How to answer the question: 'Why this firm?'
Preparing for a Training Contract or Vacation Scheme Interview can be nerve-wracking, but being able to give a convincing and confident answer when asked ‘why this firm?’ can make a huge difference! It is a question that without a doubt will come up, and is frequently asked. Therefore, it is vital that you have a well-prepared answer that showcases how the firm aligns with your interests and career ambitions.
Whilst it sounds like a given, it is important to research the firm prior to interviewing. Take a look at the firm’s website, read about their practice areas and recent deals/transactions they have advised on. However, to avoid your answer sounding too generic, ensure you support any claims with personal experiences – be it from work experience, university, or a part-time job!
When reading, think about what appeals to you about this, whilst non-exhaustive, below are some examples:
1. Nature of Clients
Many deals/transactions at city law firms will involve industry leaders and high-profile household names. As a result, training at a city law firm provides a unique opportunity to work on complex and high-profile transactions, which can provide valuable experience and exposure to the legal industry. Ensure you relate this back to deals that the firm you are interviewing at has worked on – but explain why they stood out to you, and what you found particularly interesting about them.
2. The Cross-Jurisdictional Nature of the Work
Cross-jurisdictional legal work refers to legal work that involves multiple jurisdictions; as such, you could reason the international aspect of the work might be what appeals to you about the firm you are interviewing at. Working cross-jurisdictionally requires a deep understanding of the legal systems of multiple countries, which can be challenging, but also provides a unique opportunity for lawyers to expand their knowledge and expertise. As a trainee working on multi-jurisdictional deals, it would also give you exposure to clients and lawyers from around the world, with is both intellectually stimulating and rewarding. If you decide to mention this, it is suggestable to research the global presence of the firm and any cross-jurisdictional work they have done recently. Equally, this may increase the chance of an international secondment; you could reason that this would be good for your training and provide you with the opportunity to network.
3. Size of the Firm/Trainee Intake
The size of the firm may also be a key factor for you. Do you want train in a smaller cohort? Then mention this and reason why. US firms for instance tend to take less trainees than Magic Circle firms – why does this appeal to you? You could say that working in leaner teams would give you a greater opportunity to work on complex work at an earlier stage in your career as opposed to if you were training at a firm where there were four or five times the amount of trainees. However, on the flipside, at firms where there are larger cohorts, training tends to be formalised, so do your research on this before deciding. Reaching out to current trainees and asking is a good way to do this.
4. Practice Areas
Firstly, you must get to grips with what the firm’s key practice areas are if you are to use this in your answer when asked why this firm. A good way to do this is to first of all look at the firms website, but also Chambers and the Legal 500, which rank firms practice areas nationwide.
5. The Culture of the Firm and Causes You Care About
The culture at the firm you are interviewing at is also an important factor to consider, and something to potentially draw on when answering this question. Culture can sound slightly buzzwordy, but fundamentally it refers to the shared values, beliefs and behaviours that define the law firm, outside of its work. When researching the culture of a firm, look at any D&I initiatives and the pro bono work it is involved in. Often, city firms have dedicated pro bono lawyers and pages, so there is always a good start. Additionally, see if the firm has any internal committees that are of interest to you. If you are interviewing post vacation scheme, utilise your time well and reach out to the people who run these schemes internally to gain a deeper understanding of how as a trainee you could get stuck in and help run these programmes. Being able to demonstrate that you understand the culture of a firm shows a deep interest and the fact that as a potential trainee, you would be keen to get involved in all aspects of the firm, even outside of work.