Secure a training contract in your first year with SPARK

Last updated: 21 Jun 2023, 15:42

Find out more about Clifford Chance’s award-winning SPARK work experience programme, which you can apply to as a first-year student.

A group of SPARK interns sat around a table at Clifford Chance's offices

Picture this: you’ve just finished your first year at university. You’re not even halfway through your degree, but you’ve already secured a training contract with one of the world’s pre-eminent law firms. You can spend the rest of your time at university without the stress of balancing job applications with coursework deadlines and exams. You can focus on achieving the best degree result that you can and enjoying the extracurriculars that university life has to offer. By securing your future early, you can look ahead with confidence.

Sound good? Then you should apply to Clifford Chance’s SPARK scheme – the only first-year scheme that allows you to apply directly for a training contract.

So… what is SPARK?

Clifford Chance’s SPARK scheme is open to first-year law students, second year students on a four-year law degree and penultimate-year non-law students. It’s your chance to gain an insider’s view into what a career in law can look like, no matter what your degree background is.

You can expect:

  • A five-day programme, packed with a blend of classroom-based learning and time spent shadowing lawyers in different practice areas.
  • Presentations on practice areas, case studies and seminars that will help you develop your legal knowledge and commercial awareness.
  • Networking opportunities, where you will meet representatives from all levels within the firm.
  • A £450 per week salary.

And, once the five days are up, the very best candidates will be invited to apply for a place on a bespoke SPARK training contract assessment day. This is your opportunity to secure your training contract offer a whole year before you’d usually start applying for training contracts.

Life on SPARK

If you’re interested in the SPARK scheme, you may well want to hear from those who have already completed the experience. You can watch Adam, Tyra and Ollie’s stories on Clifford Chance’s careers website .

targetjobs has also previously spoken to SPARK alumni Tyra, Syed and Joe to gain their insights on the scheme. Throughout the week, Joe attended a variety of talks. Practice area talks included discussions of transactions and case studies by partners and associates, giving insights into different specialisms in commercial law, and there were additional talks on subjects such as demystifying corporate, how to build commercial awareness and emerging issues in the legal landscape.

‘The talks were fascinating,’ says Joe. ‘For each practice area, you’d be taken through each stage of a deal – it gave you a real insight into the work of a trainee. They confirmed in me the desire to work in commercial law.’

The talks opened Tyra’s eyes to practice areas she’d never thought of. ‘Before that week, I didn’t think I’d ever be interested in tax law, but I immediately started considering doing a seat (rotation) in it during my training contract,’ she laughs.

Tyra, Syed and Joe were all impressed by the extent to which they could ask questions and the forthcoming answers they received in return. All three attended a Q&A session with a senior partner in which they were told that they could ask anything and it wouldn’t go further than that room. ‘He was very transparent about the upsides and the downsides of working in law,’ says Joe.

‘Attend SPARK and you’ll fall in love with the atmosphere and culture of the firm,’ he adds. ‘One thing that really stood out to me was their presentation about pro bono work. The firm wants to do good in society, alongside achieving its commercial ambitions, and I feel very proud to be part of a firm that is so progressive.’

Gaining work experience

Joe and Tyra gained work experience in two practice areas. Inspired by the practice area talk, Tyra chose tax. ‘The associate I was with took me to meet everyone in the department. Then, I did some research into tax in different jurisdictions and we talked it through,’ she says. ‘I’m half-Ugandan and so we focused on how the tax system worked there; it was really interesting to learn more and it was also great to be shown the work I would do as a trainee.’

Joe found these insights equally fascinating. ‘For me, they were probably the best elements of the programme,’ he says. ‘In one I was given a task on a current, live transaction, inserting clauses into a contract (under supervision), and in another I was taken through the details of a current, confidential deal and all of the possible moves that could be made by both sides. I saw there wasn’t just one solution – but more than that, I saw the Clifford Chance collaborative culture in action. Everyone was so willing to give their time.’

Life after SPARK

Once you have a training contract offer, your journey at Clifford Chance has only just begun – and the firm keeps in touch with you throughout your degree. You’ll be paired up with a trainee buddy, for starters.

And, having secured your training contract at the end of your first year, you may well be thinking ‘What do I do in the summer of my second year?’. That’s where the firm’s award-winning LIFT internship comes in. It has partnered with a select number of organisations and core Clifford Chance business teams to offer paid summer internships to its future trainees, with the sole aim of supporting your professional development.

This means that, in between accepting your offer and starting your training contract, you’ll have the opportunity to develop useful non-legal skills such as marketing, product management and business operations, which will help you excel as a trainee.

Take Joe, for example. He completed a LIFT internship arranged by Clifford Chance with the Invictus Games Foundation. ‘I worked as a commercial intern. My job was to support the charity to prepare a new brand license for its 20 participating nations to use in accordance with its policies around sponsorship and donation acceptance,’ he explains. ‘The fact that Clifford Chance is so interested in your personal development and puts such unique opportunities in place shows that they are truly interested in you as an individual.’

Syed feels similarly. ‘The best thing about Clifford Chance is its ability to include you and match you with other people who are like-minded – and to take care of you as an individual,’ he says. ‘When I got a training contract offer, the person who originally interviewed me took the time to email me to congratulate me. This person was a very busy head of team. It convinced me that I had made the right choice in joining Clifford Chance.’

You can find out more about Clifford Chance’s LIFT internships here .

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