time. If I had my time again, I'd have gone to a much smaller firm to begin with and done something I found more interesting (maybe clinical negligence or something useful/worthy), rather than following the 'normal' City route.
That said, some people do love it. A friend of mine is at a US firm, bills in excess of 2400 hours a year and loves his job (he's very lucky that he's a person that needs little sleep). I escaped to the regions and am far happier with a 9am - 6pm role, nice colleagues and decent money.
Definitely not US firms.
But you can have reasonable hours at UK law firms even Magic Circle. I generally worked 9.30 to about 6 when I was a trainee, quite often left on time, and 9pm is was the worst it got. No weekend working, ever.
I agree with the post above about not necessarily getting really decent experience though. That said, things have changed since I was a trainee and AI has probably taken away some of the grunt work.
I'd advise looking at firms like Kemp Little, Lewis Silkin, Osborne Clarke - good work and probably not so bad hours. Good luck to your ds.
BUT personally I wouldn't do law if I had my time again.