updated on 17 December 2019
On the 29 November 2019, myself and a few of my fellow students attended as delegates at the LawCareersNetLIVE event in Manchester. To attend this event, we had to complete an application form, very similar to those of vacation schemes and training contract applications. Our commitment to this was praised at the start by Bethany Wren, the content & events manager at Law Careers.Net, as there were a large number of applicants so we should feel proud to have made it thus far.
Lisa Tye – Shoosmiths
The first keynote speaker of the day was Lisa Tye, partner at Shoosmiths, who talked to us about gender equality within the industry. She also touched upon the structural mechanisms that are necessary to allow women to progress to the top of the hierarchy and the importance of discussions that surround this area to open up systematic barriers and perform more affirmative actions. This was very motivating as a woman hoping to go into this industry, and reassuring that procedures are being put into place to allow women to progress to ensure equality.
Question time: the law firm as a business
Next, a panel of top law firm partners addressed key issues affecting firms over the next couple of years. The panel consisted of Clare Durkin, BLM; Matthew Germain, Osborne Clarke LLP and Debra Cooper, Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP. The panel members discussed issues regarding profit margins being squeezed and therefore an increase in capped/fixed fees being implemented rather than the traditional 1/3 overheads, 1/3 staff and 1/3 profit system. They also alluded to the steps law firms have taken over the last few years to increase diversity, inclusion and work/life balance, as they have had to evolve. Firm culture was also mentioned here, which forms an important part of deciding where you would want to train as a solicitor and further your career. A key tip from this panel was to look at a firm and see how it has got to where it is to see whether the direction of a firm fits with your future plans and whether you fit with the future of the firm.
One of the questions presented to the panel was “what makes a good commercial lawyer?”, A few of the answers included being technically strong; keen; proactive; and having the ability to network and foster relationships outside of a firm’s client base.
Workshop with Shoosmiths - real estate: the heart of every business
I selected my first workshop to gain an insight into the running of a successful real estate team. In tables of around six, we were given a scenario and asked to discuss any issues that we believe we would need to advise the client on. This was an interesting opportunity to be able to talk with other like-minded students from all different universities, all at different stages of their career path. We all took it in turns to put our opinion across within the group and then we were asked to collect all our ideas together for one person from each group to present the ideas back to the room.
Throughout the workshop, the Shoosmiths team circulated the room to ensure that any questions we had were answered. Further information was provided as we continued our discussions, meaning that there were now more factors that we needed to consider. This represented an insight into the issues that the real estate team have to assess from day to day. Overall, this workshop was very informative and I really enjoyed the interactive element and getting to put our brains together in groups!
After the first workshop, there was another opportunity for us to network with firms and also have some lunch. The lunch provided was amazing with so much selection. I spent this time talking with the trainees at Gowling WLG to gain a real insight into what life as a trainee is like.
Workshop with Osborne Clarke: environmental law
Next, there was the opportunity for us to attend another workshop with a different firm. I selected this one as this is a topic that applies to a number of different areas of law in the current market, being a very diverse area of law. The history of environmental law and Manchester were discussed to demonstrate how far they have both developed, all the way back to the biblical times! Caroline Bush, senior associate told us that environmental law in practice covers areas such as: pollution; air and water; and the waste and contaminated land regime. Overall, this workshop also provided an insight into what working in practice in this particular sector area would be like.
Question time: key advice for applicants
This panel included recruiting experts across a range of firms providing advice on applications, interviews and how to excel through the process. The panel consisted of: Samantha Hope, Shoosmiths; Sarah Tucker, DWF Group Plc; Caroline Dean, Mills & Reeve LLP; Jane Wood, Nottingham Law School and Lara Machnicki, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. Delegates received advice on how to demonstrate key skills in the work experience section of applications, how to show that you are constantly developing your commercial awareness and also, how each firm’s vacation schemes are similar/different. Assessment centres were also addressed to discuss the individual and group tasks that will be carried out to determine if you are successful to pass through to the next stage of the process. A top tip received during this panel was to read back through your application form if you are successful in getting through to the next round, as it refreshes your memory on your motivations.
To conclude, this event was incredibly insightful and I am extremely grateful to have been in attendance. The advice provided and the experience that this provided me with has helped to motivate me further with tackling vacation scheme applications. A huge thank you to LawCareers.Net and all of the sponsor firms for the opportunity to attend events like this to assist us aspiring lawyers further through our careers!
Emily Williscroft is the vice president of mentoring & social media at Edge Hill University Law Student Society and attended LawCareersNetLIVE Manchester 2019.