We got Clifford Chance training contracts through its Springboard scheme
Clifford Chance is a trailblazer among the law firms seeking to engage with first-year students interested in a career in law. Now in its third year, the firm’s pioneering and unique first-year Springboard scheme enables outstanding first-year students (or second years if on a four-year degree) to spend a week with the firm. You can learn everything there is to know about life in a top commercial law firm and even gain a training contract offer. Yes, you could secure a training contract a full year before other students even start applying!
In addition, the paid week is crammed with opportunities to discover whether City law would suit you. There are practice area talks, socials with everyone from trainees to partners, a visit to the firm’s Paris office, work-shadowing opportunities in departments and specially crafted careers workshops.
Rest assured that you don’t have to be studying law to apply. In 2016, 35% of Springboarders came from a non-law background. But whatever your degree, you shouldn’t expect the scheme to be an ‘easy’ way into Clifford Chance: the firm only hires the best and the training contract selection process is rigorous.
Meet two Springboarders
Hephzibah Adeosun, in her final year studying law at Cambridge, attended the first ever Springboard scheme and has since been offered a training contract. She first became inspired to join Clifford Chance when she heard a Clifford Chance lawyer give a talk while she was in sixth form. ‘I was so interested in what she said that I asked her if I could spend a day work-shadowing her,’ Hephzibah recalls. ‘I was delighted when she said yes and I really appreciated that she took me into client meetings and showed me how fascinating her work was. At the end of the day, I knew I wanted to find out more about the firm and the first-year Springboard scheme was an ideal opportunity to do that. I am so pleased to have been offered a training contract with the firm; the Springboard scheme opened doors for me and I would highly recommend it.’
Ffion Williams, who completed the Springboard scheme in 2016, agrees. She is now in the penultimate year of a Scottish law degree at the University of Edinburgh and, to qualify in England and Wales, she will need to complete the law conversion course. ‘I didn’t come across any other opportunity that would allow me to gain that much experience early on,’ she says. ‘The potential to gain a training contract was a massive incentive and I feel privileged to be the first in my year to be offered one.’ We asked Hephzibah and Ffion what else they gained from the scheme.
''At Clifford Chance we found a good culture'
‘I saw immediately that Clifford Chance would suit me,’ says Ffion. ‘In my first year at university, I was mentored by a trainee at Clifford Chance. He had received multiple training contract offers; he chose Clifford Chance because, he said, its culture set the firm apart. I soon knew what he meant. The firm is clearly meritocratic, but the people are so friendly.’
Hephzibah found the same. ‘From trainees to associates to partners, everyone was very approachable. Clifford Chance is one of those places where you realise that a lot of the myths about City firms are just that: myths.’ While everyone worked very hard, Hephzibah found that people still had time to go to the firm’s gym, swimming pool and bar. ‘I am into sports so finding out about the classes put on at the gym was useful. The office, its location and facilities are simply amazing. I knew it was the kind of place in which I’d be happy working.’
'During Clifford Chance's Springboard scheme we got honest answers'
Hephzibah and Ffion found that no question was off limits. ‘It was a great opportunity to ask the questions you are apprehensive about. I asked about having a social life outside of work,’ says Ffion. ‘I appreciated the candid answers, which gives a perspective that I don’t think you can get from reading firms’ brochures.’ Hephzibah agrees: ‘I asked trainees what challenges the firm would face in the next five years and how they themselves would be affected by them. Their answers gave me lots to think about and I then felt able to go on to discuss these challenges with partners in order to gain their perspectives, too.’
'Clifford Chance gave us the chance to understand law in practice'
‘Partners gave us detailed overviews of the firm’s main practice areas and gave us a real insight into clients and transactions,’ says Hephzibah. Ffion observes: ‘Before I went to the talks, I thought I’d specialise in tax and accounting, but now I think I’d be better suited to other areas of commercial law.’ Hephzibah and Ffion also benefited from taking part in case studies, which allowed them
to work through the types of transactions they would find on the job. ‘The law taught at university is very theoretical,’ reflects Ffion. ‘These opportunities showed us what it would be like in practice.’
'Clifford Chance partners gave us inspiration for the future'
Hephzibah and Ffion came away invigorated by where their career could take them. Hephzibah was among the trainees who were inspired by a talk in the Paris office by a partner. ‘She was brilliant at explaining how her career had developed and how she balanced the challenges of having a family with being a partner,’ says Hephzibah. ‘She explained how the firm operated as one unit and one culture and how it was possible to start out in London and potentially go anywhere.’
'Gaining a training contract offer following Springboard gave us security'
Clifford Chance is keen to ensure that, after the Springboard scheme, you feel part of the firm. Both Ffion and Hephzibah have been invited back for further work experience and have kept in touch with the graduate recruiters, trainees and other Springboarders. ‘I’ve met the trainee I was given as a buddy on the scheme for coffee and we email every month, which makes me feel very welcomed,’ reflects Ffion. Hephzibah has also been able to invite members of Clifford Chance to her college for student society events and she has bonded with her fellow Springboarders. ‘I had training contract offers from three other firms,’ she admits. ‘I chose Clifford Chance because of the amount of time I had spent there and the relationships I had developed. I feel very valued by the firm, as if I am already part of “the Clifford Chance network”. I am confident about my future, knowing that I will be supported to achieve my ambitions.’
This sense of security is a major benefit that Ffion also appreciates. ‘I gained my offer in 2016 and I know that I am set until 2022, when I will finish the training contract. This means that I can now relax and concentrate on my studies. I have always enjoyed having structure and a plan, so it’s very reassuring to know that my future is secured.’