The Real Contract: pulling back the curtain on life as a trainee at Clifford Chance

Last updated: 21 Jun 2023, 15:42

Get an insider's view on what life at Clifford Chance is like, from partners, associates and trainees at the firm.

Emmanuel Goriola, a solicitor at Clifford Chance, filming his Real Contract video

If you are decided on a career in commercial law, you may already know that a training contract gives you the best of both worlds. It’s a way of training at the firm, receiving structured support and learning from expert lawyers while earning an income. Training contracts at the top law firms are competitive, so Clifford Chance is looking for applicants that really distinguish themselves. Securing a training contract is an achievement to be proud of.

It's easy to see getting a training contract as an end goal when, really, it is a starting line. That life-changing call, email or letter that tells you ‘well done’ and ‘welcome’ is the beginning of a long and fulfilling career. Along with the congratulations and kudos from friends and family, and the 30-storey office, swimming pool and socials, comes hard graft in a role that will test your limits while opening the doors to many opportunities. So, what exactly will life look like as a trainee solicitor at Clifford Chance?

Just the beginning

This is what The Real Contract captures. In a series of searingly personal videos and handwritten letters, both experienced and junior Clifford Chance lawyers explore the deeper truths beneath the corporate idea. Partners, associates and trainees discuss their successes, challenges and lessons after signing their training contract with the firm. They share their journeys to qualification and beyond, and consider the advice they would give their younger selves, the lessons they have learned and the reassurance they would like to pass on.

Ultimately, as well as lifting the lid on what a trainee solicitor at Clifford Chance can really expect, The Real Contract serves to encourage students and graduates to start their journey with their eyes open and commit to working hard and delivering excellence.

You can start by watching Clifford Chance’s video on The Real Contract below and reading some sneak peeks – before moving on to the full videos and letters from John MacLennan, Lucy Johnson, Emmanuel Goriola, Maggie Zhao, Kikun Alo, Christopher Sullivan and Hephzibah Adeosun on Clifford Chance’s careers website .

What is The Real Contract?


Find out what The Real Contract means to Clifford Chance.

From reality check to the real deal

Senior associate Kikun Alo recalls her younger self as impatient to start her first day. ‘But the real contract isn’t the one that you sign with the firm; it’s the contract you enter into with yourself, right now,’ she says, thinking back to that time. ‘These two years will demand your full commitment.’

Having targeted a career in law at the age of 15, Kikun explains the role trainees can play in supporting each other when experiencing testing moments. Strong relationships with peers are invaluable, as are the skills we learn over the course of our lives. In Kikun’s case, being a listening ear and encouraging voice when needed has been at the core of her career.

Now a partner in the securitisation practice, Maggie Zhao joined Clifford Chance in London from the firm’s offices in China, leaving friends and family behind after buying a one-way ticket. ‘You are so much more resilient than you realise,’ she says addressing herself back then.

Maggie recalls the highs and lows of those early years: ’You won’t be expecting to close a transaction in your second week,’ she tells her younger self, while at the same time admitting, ‘You won’t be expecting the exhaustion that hits you after four consecutive nights working late.’ She passes on two key pieces of advice to her younger self, which trainees of today can build on: ‘be brave’ and ‘trust yourself’, she says.

Honest, open and reassuring

By opening up so honestly, Clifford Chance’s lawyers are aiming to empower future lawyers with a fuller understanding of what a career in law entails, so they are equipped to thrive. Their reflections offer reassurance to anyone who encounters challenges along their journey and fears that they cannot overcome them.

Newly qualified associate Hephzibah Adeosun, who began her training contract in 2019, reassures her younger self that she won’t be going through that period alone and she offers advice that she should ask for help if she needs it. ‘With dedication you will grow and reap the results,’ she tells herself.

There’s a moment when partner John MacLennan recalls how much grit and self-belief he needed when he saw no way through his workload. He celebrates the teamwork that he’s been a part of and reminds his younger self to enjoy those early years because they pass very quickly. Christopher Sullivan, also a partner, offers encouragement and urges his younger self to be inquisitive and authentic.

Every challenge is an opportunity

Trainee Emmanuel Goriola admits it can be daunting to tell your supervisors that you need more time or support, but he adds, ‘Ultimately they understand you’re human.’ He recalls a particularly fast-paced week when he was working at the firm’s Madrid office as the only trainee, determined not to let his team members down. ‘At the end of the week, the partner I was working with sent out an email to the entire team commending me on my work,’ he says, adding that such a moment of recognition makes all the hard work worth it.

Lucy Johnson, chair of the trainee committee, reflects on the qualities that helped her manage the complex work as she started her training contract from home during the pandemic. She can see the value she has already brought to Clifford Chance but admits how hard some of the longest days have been and how important her friendships within the firm are proving to be. Lucy reminds her younger self that every challenge is an opportunity and that her potential has already been acknowledged by the firm when she was offered a training contract. ‘I want trainees to feel they are not on their own. We’re here to learn; we aren’t here to be perfect from the get-go,’ she says.

What's next?

Why not watch all of the The Real Contract videos and download the accompanying booklet? You can also read targetjobs' other articles with Clifford Chance for more insights on vacation schemes and training contracts with the firm.

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