Struggling to differentiate between firms?

Alice G

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Future Trainee
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M&A Bootcamp
Nov 26, 2018
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Hi Everyone,

I have had a few members message me about how I prepare for interviews and ACs and, specifically, how I go about distinguishing firms from each other. I compiled a bullet pointed list of things I consider and answer when trying to do this and I felt it might be beneficial for me to share this here for everyone to take a look at! If anything is unclear please let me know and I can try to add greater clarity :)

1) What working/billable targets does the firm have? Does this fit with your personal working style and preferences?
2) Partner remuneration - is it lockstep, modified lockstep? - this can affect culture and can be beneficial or not depending on your work preferences again :)
3) Firm's values/principles (Most firms do pro bono but WHAT pro bono do they do and are they big on mental health initiatives and championing women in the workplace, etc? )
4) Management structure/firm governance - can impact culture and flexibility in your work, especially at the partner level!
5) Global reach and international strategy (look at number 25 - Do all offices share a single profit pool or not, i.e. LLP model? Are the international offices collaborative? Is the London office autonomous or is it more of a satellite office if the firm is US heritage?)
6) Lateral hires made recently- helps to understand the firm's strategy and areas of growth/focus
7) Work benefits - work from home, help for parents who are still fee-earners?
8) What networks are available i.e. diversity network, women's network?
9) Extra-curriculars in the firm? i.e. netball team?
10) Do they have any specific initiatives, i.e. mental health initiatives if they don't already have a network geared towards this? A similar point to values really but more testing how tangible these values are in the sense of having dedicated groups etc.
11) Trainee intake size
12) Tech?
13) Awards and rankings - roll on friday etc
14) Practice group/industry strengths
15) Scale - in London and globally - can impact levels of work available to you and opportunities for professional development
16) Retention rates - very important I think!
17) Culture - always try and meet and engage with firms where you can - did you have a positive impression of the people there? Don't just consider your personal experience but look around you - are partners and trainees socialising naturally too?
18) Full service offering?
19) Firm's origin - more pertinent for the US but is it a New York bred firm or did it begin its roots in LA? Can have a cultural impact to a degree and may indicate the types of work undertaken and clients?
20) Clients? FTSE 100? Private Equity Houses? This can help with understanding strengths and areas of focus too.
21) Do they prefer homegrown talent or does the firm tend to make lateral and partner hires? Consider your own long term plans and ambitions for the future.
22) Do they have strong mentorship programs in place?
23) Specialists or multi-specialist? Relates slightly back to scale really but think about the sort of person you are and which you would prefer.
24) Regular feedback and appraisals?
25) Swiss Verein or LLP? (Look at Shearman's Whiteboard Wednesday video for this, linked here: https://ukgraduates.shearman.com/20...n-vs-global-partnership-whiteboard-wednesday/)
26) When you have looked at all of this and picked out key things that are important to you, can you substantiate why these are important to you through your past experience and current situation?
27) Have these bullet points helped you to consider main competitors? If so, who are they and what are they doing specifically which these other firms are not? Why is this significant to you?

I think that's it from me, sorry if it's a bit repetitive :) But if anyone has any suggestions to add, please do so below!
 
Last edited:

Jessica Booker

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Graduate Recruitment
Premium Member
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Aug 1, 2019
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I’d also add the following that’s more specific to training and qualifying at a firm:

Seat structure (3, 4, 6, 8, 9 months)
Compulsory seats
secondments (During TC and post NQ)
Additional training (during TC and post NQ)
Supervisors/Line Management
Secretarial/paralegal support
 

Jessica Booker

Legendary Member
Graduate Recruitment
Premium Member
Forum Team
Aug 1, 2019
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Hey Jessica, can you talk a bit more about Supervisors/Line Management and Secretarial/paralegal support? For example, what are the common ways law firms do this?
I won’t be aware of every way a firm does this and there will be multiple combinations, so think about the following:

- who is your supervisor and what is their seniority? Do you have more than one?

- do you have some form of mentor that also guides you? If so, who are they (a fellow trainee, an associate, a partner)?

- do you sit in an office with your supervisor(s) or is it an open plan office where you could be sat next to them? With remote working how does that type of close working practically work?

- do you have a secretary or not?

- Are paralegals based in the same office as your or are they outsourced to another location? Do you even have paralegals?

- How does the review/feedback system work? At the end of a seat, mid-way through a seat? Only at designated times of the year aligned with other employees?
 
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I won’t be aware of every way a firm does this and there will be multiple combinations, so think about the following:

- who is your supervisor and what is their seniority? Do you have more than one?

- do you have some form of mentor that also guides you? If so, who are they (a fellow trainee, an associate, a partner)?

- do you sit in an office with your supervisor(s) or is it an open plan office where you could be sat next to them? With remote working how does that type of close working practically work?

- do you have a secretary or not?

- Are paralegals based in the same office as your or are they outsourced to another location? Do you even have paralegals?

- How does the review/feedback system work? At the end of a seat, mid-way through a seat? Only at designated times of the year aligned with other employees?
Thank you so much! This is extremely helpful :)
 

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