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When youre looking for training contracts its very tempting to limit your applications to the biggest law firms. After all bigger is surely better? Thats exactly what I thought when I was younger and was gutted when I missed out on a training contract with the UKs largest firm.
Im not suggesting thats a bad thing. I for one liked the fact that my former firm had a sizeable trainee intake. Not only was it helpful to have fellow trainees to turn to when I wanted to ask a daft question but it also provided me with plenty of people to play with. Indeed, I remember wandering down to the staff restaurant and always finding someone from my intake to sit with meaning it didnt matter whether I had arranged to meet with anyone beforehand.
A firms culture, financial success and the quality of the work it handles are also likely to be affected by its size. But bigger is not always better. Take City outfit Macfarlanes for instance. With an annual turnover of 103m the firm is ranked 29 in The Lawyer UK 200 2007. Thats not bad for a firm that has just 230 lawyers and 69 partners. Whats even more impressive is that it is also one of the most profitable firms in the UK, ranking ahead of Clifford Chance and Freshfields in terms of profit per equity partner.
Macfarlanes doesnt do too badly when it comes to scoring on high-profile deals. During the last financial year it won choice roles on overseas bids for UK household names. It advised Brazilian company Companhia Siderrgica Nacional (CSN) on its unsuccessful 6.6bn bid for Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus, then scored instructions with one of its French best friends, Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier, from Alliance Boots deputy chairman Stefano Pessina on the Kohlberg Kravis Roberts-backed management buyout of the high street chain Alliance Boots.
Some market observers will argue that Macfarlanes is a perennial anomaly when it comes to law firm rankings. Nonetheless, I think it still highlights the importance of looking beyond the numbers. Hopefully, youll soon realise that size doesnt always matter. And for someone who is barely five feet tall I should know.