Mafruhdha Miah is a senior associate in RPC's Media and Data Disputes team. Currently on secondment to the litigation team at TikTok, she offers an insight into what it's like to work as a solicitor
A typical working day
A working day at RPC usually starts at around 9am and finishes at 7pm. My day-to-day tasks revolve around progressing active court cases to ensure that we meet deadlines set by the court on behalf of our publisher, broadcaster and tech platform clients. This includes drafting correspondence to the opposing solicitors to resolve issues between us, working with barristers to draft documents such as the defence or witness statements, and attending calls with the client to discuss strategy. As a team, we also review news articles, podcasts and books before they are published to reduce the risk of a complaint about them once they are published.
As we are notified of court deadlines in advance, my workload is fairly predictable, meaning that I do not tend to have unexpected late nights. However, when we are working to an important deadline, it can be very busy and I can work until 10pm or later.
While the hours can sometimes be long, the work is really interesting and intellectually engaging, and every day feels different. It is especially rewarding when you see the case you're working on reported in the news or you are asked about it by your non-lawyer friends and family, which is pretty common.
Most lawyers in my team will have one or two high-profile cases assigned to them, with three or four less active cases to progress in tandem, together with some pre-publication content to review and advise on. How many cases you are assigned depends on the team you are in. For example, colleagues in the Commercial & Banking Litigation team may work full-time on one case worth hundreds of millions of pounds, while colleagues in the insurance teams generally work on a large number of smaller files simultaneously. By contrast, corporate lawyers have more peaks and troughs, being relatively quiet for a time, before being incredibly busy leading up to the completion of a transaction.
Read up on the typical activities of a solicitor.
Getting a training contract at a big city law firm can be competitive. While they tend to offer more places than regional or boutique law firms, they also get more applicants. The best way to secure a training contract is usually by first securing a place on their vacation scheme, which is effectively a paid internship. As a rough guide, around one in three people who attend the vacation scheme manage to secure a training contract at RPC. That is much higher than the number of people who successfully apply directly for a training contract.
Joining a city law firm will give you plenty of variety when undertaking your training contract. Typically, you will complete four, six-month 'seats'. Each seat will be in a different department, so at RPC you can spend your seats working on corporate deals, advising on commercial contracts or intellectual property rights for big-name brands, representing insurers in a host of negligence-related disputes, or acting on multi-million pound disputes on complex banking litigation cases. There are also opportunities to spend six months working directly for one of the firm's clients, or at one of its overseas offices.
A trainee at RPC based in London will earn £44,000 in their first year, £48,000 in their second year and £85,000 upon qualification. If you work in a regional office like Bristol, you will earn slightly less. While some firms do pay more, you should bear in mind that you will likely need to work longer hours, and work in a field such as corporate finance. On the other end of the scale, you will likely earn less if you are working at a smaller or boutique law firm that focuses on advising individual clients on domestic issues such as family law or residential real estate, though your hours will typically be shorter, for example 9.30am to 5.30pm.
Take a look at how much lawyers earn.
Opportunities for promotion
I was very fortunate to be promoted to senior associate this year, having qualified just under four years ago. Most people can expect to be promoted around five years after they qualify, but it is not a magic number and is decided on merit, based on a number of factors including your performance in the team, your technical knowledge, and your contribution to the wider firm.
The working culture of a law firm is a really important factor to consider when applying to firms. Remember that it is a two-way street -you should consider whether the firm is a good fit for you, as well as trying to impress the firm yourself.
I chose RPC over other firms because I valued the high levels of responsibility given to trainees, the collegiate atmosphere between trainees, and the relatively flat hierarchy between the various ranks of lawyers. As we sit open-plan, I spent most of my training contract sitting next to, or opposite, a Partner and I never felt intimidated about asking them questions or getting to know them. As I've progressed in the team, I’ve built lasting relationships with some of our clients, and feel I can rely on my excellent colleagues to help me get through a busy period of work, as I would for them.
Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB)
DEIB is a real focus for RPC at the moment. Like other firms, RPC is making efforts to ensure that its workforce represents our society, which includes increasing female representation at the senior level and ethnic minorities and individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds at all levels. The firm has created a number of communities that staff can join to share ideas and experiences about how we can celebrate each other's differences and educate each other on different cultures and backgrounds.
Learn more about diversity in the legal profession.
Changes on the horizon
A number of our clients are now facing increased regulation in the UK and across Europe. For example, the Online Safety Bill, if enacted, will place more obligations on social media companies and others to ensure that content is appropriate for its audiences in the UK.
Similarly, the Digital Services Act in Europe places more obligations of transparency around the content and advertising hosted by online platforms, among other things. In order to ensure compliance with these new regulatory measures, online platforms and other businesses hosting user-generated content need the support of their legal advisers to make the changes needed to the products they offer.