How to research which practice area I could be interested in? (non-law student)

roseofcassidy

New Member
Oct 30, 2021
3
2
Hello,

I'm a non-law undergraduate student, but I'm hoping to eventually convert and become a solicitor. In the meantime, I wanted to apply to open days and vacation schemes to not only give me some experience for my CV and have better chances to secure a TC, but also to see if a legal profession is truly for me.

I studied law at A-Level, so I have a foundational knowledge of the theory of large umbrellas of law (e.g. contract, tort, criminal, land), but I haven't studied law at university and I feel a bit lost when I look at the large list of sectors and practice areas different firms specialise in. I was personally quite drawn to the idea of commercial law, because I'm interested in business/business strategy and current events. I've also always been involved in my family business, so I feel like it's an area I would have experiences to draw on in applications/interviews. However, when answering application questions like 'why this firm' and such, I want to be able to be as specific as the law students I'm up against in narrowing down which practice areas I'm interested in and why.

I can already research a firm, figure out what areas it does well in and read the (often vague) descriptions of what that department does.
However, has anyone got any advice in how to go about researching the vast sectors that fall under the header 'commercial law' more broadly in order to feel like I can better understand and differentiate these areas (as a non-law student it's a bit confusing). Moreover, does anyone know how to figure out exactly what working in these areas entails and whether I'd be interested in them without me having any prior experience (either personally or academically)?

Any insight would be appreciated!

Sorry if this is in the wrong area/this is my first time posting something.
 
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LEL

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Jul 22, 2020
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Hi :) many firms will have practice area-specific events, e.g. HSF did a few presentations in corporate and disputes, most of which require no application so I'd definitely recommend attending those. They usually have lawyers talking about their day-to-day tasks, specific cases they've worked on (which also helps in seeing how all the departments interlink on a given deal).

Otherwise, many firms have now started to create their own virtual internships on Forage (https://www.theforage.com/) - I've seen so many practice areas from corporate M&A, project finance, disputes, white collar, so it would be great to work through those at your own pace, see the typical tasks that you'd do as a lawyer in that department and then decide whether you enjoy it or not. That's how I got started :)

Hope these tips help! Let me know if you have other questions :)
 
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roseofcassidy

New Member
Oct 30, 2021
3
2
Hi :) many firms will have practice area-specific events, e.g. HSF did a few presentations in corporate and disputes, most of which require no application so I'd definitely recommend attending those. They usually have lawyers talking about their day-to-day tasks, specific cases they've worked on (which also helps in seeing how all the departments interlink on a given deal).

Otherwise, many firms have now started to create their own virtual internships on Forage (https://www.theforage.com/) - I've seen so many practice areas from corporate M&A, project finance, disputes, white collar, so it would be great to work through those at your own pace, see the typical tasks that you'd do as a lawyer in that department and then decide whether you enjoy it or not. That's how I got started :)

Hope these tips help! Let me know if you have other questions :)
thank you for the heads up about events without presentations and virtual internships, I will definitely check them out! really appreciate all the help!
 

Romiras

Legendary Member
Associate
Apr 3, 2019
129
221
Having reviewed the above recommended videos and resources, I would caution that none of the linked resources are accurate nor representative of commercial law practice areas in city law firms (on the whole, as some parts are right, although sparse in detail). I can't speak on whether they're accurate outside of this scope, given my limited experience.

The resources do not reflect the internal structures of many city firms and the services that each of their practice areas provide. Further, none of the resources show how they're approached on an external level (as clients don't really want to face 50 different lawyers from 50 different departments). There are also quite a few missing practice areas (structured debt, derivatives, private funds, etc). Sometimes these practice areas are clunkily lumped under handles like "Private Equity", which is useful from an external standpoint, but not helpful when it comes to understanding what you may be doing for the next however-many years you intend to be in commercial law.

With that said, they're good introduction pieces. I think it'll be good to supplement these resources with a gander at Chambers & Partners, any firms-of-interest's website (which may detail how they pitch their practices externally and structure them internally), Legal 500, etc. That may take you a lot closer to the reality of the different practices in city law firms. There are also internal firm resources that are provided to incumbent trainees (guides to each practice area, often written by trainees or lawyers), which are very descriptive - you likely can't get a hold of this until you've got a training contract in hand or have a very kind friend who is willing to share a confidential document (or its details). Also remember that you can reach out to people who are in different practice areas, I'm sure many are happy to discuss - that'll probably be your best bet.

In hindsight, it's pretty damn hard to get an idea of what practice area you may want to sit in, especially on the outside. Even on the inside, I have found it very difficult to navigate - so best start early if you can if you're indecisive!
 

AvniD

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Oct 25, 2021
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Hello,

I'm a non-law undergraduate student, but I'm hoping to eventually convert and become a solicitor. In the meantime, I wanted to apply to open days and vacation schemes to not only give me some experience for my CV and have better chances to secure a TC, but also to see if a legal profession is truly for me.

I studied law at A-Level, so I have a foundational knowledge of the theory of large umbrellas of law (e.g. contract, tort, criminal, land), but I haven't studied law at university and I feel a bit lost when I look at the large list of sectors and practice areas different firms specialise in. I was personally quite drawn to the idea of commercial law, because I'm interested in business/business strategy and current events. I've also always been involved in my family business, so I feel like it's an area I would have experiences to draw on in applications/interviews. However, when answering application questions like 'why this firm' and such, I want to be able to be as specific as the law students I'm up against in narrowing down which practice areas I'm interested in and why.

I can already research a firm, figure out what areas it does well in and read the (often vague) descriptions of what that department does.
However, has anyone got any advice in how to go about researching the vast sectors that fall under the header 'commercial law' more broadly in order to feel like I can better understand and differentiate these areas (as a non-law student it's a bit confusing). Moreover, does anyone know how to figure out exactly what working in these areas entails and whether I'd be interested in them without me having any prior experience (either personally or academically)?

Any insight would be appreciated!

Sorry if this is in the wrong area/this is my first time posting something.
Hi @roseofcassidy! I studied law at university and can guarantee you that my academic studies did not prepare me at all for understanding law firm practice areas for the purpose of applying for training contracts. So you may be in a better position than you might think 😅

Coming to your questions, in my experience, understanding how a commercial firm distinguishes its practice is a useful starting point to understanding how commercial law 'works'. Typically, commercially firms divide their practice into practice areas (think litigation, competition law, corporate etc.) and sector expertise (think construction, energy, TMT etc).

To understand more about a firm's practice areas as a non-law student, it's useful to read legal news (you can probably access subscriptions to publications like The Lawyer through your university library) and attend legal events, webinars and talks with law firms. This will help you understand what lawyers at commercial law firms actually do and how firms operate.

To understand more about the sectors the firms that you're interested in applying to work within, focus on reading business news (Financial Times, Watson's Daily, TCLA's weekly newsletter are some sources I'd recommend). When you're reading business news, focus on breaking down how the issues in the news would engage commercial law firms and impact their clients.

Doing this should help you gain a better understanding of both the sector expertise and practice areas of a law firm. From what you've written, it seems like you've done a great job in familiarising yourself to the application process as a non-law student, which is very commendable 👏👏👏

All the best! Don't hesitate to reach out if you need help with anything else 😇
 
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James Carrabino

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Hi @roseofcassidy, may I ask what you are studying/studied and what sort of interests you have unrelated to law? No need to reveal this on the forum if you don't want to, but it is possible that it could help me direct you to some areas of law you may be interested in. That said, you may discover that you are interested in any area of law and so I would also certainly recommend that you follow all the incredible advice above!