In the know

The first Lawyer 2B Student Attitude Survey provides a valuable insight into the expectations and profile of wannabe lawyers. Gemma Charles reports

More than 200 students replied to the survey. Just over half of the respondents are undergraduates, the vast majority are white and the gender is split roughly 60/40 female to male.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of respondents wish to pursue a career as a solicitor, with 32 choosing the bar. Not one respondent said they wanted to be a paralegal and only three want to become legal executives, an indication that organisations such as the Institute of Legal Executives have their work cut out to persuade law students that they offer viable career options. Working

in-house was cited only six times, but with none of the top blue-chips offering formalised training opportunities, as revealed by a Lawyer 2B investigation on page 45, this is hardly surprising.

Law students expect to graft once they become lawyers. Forty-five per cent expect to work 36-45 hours a week, while nearly 40 per cent expect to be doing 46-55 hours. Weekend working has also been accepted, with 62 per cent resigned to the fact that occasionally their leisure time will be disrupted.

You are an ambitious lot. Forty-four per cent of respondents expect to become partners by the age of 35, with 5 per cent saying they expect to be made up between the ages of 25 and 35.

Has the magic circle lost its magic?

Is the pull of the magic circle on the wane? Medium-sized City firms came out as the most popular place to qualify, followed by large City firms and then regional ones. Only five respondents mentioned a move into the public sector.

Students believe the bar to be more sexist than the solicitors profession. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents said they thought opportunities were more limited for female solicitors, but the figure is almost 60 when asked about opportunities for female barristers. Respondents were more undecided on the effect of being from an ethnic minority. Although 42 per cent thought opportunities were more limited for people from ethnic minority backgrounds, 31 per cent said they did not agree with this and almost a quarter said they were not sure.

Outside the law

Ninety-three per cent of respondents wish to pursue a career in law. Of those that did not, half the respondents cited cost as the reason. Becoming part of the fourth estate is the most popular alternative career. Despite hacks being about as popular as estate agents, journalism is the most cited choice, with 17 respondents saying it was a career that interested them. Then again, lawyers are not exactly the most loved people on the planet either, so those studying law have probably come to terms with being unpopular.

Other alternative careers that scored highly include accountancy, banking and diplomacy.

The Lawyer 2B Attitude Survey was conducted in association with Wragge & Co

Lawyer 2B survey results

The Lawyer 100 top 15 Students top 15
1 Clifford Chance Clifford Chance
2 Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Allen & Overy
3 Linklaters Slaughter and May
4 Allen & Overy Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
5 Lovells Linklaters
6 Eversheds Lovells
7 Slaughter and May Herbert Smith
8 Herbert Smith Eversheds
9 DLA Norton Rose
10 Norton Rose Wragge & Co
11 Ashurst Baker & McKenzie
12 Denton Wilde Sapte CMS Cameron McKenna
13 Simmons & Simmons DLA
14 CMS Cameron McKenna Simmons & Simmons
15 Hammonds Ashurst

Source: The Lawyer 100 2003

The survey revealed that students are generally pretty clued up when it comes to market knowledge of the top firms. When asked to name the 10 top UK law firms, the majority matched The Lawyer 100s turnover-based list. (The Lawyer 100 is widely recognised as the definitive measure of law firms financial performances.) Clifford Chance, the worlds largest law firm, came top in the student survey, and all of the magic circle firms were named in their top five, with Slaughter and May (once considered to be part of the magic circle) splitting the pack by muscling in at third place.

DLA, ninth largest on turnover with 233m, came out in fifteenth place, while Wragge & Co, 26th in The Lawyer 100s list and dwarfed by DLA with a turnover of 79.3m, came in at tenth. Wragges deserves a pat on the back for registering so strongly with the student population, although the effect of its sponsorship of the survey and the fact that its logo is directly under this particular question cannot be discounted.

Although students were asked to name UK firms, US firm Baker & McKenzie came eleventh, perhaps reflecting its large and long-established London office. Other US firms cited included Dechert, Weil Gotshal & Manges and White & Case.

Sorry to single you out, but one student named investment bank JPMorgan you really need to do a bit more research.

What do students think of law firm recruitment activity?

Selected responses:

Clifford Chance

The good

Good food, free drink, short but informative presentation.

Genuine frankness of partners, especially in admitting areas of weakness in the firm.

The bad

Boring campus presentation about how it is the best obviously it will think that.

A dull presentation by a firm not interested in anything except resting on its laurels.

During the group exercise it expects

non-lawyers to know the law.

Long presentation. Gave little insight of what the job actually involved.


The good

Reception at London Aquarium.

Excellent food and drink, wonderful ambiance and surroundings, sufficient lawyers to talk to.

Fun and impressive presentation.

It was a nice setting.

Helpful and impartial. Excellent presentation and genuinely interested in individuals.

The bad


Allen & Overy

The good

Seemed friendlier than the rest.

Presentation is friendly and inviting.

Opportunity to talk to lawyers at all stages of their careers.

The bad

Too pompous.

Herbert Smith

The good

Jazz evening.

Was not boring: you could question members of the firm in a pleasant environment.

Relaxed. Firm members easy to talk to.

Problem question in interview gave it a good focal point.

Very informative presentation.

The bad

Too stuck up and did not try to win you over with friendliness, just boasting.

Norton Rose

The good

Personal, informative, recruitment team and trainees approachable.

The presentation was well done. The food and drink afterwards provided an informal way of gaining further information, and firm members were at hand to answer all queries.

The bad

The group exercise was dominated by one idiot who let no one else speak and Norton Rose did nothing about it.

CMS Cameron McKenna

The good

Very insightful and provided real answers when asked questions.

The bad

Very unenthusiastic and not at all inspiring.

Extremely boring, uninsightful and lacked any new information.

During the selection day, staff were brought in to process applicants who had no idea about graduate recruitment. They were unable to answer the most basic questions regarding the firm.