Quitting my Law Training Contract during my First Seat - Help! Watch

Solicon
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I've since left my big corporate firm to pursue a new career. I don't regret leaving as it has been a tiring 10 months, but I am grateful for the lessons learned.
(Original post by TheBecksta)
Hi! As a NQ Solicitor, I know how you feel! I undertook work experience with my current firm for two years (completely unpaid) before starting my TC. Once I had started, the fact they were now paying me seemed to change their attitude towards me and I was essentially being treated like a slave. I wouldn't say I wanted to leave immediately as I was determined to become a Solicitor but I definitely was not happy. 13 months in, they informed me that they had forgotten to send my contract off to the SRA and I would have to stay on for another 7 months (on top of the 11 months I had left) to complete my TC. I was devastated. Anyway, fast forward a hard 15 months.... I am still there, they are not keeping me on and I have just been accepted onto the Graduate Management programme in the NHS. They told me that they've had a Solicitor join them every year since they started! If you can stick it out, it is definitely worth it for the skills you will obtain through bad management and lack of support, you will have grown as an individual.
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Avril_92
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(Original post by Solicon)
Hi everyone,

never thought I would be writing this but here it goes.

My law journey started at university where I got a 1st class in my LLB. I applied for vacation schemes (did ones at Pinsents, Addleshaws, and Slaughters). After this I then did the LPC where I got distinction and went on to secure a training contract at a regional office of a City firm.

When I got offered my TC I had several friends working in London at City firms telling me to NOT do it. I didn't listen and thought I had struck gold at securing a top firm but in the regions where I thought the culture would be friendlier. I was subjected to the usual "we are an open and approachable firm etc etc".

I have been at my firm for 8 weeks now and I absolutely hate every day. My seat is commercial real estate which is not the most interesting but the thing I hate the most is the people. Everyone is extremely unfriendly, nasty, stressed, and they enjoy treating their trainees like crap and using them as a source to vent their anger.

Should I quit? I really want to and cannot imagine staying at this firm for 2 years. It has totally turned me off a career in law (to be honest the job is boring and I don't want to do any of the work I see the senior associates slaving over). The culture is brutal and I am feeling severely depressed going to work every day. At first I was eager to learn but that was quickly whipped out of me.

I plan to quit at the end of December (after 4 months) if I find another job (I have rights to work abroad so would apply to jobs in my home country).

Anyone been through something similar/got any advice? Desperate here

Thanks.
If you've had that experience then I'd probably be thinking yes. Having said that, a lot of people really dislike the firm they train with, switch on qualification and enjoy it much more. You'll have more choice at this stage (or can consider in-house).
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TheBecksta
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That's good to hear, I hope it is going well/goes well! People keep asking me if I regret my qualifications and staying on to qualify as a Solicitor and although I have wanted to leave so many times (including this morning) I know it has got me where I am today in terms of skills and experience and that is everything I wanted from a TC.
(Original post by Solicon)
I've since left my big corporate firm to pursue a new career. I don't regret leaving as it has been a tiring 10 months, but I am grateful for the lessons learned.
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Lostitfun
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Congratulations! Just what I needed to hear. Hope I can stick it out like you did. Good luck @TheBecksta.
(Original post by TheBecksta)
Hi! As a NQ Solicitor, I know how you feel! I undertook work experience with my current firm for two years (completely unpaid) before starting my TC. Once I had started, the fact they were now paying me seemed to change their attitude towards me and I was essentially being treated like a slave. I wouldn't say I wanted to leave immediately as I was determined to become a Solicitor but I definitely was not happy. 13 months in, they informed me that they had forgotten to send my contract off to the SRA and I would have to stay on for another 7 months (on top of the 11 months I had left) to complete my TC. I was devastated. Anyway, fast forward a hard 15 months.... I am still there, they are not keeping me on and I have just been accepted onto the Graduate Management programme in the NHS. They told me that they've had a Solicitor join them every year since they started! If you can stick it out, it is definitely worth it for the skills you will obtain through bad management and lack of support, you will have grown as an individual.
TheBeckstaCongratulations! Hoping I can stick it out like you did. Excellent example of 1 door closing and another opens. Good luck @TheBecksta
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cursed child
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(Original post by jacketpotato)
It is never nice to be in a situation like this. But I think you have to take a long term view. Look at this with a 10year or 20year horizon, not a 2year horizon.

The key question is do you want to qualify as a solicitor or not. I doubt any other firm will take you on if you quit a TC mid-way through.

If you do want to qualify as a solicitor, then I think you should slug it out. The reality is that 6months or even 2years is not a long period of time in the scheme of your overall career. It wouldn't be the end of the world to keep your head down, do a half-arsed job and move to a different firm or a different area of law or in-house after you have qualified.

You should also remember that different seats can be very different for all sorts of reasons. It is entirely possible that you might enjoy your next seat more than this one.

It is also worth remembering that you can absolutely come across unfriendly, nasty, stressed people who treat trainees badly in firms like Pinsents or Addleshaws or Slaughters. A lot of first seat trainees can get culture shock when they start proper work for the first time, I certainly suffered from that as a first seat trainee, but people do often adapt after a few months.

There is a lot of luck depending on which department you get and who is working in that department at that particular point in time. I felt badly treated in my first seat (a London firm similar to those) but ended up enjoying it and staying for a few years post-qualification, though in a different department !

That said - if you have decided that you are sure you no longer want to become a solicitor (whether at this firm or any other firm) - then I would ask why you are doing a TC in the first place, in which case there could be a benefit in starting your new career path sooner rather than sticking it out for no reason. Just make sure you check your contract to see if leaving the TC means you need to pay back things like LPC fees.
(Original post by flatlined)
DO IT.

I'm an associate in a city firm. It's not uncommon for trainees to quit - you just don't hear about it. Along with the general attrition rate in law - i.e. the general turnover of associates in US firms is about 2-3 years. Usually they go in-house or move to a UK firm eventually. Statistically most people are out of big city firms by 3PQE. My firm and others have only a couple to a handful of their own ex-trainees still remaining as associates in the firm, and most are NQ- 1PQE.

So if you stay you could be prolonging the inevitable. Being a qualified lawyer doesn't help with any job except being a lawyer. Which sucks. And is the reason why people who have invested years into the process can't leave.

As you have noted from your regional firm, I can confirm for city law: everyone hates it and those who don't find it barely tolerable. The reason why most 5PQEs are in it still is some fleeting hope of partnership or golden handcuffs in a US firm where including bonus they're touching nearly 300k. But none of them are happy and that money is very, very short term before they have enough/burn out and take the paycut.

Legal work is awful and it doesn't get any better. Being a trainee is particularly crap and NQ-1PQE is really, really rough. As an NQ you just want to keep your job, hit your hours, build your reputation - like the crapness of being a trainee just intensifies and gets worse.

The work is really, really boring and there is no financial upside in your situation. You can do SO many jobs which pay better or just as well. You should never have taken the training contract at this regional hole, but at least you've learnt to deal with difficult situations and difficult people. I totally regret it.

Please go with your instinct and get out. As you know, as a student, you couldn't have seen quite how bad it was until you actually did it. The vacation schemes are all a lie. NOW RUN.
I can empathise with both of these posts.

On the one hand, I can see the utility in completing the training contract, but on the other hand, if you've made up your mind, you may as well just pull the plug and stop delaying the inevitable.

I trained at one of these mega firms almost six years ago and I'm now almost four years PQE. My first seat was a complete shock to the system (finance) and I dreaded going into work every day. I was bullied every single day by a psychopathic senior associate and was at times on the verge of suicide. I feel so much shame about that still. HOWEVER. The story had a happier ending. I found a practice area I preferred during my TC, qualified there and stayed for a few years post-qualification and then moved to a much smaller firm where the work / life balance is better and the pay is alright.

It is still incredibly dull. I am almost 30 and feel a huge amount of regret having studied law and pursued my 'dream' of going into corporate law and having done something so meaningless throughout my 20s. Attrition is huge and the vast majority of solicitors do NOT stay at mega firms / magic circle / US firms. Law is notoriously jurisdiction / sector specific and difficult to transfer to anything else. Many people become stuck in a lifestyle because of the money and see no way out. The main things I dislike about the job:

- the monotony;
- the pointlessness of it all;
- the obsessive focus on minutiae no sensible person really cares about;
- the infantilisation of associates - if you're not a partner, expect to be treated like a school boy / girl for the rest of your career;
- linking to that - total lack of ownership.. lawyers do not create or build anything and whenever you think you are getting ownership over something it is quickly snatched away by glory hogging partners;
- the fact that lawyers are very poorly rounded people - spend all your time at work / obsessing over pointless crap, don't expect to have much of a personality / any exciting hobbies / interests
- lack of innovation / last on board with any kind of tech
- not making any kind of difference to the world / contribution to society... you start to seriously question how socially unconscious law and most lawyers are, it's kind of disgusting.

Please do something else - law was a huge mistake for me and I'm currently making an exit plan over the next five years. This involves a combination of (a) going back to school; (b) doing community work; and (c) reducing to a part time position.
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jacketpotato
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Just to add a bit of balance to this thread, I am a senior associate in an international city firm and genuinely enjoy my job.

I get to work with a range of different clients, so I get to know lots of different businesses. Most of it is on significant strategic transactions that are key milestones for these companies.

I get the responsibility of running transactions often worth hundreds of millions of pounds, as well as the responsibility of mentoring/developing junior associates and trainees. Or I might be helping growing companies raise finance so that they can grow their business and employ lots more people. That's a clear social good.

I recognise some of the criticisms raised in this thread. But not all of them. I would also argue that a lot of people who complain about life at MC / US firms can have a much better work-life balance and a lot more responsibility by moving to a "top 50" firm or "top 100 firm" - where they will get paid slightly less but still get paid extremely well and will still have good quality work.

If you work at a "mega-firm" and hate it - for heaven's sake, move to a different firm !!!! Why would you insist on working only at 5 law firms when there are probably a hundred major international law firms in the UK?

It is true that a large proportion of junior lawyers move on from their jobs. There are a number of reasons for this I think:
- It is very difficult to know as a graduate what job is right for you - lots of people decide they want to change career after their first job. This is true no matter what job you pick.
- City law is very demanding. The hours can be long - as they are for all professions in the city.
- Lots of people just fall into law because it is a safe, prestigious and well paid option, without really knowing whether it is right for them.
- People's lifestyles change as they get older. Lots of people are game for the pay, training and prestige that city law offers in their twenties, but decide they want a bit of a change as their life situation changes (e.g. if they have kids).
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Solicon
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Agree, it does provide a social good and is necessary. Helping companies succeed as probably been what I have enjoyed the most during the last year of my TC and will be a positive of what I take away from it.

Also agree, when someone has been studying law since the age of 17/18 and certain universities are heavily geared towards LLB-LPC-TC route (as mine was), you often find yourself accepting a TC offer without even realising whether you truly want to do it, as was my case.

I still stand by the fact that vacation schemes are marketing shrouds to sell the "dream legal career" and the reality is very different from how it is portrayed, but this is like everything.

At the end of the day, even though I am quitting I still find corporate law concepts interesting. I could easily pursue the academic side of commercial law professionally; it is the practical side which I have found intolerable from a personal point-of-view, but we are all different and I doubt my opinion is rare. It is a stressful environment working with many intense and highly-strung individuals.


(Original post by jacketpotato)
Just to add a bit of balance to this thread, I am a senior associate in an international city firm and genuinely enjoy my job.

I get to work with a range of different clients, so I get to know lots of different businesses. Most of it is on significant strategic transactions that are key milestones for these companies.

I get the responsibility of running transactions often worth hundreds of millions of pounds, as well as the responsibility of mentoring/developing junior associates and trainees. Or I might be helping growing companies raise finance so that they can grow their business and employ lots more people. That's a clear social good.

It is true that a large proportion of junior lawyers move on from their jobs. There are a number of reasons for this I think:
- It is very difficult to know as a graduate what job is right for you - lots of people decide they want to change career after their first job. This is true no matter what job you pick.
- City law is very demanding. The hours can be long - as they are for all professions in the city.
- Lots of people just fall into law because it is a safe, prestigious and well paid option, without really knowing whether it is right for them.
- People's lifestyles change as they get older. Lots of people are game for the pay, training and prestige that city law offers in their twenties, but decide they want a bit of a change as their life situation changes (e.g. if they have kids).
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The West Wing
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(Original post by jacketpotato)
Just to add a bit of balance to this thread, I am a senior associate in an international city firm and genuinely enjoy my job.

I get to work with a range of different clients, so I get to know lots of different businesses. Most of it is on significant strategic transactions that are key milestones for these companies.

I get the responsibility of running transactions often worth hundreds of millions of pounds, as well as the responsibility of mentoring/developing junior associates and trainees. Or I might be helping growing companies raise finance so that they can grow their business and employ lots more people. That's a clear social good.

I recognise some of the criticisms raised in this thread. But not all of them. I would also argue that a lot of people who complain about life at MC / US firms can have a much better work-life balance and a lot more responsibility by moving to a "top 50" firm or "top 100 firm" - where they will get paid slightly less but still get paid extremely well and will still have good quality work.

If you work at a "mega-firm" and hate it - for heaven's sake, move to a different firm !!!! Why would you insist on working only at 5 law firms when there are probably a hundred major international law firms in the UK?

It is true that a large proportion of junior lawyers move on from their jobs. There are a number of reasons for this I think:
- It is very difficult to know as a graduate what job is right for you - lots of people decide they want to change career after their first job. This is true no matter what job you pick.
- City law is very demanding. The hours can be long - as they are for all professions in the city.
- Lots of people just fall into law because it is a safe, prestigious and well paid option, without really knowing whether it is right for them.
- People's lifestyles change as they get older. Lots of people are game for the pay, training and prestige that city law offers in their twenties, but decide they want a bit of a change as their life situation changes (e.g. if they have kids).
How do you handle the hours? I'm just leaving work on the back of my third post-midnight finish in a row this week. Haven't seen my partner, hardly slept, living off crisps, walking into walls because of tiredness. Doesn't happen all the time but probably one week out of every four or five are like this for me.

To be honest I find the work mostly interesting, but the pressure and timing demands are outrageous at times.
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jacketpotato
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(Original post by The West Wing)
How do you handle the hours? I'm just leaving work on the back of my third post-midnight finish in a row this week. Haven't seen my partner, hardly slept, living off crisps, walking into walls because of tiredness. Doesn't happen all the time but probably one week out of every four or five are like this for me.

To be honest I find the work mostly interesting, but the pressure and timing demands are outrageous at times.
I arrive at 9:30am and leave work most days either around 6pm. A few days a week I might work until 7-8pm. I usually take a proper lunch break.

Occasionally I will work later than that into the small hours - I am doing cross-border M&A deals after all - sometimes you've got to do the hard slog before a completion. This might happen once every couple of months.

I live in central London 10 minutes walk from work.

A big difference for me is being able to plan evening commitments. Every week I arrange a mid-week date with the girlfriend for a meal or the theatre. Back in the Magic Circle I could only do that at weekends.

I just don't experience the outrageous timing demands any more, my job is perfectly manageable and actually quite fun.

I could get an approx. 10% pay rise by moving back to the Magic Circle. I'm not tempted. There is an extremely narrow band of US firms that might tempt me and offer an extremely good work life balance to salary ratio, e.g. somewhere like Goodwin Procter, but I'd never sell my soul to somewhere like Kirkland.

I think it is generally true that the hours get better as you get more senior, too. As you get more senior you can do things much more quickly. More importantly you start getting a lot more control over your timetable.
Last edited by jacketpotato; 4 weeks ago
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cursed child
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(Original post by jacketpotato)
I arrive at 9:30am and leave work most days either around 6pm. A few days a week I might work until 7-8pm. I usually take a proper lunch break.

Occasionally I will work later than that into the small hours - I am doing cross-border M&A deals after all - sometimes you've got to do the hard slog before a completion. This might happen once every couple of months.

I live in central London 10 minutes walk from work.

A big difference for me is being able to plan evening commitments. Every week I arrange a mid-week date with the girlfriend for a meal or the theatre. Back in the Magic Circle I could only do that at weekends.

I just don't experience the outrageous timing demands any more, my job is perfectly manageable and actually quite fun.

I could get an approx. 10% pay rise by moving back to the Magic Circle. I'm not tempted. There is an extremely narrow band of US firms that might tempt me and offer an extremely good work life balance to salary ratio, e.g. somewhere like Goodwin Procter, but I'd never sell my soul to somewhere like Kirkland.

I think it is generally true that the hours get better as you get more senior, too. As you get more senior you can do things much more quickly. More importantly you start getting a lot more control over your timetable.
Out of curiosity, what type of firm did you move to following the MC? Are you at a boutique firm or a smaller City firm?

Also, do you think 30 is too late to pursue a masters / change careers? I'm likely going to be made up to Senior Associate next year but I'm seriously considering trying something else as I'm miserable and deathly bored every day.
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jacketpotato
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(Original post by cursed child)
Out of curiosity, what type of firm did you move to following the MC? Are you at a boutique firm or a smaller City firm?
I moved to another international city firm. I won't specify the name but it is a firm in the following list: Eversheds, Taylor Wessing, Bird & Bird, Gowling WLG, Osborne Clarke, Stephenson Harwood, Addleshaw Goddard. These firms are not quite as big as the Magic Circle firms but they are still massive.

I decided against moving to what I would see as a small firm / boutique firm because I didn't think the work would be as high quality for corporate. If you want to be doing good international corporate work I think it is best to go to a firm which is big enough to have all of the specialist departments and an international presence. It would have also meant a larger pay cut (my pay is probably about 10% less than what I'd get in the Magic Circle; totally worth it IMO. I think the small/boutique firms pay substantially less).

There are of course plenty of people in smaller/boutique firms who are very happy, particularly people who are interested in specialising in niche areas (e.g. sports law, media and entertainment law).

Feel free to PM me if you want

(Original post by cursed child)
Also, do you think 30 is too late to pursue a masters / change careers? I'm likely going to be made up to Senior Associate next year but I'm seriously considering trying something else as I'm miserable and deathly bored every day.
Not at all. 30 is young. Lots of people change careers in their thirties.

Life is too short to be unhappy. If you are miserable I think its time to change !

According to the Law Society, the average age of a newly qualified solicitor in the UK is 30 (https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/law-ca.../entry-trends/).
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