Catrin Wyn Williams - NationalLawLIVE: how it helped me to springboard from the GDL to trainee at BLM
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Catrin Wyn Williams attended NationalLawLIVE in December 2016. Since then, she has gone on to secure a September 2019 training contract at BLM, one of NationalLawLIVE’s sponsors in both 2016 and 2017, and has secured a paralegal role in the meantime. Read on for our interview with her, where she offers insight into this immersive student conference and the ways in which it helped her to progress to the next stage of her legal career.
How did you find the NationalLawLIVE application process?
It was similar to a vacation scheme or training contract application process, in that you have to spend a lot of time to put together a really good application. You can’t underestimate how long is required – I spent a good three days on mine. However, when I received notification that I’d been successful, I knew that all the time and effort had been worth it.
What is your top tip for those currently applying to NationalLawLIVE or CityLawLIVE?
It can be hard to know how to stand out on any application form, but don’t forget to include the simple things that make you interesting – for example, I taught Welsh after leaving school, and that was one of the things that recruiters seemed keen to talk to me about!
Also, draft your application first, and read over it again and again. In fact, get lots of different people to check it, including those that know you well, as they might spot some crucial things you’ve forgotten to mention.
How did you prepare for the day itself?
I did some research into the sponsor firms, as I wanted to get a feel for the type of law that they did. I also looked up the lawyers who were taking the workshops that I’d been assigned to, checking out their specialisms and recent work. I wanted to have some pre-prepared questions for each firm, so that I would have something to talk to them about. I also went to Manchester law fair a few weeks prior to NationalLawLIVE and targeted firms that would be attending the event. In most cases, it allowed me to speak with the graduate recruitment teams or trainees who would also be attending NationalLawLIVE; establishing a rapport with these teams stood me in great stead at the event. An example of this was the chat that I had with some of the BLM trainees. When I explained that I was going to the BLM catastrophic injury workshop at NationalLawLIVE, they mentioned some new developments I might want to learn more about and expanded on areas of specialism the attending partners were involved in.
All of this really helped when it came to talking to the partners in my workshop – I had something tangible to their area of work to approach them about and they were very happy to chat. Don’t forget that they want you to do well and they’re there, taking time out of their days, to hopefully find some future trainees! I also came prepared with questions for the various recruiters, including Matt and Keely of BLM’s graduate recruitment team, asking them more details about the vacation scheme and deadlines. It was a great way to gain insight into, and gauge the culture of, the firm. Being able to refer to a conversation you have had with a partner about any given topic is likely to impress on a future application and it shows that you are able to engage on a conversational level, as well as being eager!
What were your first impressions on the day itself?
I was very excited to be there and have such a great opportunity, but I was also slightly nervous! But it was very well organised; the first session put everyone at ease, as it was a panel made up of partners, so they were the ones having to answer the questions! I used this session to write down any key approaches to work, expectations of trainees or facts about the partners or their firms that I found particularly interesting. I used these as conversation starters with them later in the day – it shows that you have listened and that you are genuinely interested in the firm.
What was the most valuable aspect of the day?
The chance to speak to so many partners, trainees and recruiters in such a concentrated way – you just don’t have that opportunity anywhere else, including at law fairs. Everyone there is interested in talking to you too, especially as you’ve passed a rigorous process to be there.
Did you make any useful contacts and if so, have you maintained/built on those relationships?
I was just starting my training contract application to BLM when I got a lovely phone call from Matt, asking if I needed anything or wanted to meet for a coffee – I was blown away by that. I also kept in touch with some of the other delegates, including someone who asked me to help with his vacation scheme application, as I was a couple of years ahead of him in the process. I loved having the chance to chat to other GDL students about how they were finding things; that was really useful.
What advice do you have for those attending NationalLawLIVE (or similar events) on how to gain the most from the day?
Don’t underestimate the need to prepare – read as much as you can about the firms that are going to be there. If you have a particular practice area that you’re interested in, read up on that. But equally, go with an open mind. Also, remember that partners are people too – get up the guts to go and have a chat and you’ll see how approachable they all are. Just go for it!
If you are interested in applying to NationalLawLIVE in Manchester on 1 December, or its sister event CityLawLIVE in London on 8 December, there is still time to do so. The deadline for applications is Sunday 5 November – learn more about both events at the NationalLawLIVE and CityLawLIVE websites, or apply direct here.