Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

Connie O’Conor

  • When: Summer 2016
  • Subject: Philosophy
  • University: University of Durham

What did you do while on the vacation scheme (eg, type of work, networking, presentations or social events)?

I spent the first week of the vacation scheme in the litigation department, which I had put forward as a preference. The work was hugely varied – I proofread documents, condensed a judicial report, did a costs submission and conducted some research for Save the Children, a pro bono client of the firm. In the second week I sat with the corporate funds team, which I hadn’t requested in my application, but which I really enjoyed – it goes to show the importance of keeping an open mind and trying new things. My experience in corporate funds was different in that I had fewer formal tasks, but sat in more on conference calls and so on, and spent more time with my supervisor on the work that she was doing. The firm also put on networking breakfasts with all the departments, so I was able to get a feel for the other areas of the firm that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience. There were also lots of coffees, lunches and dinners with the other vac schemers and people from across the firm.

What did you feel that you gained from the placement (eg, insight into the firm, useful contacts or an appreciation of a trainee’s workload)?

The main thing I gained from the experience was confidence. I found the application process quite daunting and on the first day of the scheme, I arrived feeling almost like an impostor – particularly as I’m not a law student. But as soon as I arrived, I was made to feel like I fitted in – people were so generous with their time, while my fellow vac schemers were a diverse group of people. This gave me the confidence to think that I could both enjoy the experience and be good at it.

Which were the most enjoyable – and most challenging – aspects of the scheme?

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the scheme for me was attending a pro bono session in Battersea. Clifford Chance lawyers commit to a certain number of pro bono hours and I went along with a couple of trainees from corporate funds. It was great to see the firm engaging with and helping the local community, especially as I have previously volunteered for the Citizens Advice Bureau. However, probably the most enjoyable aspect of the scheme in general was all the people I met and getting to know their interests beyond their uniformly impressive legal credentials. 

There was one moment where I felt that I hadn’t been at my best – I was asked to do a piece of research and I struggled with it. I wasn’t happy with what I handed in, but that night I went home and redid the research with new information that I found, and handed that in the next day, after which I felt a lot better.

Did the scheme end with a training contract interview or some other kind of further recruitment process?

Yes. I was so nervous beforehand, but the interview took the form of a really interesting conversation with a female partner, which took in what I had learned on the scheme as well as my interests outside law. It was much more relaxed than the interview process for a place on the vacation scheme in the first place.

Is there one key thing that you took away from the experience that you would pass on as advice to others?

Talk to everybody and do everything with the greatest possible energy. Everyone on the scheme will be interesting and intelligent, so listen to what they have to say. And remember to be enthusiastic, as you will be working with people who are giving up valuable time to show you the ropes. 

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