The answer to this is fairly simple. Apply to commercial law firms if you are looking at training contracts with commercial law firms. Apply to the high street law firms for the same reason.
If you have a 2.2 or lower, you should be aiming at high street firms.
If your academics are good and your background excellent there is no reason why you will not be successful applying for training contracts with the commercial and city firms.
It is important to understand the distinction between high street and commercial. Salaries on the high street will rarely get above £40k for the majority of your career in most firms. Salaries in commercial firms go up into 6 figures. If at all possible you should be aiming to get work experience in commercial firms and give yourself a chance to go for a training contract in this sphere.
Work experience on the high street demonstrates a commitment to law, but commercial law firm experience indicates to HR and recruiters that you are aiming for a training contract in this area.
The best source of info for applying for work experience is the Legal 500 (www.legal500.com). You can identify the smaller sized commercial firms and also individual solicitors. Contact individual solicitors rather than HR – HR is basically there to fob you off!
Bear in mind that most firms have vacation schemes in place, but smaller sized practices tend to be more flexible at being able to offer you a few weeks work experience.
For further careers support including a free guide on how to find legal work experience and training contracts, please visit www.ten-percent.co.uk/careersshop