in Changing Jobs

Career Paths for Law

A common question we get asked by solicitors and executives is “what should I be doing with my career”?  It is very hard to give a response to this. It really depends on what you are looking for out of your career, and whether you seek a high salary, status, or you have entrepreneurial ambitions to progress. The “normal” progression of most solicitors seems to be: 

1. Training Contract with Firm A
2. Qualify with Firm A, remaining for 6 months – 2 years.
3.Move into Firm B with offers of career progression, remaining for anything from 2-5 years.
4. Stay with Firm B, move to Firm C or open own practice D. At this stage you should really be looking at partnership in any event or at least Head of Department. If you do not then career stagnates.
5. On attaining partnership remain with firm for career, unless exceptional offer to move comes up, or partners not up to expectations. 

An alternative progression increasingly common is:
1. Training Contract with Firm A; efforts made throughout contract to move to any other firm when discovering senior partner is either drunk/mad/vile/incompetent.
2. Qualify and immediately move to Firm B as money at Firm A is awful – remaining for 6 months to 2 years.
3. Realise Firm B is pretty awful as well and move to Firm C, remaining for 2 years.
4. Get bored at Firm C, move on to Firm D, remaining for 12 months.
5. Get bored at Firm D, move on to Firm E, remaining for 2 years.
This seems to be the way the profession is progressing in some areas.

There are firms who have yet to wake up to the fact that people expect good career prospects, salaries rewarding loyalty, a good working environment and responsible practice. Without these being evident, lawyers simply look for new positions each year or two, increasing their salary with every move, but never settling down and forming a good working relationship with their employers. 

We recommend being absolutely sure about a firm before making a move, and trying to stay with each practice during your career until it becomes clear that a move is needed to progress your career. We do not recommend moving simply for a few extra pounds – each time you move makes it that much harder in future years to find quality work. Firms can get very wary of lawyers who change firms more often than their underpants.  

Further in depth advice can be found at and
You can visit our careers forum for advice or get further assistance from us via telephone and face to face sessions in careers by visiting

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at You can contact Jonathan at