Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

Dermot Costello

  • When: Summer 2016
  • Subject: Law with American studies
  • University: King’s College London

What did you do while on the vacation scheme?

One thing that distinguished Sullivan from other schemes was that we didn’t have ‘make-work’ activities; we were involved with tasks that contributed to actual, live work. For example, a client had a medium-term note programme, issuing debt on a rolling basis. I was asked to work with a precedent document, check various elements and change the terms as necessary. I did other bits of research and looked at the partner comments on an associate’s piece of work.

We sat in on some presentations, with other members of the firm, where different lawyers talked through how their various deals were progressing. It was great to hear about complicated transactions and get a sense for what the firm does. On the social front, we had cocktails with the trainees, dinner with lots of different people from the firm and one of the grad rec partners, also took us all out for lunch. Another nice thing was that all the junior lawyers tend to eat lunch together in the canteen, so there was a real communal feeling, especially when compared to some other firms.

What did you feel that you gained from the placement?

I definitely got great insight into how some transactions are run, being given the chance to sit and read actual documents. And because I was also asked to do some minor drafting jobs, I got a sense of what you actually do as a lawyer; you’re not just writing fake memos.

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

I enjoyed having to develop my research skills, under time pressure, and breaking work down for someone else’s benefit. We also went on a great tour of the Lloyd’s Building and the Royal Courts of Justice, which I really enjoyed – it was an interesting jaunt to learn more about legal and insurance history.

The only thing I found difficult at the beginning to get used to was having to email trainees or associates to ask for work. That was a challenge as I had to really manage my time, juggle different tasks, seek work and prioritise my workload. It was a step up from managing my studies and other commitments at university.

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

At the end of the scheme I met for a brief chat with both grad rec partners, who wanted to know how I’d found the process and if I had any questions – it seemed more for my benefit than theirs. I then submitted a document with a list of everyone I’d worked and they were contacted for their impressions of me. It wasn’t a daunting process at all.

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

On the scheme itself, try and ask as diverse a group of people as you can for work; if you’ve chatted over lunch, then ask them if you can help with something. Be proactive and chase as many different types of work as you can; don’t sit and twiddle your thumbs hoping work will come to you!

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