Stephenson Harwood LLP

Stephenson Harwood LLP

Alex Plant

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

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

I spent the first week of the scheme in the marine and international trade (MIT) group. The work was every bit as interesting and varied as I'd hoped – I sat in on a case which was being heard in the Court of Appeal, and conducted research on a niche point of law for a shipping dispute case. In the second week I sat in the finance group, where I worked closely with a trainee and supervising partner on the final stages of a restructuring project. Working with both teams gave me a broad perspective of what goes on at the firm and enabled me to try my hand an equally wide range of tasks, from compiling letters and amending documents to taking notes during conference calls. Each day was broken up with lunch with trainees and supervisors, while mornings were often spent attending introductory talks with associates from the various practice groups. We also went out for drinks with other placement scheme students and trainees in the evenings.   

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

The scheme gave me a genuinely honest insight into the atmosphere and feel of the firm. Every student knows that there is usually a lot of corporate speak on firms’ websites and in their brochures, but participating in a placement scheme cuts through that to enable you to see what a firm is really like. For example, the introductory talks given by associates felt like a two-way process where our questions were encouraged and answered honestly – while it was clear that they all enjoyed working at the firm and value the culture, it didn't feel as though they were sugar coating anything.

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

One particular highlight was a talk given to us by the firm’s chief executive, Sharon White. It was great to be able to ask questions about the growth and future strategy of the firm, and I think it is pretty rare for placement scheme students to have the opportunity to quiz someone at such a senior level. The most challenging aspect of the scheme was definitely time management and managing people’s expectations. At university, I was used to having several days or even weeks to complete assignments; the time frames are obviously much tighter at law firms. I enjoyed the challenge though and definitely learned from it.

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

An assessment day was held midway through the second week of the scheme, which alongside your general performance over the two weeks helps the firm to decide on training contract offers.

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

Invest real effort in speaking to as many people as possible, whatever their level of seniority. Not only will this give you a well-rounded feel for the firm, but the enthusiasm you show will naturally make a lasting impression on people. 

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