Flo Williams - CityLawLIVE: what I gained from the experience and how you can benefit too
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Immersing myself into the opportunities provided by attending CityLawLIVE benefitted not only my applications, but my confidence and determination for a legal career. Walking into the conference, I was an extremely nervous attendee, lacking the confidence and belief in myself to succeed in the legal profession. Initially, I was overwhelmed walking into the hall of students and law firm stands, feeling rather inadequate and alone. Surprisingly, I was met with enthusiasm by all the other attendees who I am sure were just as nervous as me. Soon, I was not only networking with all the sponsor firms, but with like-minded, ambitious students who have now become friends and a great support network throughout the daunting application process.
The diverse agenda of the conference exposed me to how much more there is to learn about the legal profession. Walking into the panel discussions, I thought I knew all there was to know about applications as I had attended so many career talks at university. I didn’t think I would hear anything new. As the discussion began, I was amazed not only by the impressive panel that was put together, but how invaluable every single piece of information I received was. My hand couldn’t keep up as I frantically scribbled down all the advice! The same could be said about the other discussions, such as understanding the law firm as a business. As a non-law history student, I was able to better develop my understanding of the business angle, and where my place was in the success and profitability of a firm. Understanding the need to add value to a firm’s business has done wonders for my applications, really helping me to stand out.
Further packed into the day were the workshops, personally selected by attendees based on their interests. I honestly had no idea at the time what area of law I wanted to know more about; the options were endless. So I decided to utilise this invaluable opportunity for practical insight by experienced lawyers in two areas I knew nothing about: negotiating commercial contracts and tax. I purposely picked areas I was less confident about in order to gain extra exposure to, and understanding of, the legal profession. Not only was it reassuring to test my knowledge in practical challenges, but to be immersed in areas of the law otherwise unfamiliar to me.
The two workshops were a complete contrast; one was a practical task, working in a team to negotiate the best contractual deal for our fictional client, while the other was a Q&A style seminar to enhance our understanding of the complex law on taxation. The negotiation workshop enabled me to get out of my comfort zone, understand myself as a leader and team player, in an activity similar to assessment centre tasks. Receiving feedback from experienced lawyers on mine and my team’s performance also allowed for reflection and improvement. When it came to future assessment centres, I used the advice and it really showed in my confidence, exemplified by the positive performance feedback I have since received. I honestly don’t think I would have passed the assessment centre for my current legal internship without going to that workshop.
Finally, ending the day with a tax workshop was slightly daunting. I had no idea what would come up in the seminar - I knew nothing about tax. I thought anything numerical would be a weakness coming from an academic background revolved around words and essays. Once again, I was proved wrong. Thanks to the patience of, and concise explanations by, the host firm, I was able to grasp the complex structure of hedge fund deals and the position of lawyers in taxation transactions. Everyone in the room got involved in asking questions, all keen to get a handle on this area of law. Such a motivating and interested atmosphere really made the seminar enjoyable. We were made to feel like no question was silly; questions were always positively received and encouraged, allowing us all to engage fully in the workshop.
Overall, the event really boosted my confidence to ask, ask, and ask again when I don’t understand something or want to know more. I also left the day on such a high; my confidence grew because I realised not only were my skills strengthened, but I enjoyed aspects of the law I never imaged I would. It reaffirmed that this is the career for me. I was able to recognise that I wanted more practical experience with the law beyond academics. So, I successfully applied for an internship with Siemens in their legal department. I was able to incorporate the application and assessment centre advice I received to make a strong application.
I couldn’t recommend attending CityLawLIVE more. I built foundations in my commercial awareness, application skills and confidence to succeed in such a rigorous industry. If you do attend, I advise you to fully immerse and engage in the opportunities to network, meet like-minded individuals and get a true understanding of life in a City firm. Research attending firms before you go, so that you can ask really useful and constructive questions. It’s a challenging day and you will leave with invaluable knowledge and confidence that you might not expect.
Flo Williams is a graduate from the University of Birmingham and is now a legal intern for Siemens Plc. She attended CityLawLIVE in 2016.