Laura Cutts - K&L Gates LLP
Laura Cutts is a third-seat trainee in the dispute resolution and litigation team at K&L Gates. She studied English literature and French at Cardiff University.
I joined K&L Gates (K&L) in September 2011 and, having completed seats in both the corporate and finance departments, I am currently gaining experience with the dispute resolution and litigation team. All are departments in which I was keen to sit so I am delighted with the way my training contract is developing.
I came to law after working in the travel industry for a number of years. The involvement with commercial contracts and litigation, among other things, fuelled a strong interest in the law and, after thorough investigation, I made the decision to return to college to do the GDL and the LPC. I loved the commercial buzz in the workplace and this led to a real interest in working in a corporate and commercial environment.
Choosing the right firm was essential, as it is clear that the training experience varies significantly depending on the size, location and specialisms of a particular firm. An international aspect to the work was high on my list of priorities; large clients like to be able to use firms that can offer a global platform and advise them on all aspects of a transaction. I wanted a firm that would attract these kinds of high-profile clients. Given that I had also studied French for my first degree and spent time living and working in France, the opportunity to add value with my language skills was all part of the attraction. K&L had just opened an office in Paris when I was applying and the firm was clearly making significant in-roads on the European market in general, which showed the direction in which the firm was moving. Expansion and increased global presence has only intensified over the last few years, making it an even more exciting time to have joined.
Here in London the firm moved to fabulous new offices at One New Change in 2011. To be working in such lovely surroundings with excellent facilities and stunning views of St Paul's all adds to the overall job satisfaction, not to mention the added bonus of fantastic shops and restaurants on the doorstep.
It was also really important for me to find a firm which would be able to offer a hands-on training contract. I wanted the opportunity to take as much responsibility as was feasible and I haven't been disappointed. The firm only takes a small number of trainees each year and, in my view, this has a hugely positive impact on training. We are all highly valued as individuals and don't feel like tiny cogs in a huge wheel, which is how some of my peers who are training at very large firms with large numbers of trainees do feel. The fee earners allocating the work, be they partners or associates, respond positively when work is done well and react accordingly by increasing the levels of responsibility and technical difficulty where possible.
The work I have been exposed to in the last 16 months has been international, interesting, varied, challenging, and often high-profile and exciting; all of which allows you to demonstrate that you have the skills and experience to be a good solicitor on qualification, which is the ultimate aim. The small number of trainees and the attitude to training at the firm also means that we all feel incredibly well supported and get a lot of client interaction. The firm operates an open-door policy, so we get to know people right across the firm and feel confident in approaching anyone for guidance or supervision.
I hadn't studied law when I applied for my training contract but did have prior work experience which was valued on application. I think it's important not to underestimate any industry sector experience you have which may be relevant, as you may be able to add value to the legal advice provided to clients in that particular sector. In addition, any further legal experience that can be gained is clearly an excellent way to demonstrate commitment to the career and will also help once training begins. I did some unpaid work experience at another City firm prior to applying, which provided a good opportunity to discuss tangible work specifics at interview. Doing the research prior to application was crucial, and resources such as LawCareers.Net and The Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook were excellent starting points before really trying to get to know the firm from its own website and other publications. This also meant that I was able to really justify why I wanted to work for K&L in particular, which was incredibly important.
When I finished the LPC, and before starting my training contract, I had a year out during which I worked as a paralegal at another City firm, followed by a legal project for a major bank. Both roles broadened my experience, increased my technical legal knowledge and provided me with good contacts, all of which is really useful for training and beyond.
I also rate the formal training the firm provides, not only in the form of the PSC, but also the professional development options. The firm wants all its employees to have the ability to develop and learn, and offers training programmes and seminars to further this; the trainees' opportunities for involvement are no different to anyone else's.
I would encourage anyone who wants to train in a dynamic City firm that offers wide-ranging, high-quality experience in a supportive yet fast-paced environment to apply to K&L. In our intake we all came from differing backgrounds and therefore offer a range of different skills and perspectives, which is seen in a positive way. Provided that you have the academic ability, can show you are a well-rounded individual committed to a career in law and are keen to work hard, there should be nothing stopping you from applying.