Why did you choose DLA Piper?
There were a number of reasons why I applied for DLA Piper. Firstly, I managed to meet quite a wide variety of people from the firm before deciding to apply. For example, I met with trainees, graduate recruitment and I also met a partner for an informal coffee! This gave me a good indication about the culture within the firm. Working with friendly down to earth people was at the top of my list when I was carrying out my research and I can genuinely say that since I have started my training contract, the friendly culture of the firm has lived up to its reputation. Secondly, I wanted to work on deals which have an international aspect to them. I was recently asked to help on a deal which spanned 40 jurisdictions! Finally, I was interested in the opportunity to go on international secondment. DLA Piper offers many secondment opportunities, both client and international. I believe taking up such opportunities presented will help develop trainees into well-rounded lawyers upon qualification.
What are your typical roles and activities?
My typical roles and activities have differed across practice groups. During my first week in Corporate I have project managed a huge acquisition. This has involved communicating with my colleagues across the UK and other jurisdictions; for example I have had conference calls with our counsel in Germany. On a different deal, I assisted the team in the lead up to completion, making sure our client has signed the correct documents, as well as helping to draft agreements. I have also been asked by an associate to help redraft a part of the agreement which was too seller friendly when we were acting on behalf of the purchaser.
What training have you received?
You have access to a plethora of training at DLA Piper. This includes the Professional Skills Courses training which must be completed before you qualify and which the firm spreads out throughout the 2 years. When you join a new department, you are given department specific training and the firm will often hold weekly training sessions. I recently attended training in relation to Brexit and how we should be drafting clauses in agreements to make provisions for the fact that we are leaving the European Union.
What is a highlight from the work you have done?
In my second seat, I worked closely with a Partner over two days to draft a services agreement. It was two days of intense negotiations and we were under strict instructions from the client to agree the services agreement by the end of the second day. It was a great learning curve for me and I was encouraged to participate in the negotiations!
What do you enjoy about your job?
I enjoy the fact that my job is challenging. Every day is different and I rarely do the same thing. Sometimes you have to deal with being placed outside of your comfort zone which can feel challenging but also means you're never bored! As you go through your Training Contract you are learning and improving constantly so tasks you initially may have found difficult, do get easier with time. I really like the fact that we work in teams and you have the opportunity to work with everyone in a team directly. I can't think of a deal where I didn’t work directly with colleagues across all levels. It's great to learn from their vast experiences and expertise. Finally, I enjoy the social aspect of the job whether it's meeting new people every day or taking part in the inaugural annual singing competition!
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
In this industry you face challenges on a daily basis regardless of whether you’re a trainee or a partner. The key is how you deal with them. Challenges should be dealt with logically through a well thought out process. If you're ever in doubt, ask for help. You would be surprised how willing your colleagues would be to help and most will actually appreciate you asking - believe me.
Advice for aspiring solicitors?
If you are currently looking for a training contract, my advice would be to always keep your eye on the prize. Whatever you do in the lead up, whether it's being a paralegal or a shop assistant, it should always be with the aim of furthering your career and bringing you one step closer to being offered a training contract. If you have had limited success with your applications or interviews so far, try to write a list of your strengths and weaknesses so you can see what points you should emphasise and which areas you can try and improve in. If you find you are struggling to get past the first stage of the process, strengthen your application by seeing the career advisors at your university. Alternatively, if you find getting through the initial stage easy but find it difficult at the assessment days/ interviews - practice your interview technique and make sure you're fully prepared with answers. Knowing yourself inside out is key.
What support is provided to you?
Trainees are given access to support from the very beginning. You have a mid-seat review every 3 months with your supervisor followed by an end seat review after 6 months. You also have review meetings with Graduate Recruitment alongside this to talk about how you are getting on and opportunities you want to explore in the future. It also allows you to raise any concerns you may have but it also allows you to see how you've progressed over the course of your Training Contract. On top of that, Graduate Recruitment is always available for an informal chat if you need someone to talk to. The firm also has an official mentoring scheme where they match you up with associates, senior associates, legal directors or partners within the firm (and potentially in a different country) who have volunteered to be a mentor. You are matched together based on what you're looking to get out of the relationship as a mentee and the relationships are flexible meaning you can meet monthly if you'd like or every so often when you feel the need to discuss something in particular.