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When I was searching for a training contract I was only interested in applying to the big boys. For me it was the magic circle or nothing. In stark contrast my younger brothers heart was set on specialising in sports law.
Fast-forward ten years and my brother is a successful sports lawyer based in Switzerland whereas Im just a magic circle reject. Admittedly, Im not sure who rejected who but suffice to say that I soon realised that bigger isnt always better.
Indeed, if I had my time all over again I wouldve been much slower to dismiss smaller firms particularly those that operate in niche areas such as sports or shipping law.
There are obvious advantages of completing your training contract at smaller firms. Your intake is likely to comprise fewer trainees meaning youll get more attention from senior lawyers. The work you handle will arguably be much better quality with less time spent in data rooms and is just as likely to hit the headlines.
As youll see from our feature (City of Pirates how shipping lawyers are fighting Somali pirates) Emilie Bosworth Speaight, a third seat trainee at shipping law specialist Holman Fenwick Willan, has been involved in work relating to the recent ship hijackings in the Gulf of Aden.
Emilie admits in the article that it can be cryptic explaining to friends what it is that she does at work. But when I say I do shipping work and mention piracy, I can get a few quizzical looks, she explains.
The principal disadvantage of training at a niche firm is the danger of specialising too early, which might make you less marketable in the future. Whats more how can you be sure an area of law is for you until youve tried it out? Ask students who claim they want to become media lawyers what this area of law actually entails and most will probably say hanging out with pop stars!
The only way to find your niche is to secure a placement with a specialist firm but before you can do that its crucial to read around a practice area. For instance, do you know which law firm advised Arsenal on the transfer of Russian International Andrei Arshavin from Zenit St Petersburg?
And remember if your heart is set on a particular area of law then go for it and ignore the fact that your friends are probably all applying to the big firms. Sometimes I wish I had.