University: University of Exeter
Degree: Law with French law
Department: Global finance
I felt that a career in law would be a challenging career in which I would be constantly learning. I was also attracted by the diversity of the legal industry, as there are so many areas and specialisms to choose from. Another important factor for me was the teamwork and social aspects of the profession – most of the time I prefer to work in a team than on my own.
Although I did enjoy all advocacy-related courses and training throughout my education, I was not interested in going to court and being limited to contentious work. I felt that transactional work would suit my interests and personality best. Working in a team also appealed to me more than working for myself.
I wanted to integrate into a slightly smaller London office with a smaller trainee intake in order to make the most of my training and the career opportunities that would follow it. When I was applying for training contracts, Sidley London seemed like the right fit for me in that regard, but was also expanding (as indeed it still is). I wanted to be part of that growth and take advantage of the work opportunities that would stem from it. I also wanted to do finance-related work and so focused on applying to firms that have a strong practice in this area, as Sidley does.
Prior to starting at Sidley, I completed a three-month summer internship at a UK firm’s Paris office. This was an invaluable experience as it was my first insight into the inner workings of a law firm and the legal profession. It increased my confidence greatly, as well as my certainty that this was a career that I wanted to pursue. In interviews I was able to use my experience to demonstrate my motivation and newly acquired skill set.
What made my application successful was probably my work experience: through it I was able to convincingly explain why I wanted to pursue a legal career and show that I had the motivation and the skills needed to become a solicitor. I also highlighted my hobbies and involvement in different university societies, which I believe helps to show recruiters that you are a well-rounded candidate with varied interests.
My first seat was a secondment to the litigation, arbitration and investigations department of the Hong Kong office. My second seat was in the financial services regulatory department. My third seat was in the global finance department and my final seat was in the corporate securities department.
The firm provides final-seat trainees with a list of openings in the different departments. Trainees then apply to the jobs that they want by providing the departments with their CVs, and have an interview with the head or heads of the department.
I wish I had been more confident in asking questions, even seemingly unintelligent ones. Everyone understands that trainees are starting from scratch and will have a lot of questions throughout their training contract. Asking questions would have enabled me to learn even more from every task undertaken.
What I enjoy the most in my career is the dynamic aspect of transactional work and the teamwork it involves. What I enjoy the least is probably not being able to plan my evenings very well – part of what makes the job exciting is that you never know what a day or week will have in store for you, but it also means that planning your time outside of work can be difficult.
The culture is definitely what makes Sidley stand out for me – it is genuinely a great place to work, as everybody here is very human and friendly. There is a culture of respect toward everybody and less hierarchy than other firms, which means that as a trainee or junior lawyer it is easier to approach partners with questions.
The skills you will need and develop in order to become a successful solicitor depend on what type of lawyer you are – as a transactional lawyer, I think the most important skills are organisation, being detail-oriented and knowing how to prioritize tasks and manage your time.
My advice would be to get as much work experience as possible – for instance, if you are able to paralegal over the summer, do so. There is no better preparation for interviews and it will really enable you to understand and be confident in your career choices. In addition, I would start investigating the areas of law you are interested in – this will help you choose which law firms to apply to down the line and will place you in good stead before you start your training contract.
Anywhere I can surf!