Advice for a wannabe city lawyer?

(112 Posts)
goldberg Mon 18-Feb-19 17:58:12

Hello. New here and have a question regarding becoming a lawyer. I read the Oxbridge application thread with interest so think here is a good place to ask.
Dd is in her first year at Oxford studying history and english.
She has some experience at some chambers and a law firm in london, as well as at home in Bristol.

She obviously has good GCSEs and decent A levels to get into Oxford. I’ve read that most vacation schemes are for second years onwards non-law.

There are about half a dozen schemes that are open to first year non law, but these aren’t vacation schemes. They’re 2 days-1 week. She has applied to them, and put effort into the application and had someone read them who does law at LSE. She has always gotten through the first round to be asked to take a test, she has passed three of these tests.

One then decided they weren’t taking things further and rejected her, but her score was above pass mark but not that high. Probably her paper application wasn’t good.

Another she took the test for and hasn’t heard anything back in 2 weeks whilst others got interviews. So she is taking that one as no.

It’s a similar story for another, and the others are yet to be reviewed by the law firms.

Is there any way she can improve her chances? She has used the career service and done lots and lots of practice tests, but they don’t really seem to improve her score that much.

She is part of law society too, and has been and even given a speech at an event so has lots of contacts on linkedin etc.

Does anyone have any advice how she can progress? She understands that she is just in first year, but it’s already very disheartening for her, as I am sure it is for others too.

OP’s posts: |
Paris14eme Mon 18-Feb-19 18:06:54

Yes! For God’s sake don’t encourage your daughter to be a lawyer. And I’m saying that as a lawyer. It’s a nightmare. Especially for women. Encourage her to do anything else -and get a life.

BubblesBuddy Mon 18-Feb-19 18:52:24

I think you know the answer to this. First year is just too early. Next year might be more fruitful. Also don’t just look at city firms. There are ones in the provinces too!

Also she could look at being a barrister. She will need to plot her route and decide which aspect interests her but it’s doable.

I would not be down hearted just yet! She’s only just started. Try and get a job or volunteer over the summer. Anything is better than nothing. It starts a cv and enhances soft skills. Do as much as possible at university. I’m not sure if non law grads get the same support as law grads there. However do as much as she can and try for vac schemes for yr2 summer holidays. Don’t rule out doing things in her own subjects. They don’t have to be law based. Showing initiative and being involved is always good for the cv.

dignifiedlazyness Mon 18-Feb-19 20:13:56

It probably is too early to get seriously worried. I think with these things you have to keep trying trying trying. I understand her frustration though, especially when she sees lesser peers from say Warwick, Leeds etc get on to them. If she can’t get any official scheme, could she use one of her contacts to get a day or two?

goodbyestranger Mon 18-Feb-19 20:25:17

Agree with Bubbles. Enjoy the first year summer and put in applications in the January of second year instead. It's totally unnecessary to do vac schemes this early and far more productive to have a rest.

DD1 who got a MC TC in the Sept of second year spent the summer of first year in China. I can't remember what DD3 - now a barrister - did in the summer of first year but certainly not vac schemes or mini pupillages. And DS2, now with a MC TC (was offered two), also did no vac schemes at all until after graduation because he thought he wanted to do something else, so did nothing law related at all during uni. She's applying too early. Relax.

HermioneWeasley Mon 18-Feb-19 20:26:51

Everyone I know in the legal field says they wouldn’t encourage people to go into it nowadays

Xenia Mon 18-Feb-19 21:17:28

Once she is in year 2 or about to be start apply for the paid summer 2020 vacation schemes. She is just a bit early to do any of this at the moment so don't worry about it. She might want to visit courts - I did a lot of that just out of personal interest in univetsity holidays.
She should just concentrate on her degree this year and try to get good marks as some law firms will want your marks in every paper in your 1st year.

I think it does no harm to have some club you are in whatever you are interestetd in - music or sports if can fit it in with her degree.

Being at Oxford is a really good start for getting a good career. She will probably be fine and in demand.


BubblesBuddy Mon 18-Feb-19 23:31:12

Well my DD knows lots of young city lawyers and they don’t regret it at the moment! Not that they surface for air much. None of her barrister friends regret it either. However the slog does mean some don’t make it and change their minds. That’s ok. It’s not a career for everyone. It is important to think whether a city firm is really what she wants because she needs to be realistic about the work hours required. The money helps though!

dignifiedlazyness Tue 19-Feb-19 00:26:03

Thanks for the replies. I’d agree she is too early, but then why are firms making programmes for first years?

I also think it’s much easier for a say 40-50 year old solicitor who has 20 years earnings behind them and will have benefitted from London property boom, to say don’t do law.

Xenia Tue 19-Feb-19 07:39:41

BB and I are not saying don't do law. It's wonderful. Every day is great for me (and I haven't benefited fro the London property boom however as we sold our last house and 2 buy to lets in the 90s property recessino at a loss actually - so sadly I always get the boom wrong, laughing as I type) and then my ex husband got anny increased equity in our last house and my life savings on our divorce which is the issue if you marry someone who isn't a highish paid lawyer, but even so I certiainly not complaining and two young lawyers can still buy the first house we bought out here in zone 5 London on today's salaries in today's market.

goodbyestranger Tue 19-Feb-19 09:31:34

Hermione then you obviously only know the disenchanted ones, perhaps at the legal aid end of things. Law is an incredibly valuable job and rewarding in all sorts of ways, for those with the aptitude.

goodbyestranger Tue 19-Feb-19 09:44:33

OP your DD is only in her second term at Oxford. She no doubt does have good GCSEs and A levels but she hasn't really had time to do very much in terms of the LawSoc or any mooting and she hasn't taken her Prelims, so is without any university marks, and her tutors haven't really got to know her yet in terms of writing references. She's also getting her confidence knocked by rejections. I'd strongly advise putting all applications to one side and concentrating on the main event, which is her degree. There's only a very limited value to a first year scheme which isn't a vac scheme. If she wants to go into City law then the best thing she can do to increase her attractiveness to the firms is to get really good marks in her summer exams which will increase the chances of vac schemes in the summer of second year. This current round of applications is merely a distraction with the promise of very little of substance at the end, even if successful. Those Prelims marks are of far more consequence than any first year application.

Aethelthryth Tue 19-Feb-19 10:20:52

I was a partner in a City law firm and involved in recruitment for training contracts and vac schemes. As everyone says, it's too early to worry; but it's not too early to plan.

Getting places for work experience is far harder than getting a training contract, partly because some people take up more than one WE placement (thereby having a very dull summer) and partly because WE schemes are sometimes used for social engineering- giving a chance to shine to people from non-traditional backgrounds who may not have the usual stellar grades.

At the moment your daughter should concentrate on getting the best grades she can- my firm did look at the grades achieved on every paper in every year and the expectation was an average of not less than 68%. She should also focus on really understanding why she is interested in law as an academic discipline as well as as a career- she will need to be convinced of this herself if she is to convince anyone else. A rummage around on Amazon should offer some suitable introductory reading material. Talking to lawyers in her college should also help. If she wants to work in the City she needs to work out whether she really has an interest in the business/financial/political world, so she should be reading the "Economist" and/or the FT from time to time. It costs a City firm over £100,000 to get a young lawyer to the point of being really useful: drop outs are an expensive mistake, so much consideration is given to whether a candidate has a really informed commitment.

I don't think that many people really learn that much from vac schemes: participants don't actually do anything useful and spend most of their time being buttered up by the firm or in talks of one sort of another. Attendance is useful, however, partly as part of proving informed commitment and partly as a means of getting a feel for a firm. It is not the end of the world if your daughter cannot get on a city scheme:she should just take whatever opportunities in whatever type of firm or in whatever type of chambers she can: it all helps to evidence informed commitment.

All other types of WE are useful too, including ordinary, sensible, money earning jobs in shops etc. As she builds her cv over the next couple of years her chances will improve.

To those who say "don't do law"? It is certainly tough, competitive and has moments of extraordinary tedium. However, I never ceased to find it intellectually challenging- it's not a job where you ever reach a stage of finding everything easy. It was also really satisfying to be involved in making things happen which had a really significant impact on the "real world" and in sorting out some really difficult problems. As a partner, one also gets to take part in running the business of the firm, so every day is pretty varied. I also never grew out of enjoying the front of the plane; and there was plenty of travel.

It's still not a great environment for women, despite all the diversity initiatives etc etc. The sexual harassment which was endemic when I started has been heavily clamped down on; but clients are predominantly male and it is just intangibly harder for a woman to make a male client really trust her as being on his side and indispensable. Business development is harder because the social interactions are just that bit less natural. The career structure is terrible- the run up to partnership is in one's early thirties. Before partnership it is hard to afford the very flexible, long hours childcare which is necessary plus a house near enough to the office to permit any sort of family life, unless one has married a high earner. Having said all that, the sexism is structural and institutional rather than personal: I had some great, kind and supportive male colleagues.

Your daughter really shouldn't be disheartened. The first year schemes are so few and far between that rejection is pretty meaningless. She won't be applying for TCs until her third year, so she has plenty of time to make herself into a good candidate

Xenia Tue 19-Feb-19 13:40:03

Good point above and by the way my daughters didn't do vac schemes and still did fine. One is head of legal now at a fairly big company and the other in a city firm.

I just noticed the other day that my older my son's friend from university is now a solicitor - he did 2.5 years of Teach First (and seems to have risen to be deputy head of his subject's department) and then went into law. I think he needed the money first to fund his LPC and/or GDL. In other words there are lots of ways into it if you want to do that.

TFBundy Tue 19-Feb-19 13:49:01

Yes! For God’s sake don’t encourage your daughter to be a lawyer. And I’m saying that as a lawyer. It’s a nightmare. Especially for women. Encourage her to do anything else -and get a life.

Came on here to say this. But Paris said it better. (Ex partner, also in charge of trainee selection in my previous life).

I question to motives of anyone wanting to "be a city lawyer". What is it about corporate finance that interests her? What is her motivation? (If it's money, there are easier ways to make it - even in the city). Or is her main interest just wearing good tailoring and poncing around like she's in Suits? (Because that gets old pretty quickly).

PCohle Tue 19-Feb-19 13:58:15

I wouldn't recommend a career as a city lawyer to anyone.

donnagonna Tue 19-Feb-19 15:06:25

What are the easier ways to make money then? For an arts student from Oxbridge that is?

PCohle Tue 19-Feb-19 15:10:22

Management consultancy, accountancy, banking, private equity...

All the city lawyers I know, who could hack the hours and actually stayed in law, wish they had gone into finance instead.

DonaldTwain Tue 19-Feb-19 15:15:03

Agree with those who say don’t do it. If you’re prepared to spend two decades never leaving the office, go into investment banking or asset management - you’ll make much more money.
If you’re selling your life, makes sense to sell it to the highest bidder

StarsStripes2016 Tue 19-Feb-19 15:19:15

City lawyer here. I would encourage other legal work to make her stand out in applications. Volunteering at legal charities such as prisoners services, domestic violence charities, disability charities. Volunteer as a magistrate or a youth offending programme, family mediation service etc. She needs some relevant skills. I would also query if she is so desperate to be a lawyer why she is not doing it as an undergraduate subject. She needs to show a commitment to the law. Being a member of the law society at uni I would see as a social opportunity rather than her having any useful skills. The firm I work at take some trainees straight from law school. I am dead against this as they are often fairly useless. The ones who thought outside the box and have volunteer experience are always far better and more likely to be taken on at end of training.

StarsStripes2016 Tue 19-Feb-19 15:24:57

The types of charities I list are because they have legal issues or advocacy opportunities. Should have been clearer. Also, why city lawyer? She should try every kind of law from family, employment, personal injury to corporate and banking so she can make an informed decision. Transactional lawyers have a tedious time and I expect are the ones saying don’t do it!

Thiswayorthatway Tue 19-Feb-19 15:25:04

It's not just academics, you need a rounded CV. Volunteer at the local CAB or Law Centre, help out with a local charity. Don't just be a brain on a stick.

herethereandeverywhere Tue 19-Feb-19 15:30:58

Another ex City lawyer saying don't do it. I have the best years of my life to that job. In the City the lawyers work the hardest for the least money (in comparison to other City careers).
It's terrible if you want a family unless you do just as the men do and work all hours and never see the kids.
Corporate finance or hedge fund management is the biggest money for the least hours worked but sexism is much much worse in those institutions.

She only has one life, I'd advise her to do something less gruelling.

donnagonna Tue 19-Feb-19 16:15:23

If it is so bad, why do so many people choose to do it?

(Playint devil’s advocate!)

Thiswayorthatway Tue 19-Feb-19 16:22:36

It pays very well and it's interesting (says a City lawyer).

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