Have you always wanted to work at a top tier or global firm? You are not alone, it is one of the things I get asked more often than anything else. For many people getting a role at a top tier or global law firm is a life long goal. Your suitability may start well before you are in practice when you are at university as often one of the criteria is your academic performance in your LLB/ JD. Many larger global and top tier law firms have expectations or unofficial benchmarks regarding academic performance so how you went at university will be taken into account. It is important to note that there are always exceptions to every rule and the expectations vary across firms and practice areas. From my experience, typically litigation partners are the strictest when it comes to grades whilst partners whose practices are transactional are more likely to be flexible.
It is worth remembering that the requirements around grades, can linger and you will be asked for transcripts right up until you are at or even beyond Senior Associate level. However, the emphasis on achievement will fade as your PQE grows. I have found that provided you have a credit average and no fails on your transcripts (in your Law degree) you should have a good chance of making it to a big firm if that is what you wish to do. Here are some of my best tips to help you get the position of your dreams.
Develop expertise in one area. At smaller firms it can be prudent to be a jack of all trades whilst at larger top tier and international law firms candidates tend to specialise or work in only one particular area (and sometimes even just one sub group of an area). With this in mind, it is worth trying to become an expert in one area. If you are at a smaller firm try and demonstrate an enthusiasm in a particular area and a willingness to do everything you can in that field. From my experience transactional lawyers at smaller firms can make the jump to top tiers pretty easily if they have focused in one area like corporate, financial services, property, construction, regulatory work or banking. If you are a litigator, I would encourage you to try and develop specific litigation experience in a sub group like construction, insolvency, insurance and/or intellectual property litigation as that may make it easier than if your experience was in general litigation.
Attend as many events and functions as you can and remember to use the opportunity to build your network. Try and speak to people you do not know. I recommend following up the next day with a LinkedIn contact request and a brief note, something personal ie ‘It was great to meet last night. I really enjoyed our discussion on X. I hope that we can keep in touch’. Building your network at any level of PQE is a good thing and may come in handy later down the track if a move up a tier is something you are thinking about.
Find a good recruiter that you like and trust and ask them for their advice. Ask them to keep you in mind for roles at your target firms in your target areas. Ask them for any tips they have, they should have some good ones. I know I have lost track of the number of lawyers I have helped move up a tier and I am always happy to chat with people and at Kensington Parry we pride ourselves on giving honest feedback.
Have a good Cv. What I mean by this is, have a Cv that is in a format that top tier and global firms are used to. This means no clip art, no bright colours, no narrative style but it does mean you need to have a deal list! Your Cv is an example of your drafting and written work, so it is important that you get it right as there is only one chance to make a first impression.
Join committees and working groups at not for profits and/or the Law Society in your chosen area of expertise and make connections with other practitioners in the area from other firms.
Consider further study or further qualifications. For some practice areas like Insolvency, Tax or Construction there are post graduate programs that might give you the edge when making your application.
Volunteer, giving back will not only assist the wider community you will get the chance to interact with practitioners who may be outside of your circle, thus widening your network, which may come in handy in the future.
Finally, keep an eye on the market and the broader economy and be ready to take advantage of any particular skills shortage. When there is a shortage of candidates in a particular area firms often look to candidates with mid -tier or boutique firm experience to hire into their top tier teams.
Please reach out at anytime if you have any questions or are actively thinking of making the move- email firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call +61 413 823 687.