Vacation Student December 2015 and September 2017 Trainee Starter
Every big firm in London looking to recruit law students for training contracts describes themselves as ‘international’, ‘client focused’, ‘diverse’ and ‘innovative’ - buzzwords that really don’t tell you anything about the firm or if you are the right fit for it. As someone who did my undergraduate degree in the US and without much knowledge of law firms in London, I initially focused my search for firms on size, offices around the world, and practice areas. However this approach can only tell you so much. The only way I found that gave me more of an insight into a firm's culture was talking directly to trainees and lawyers in the firm about their actual experiences of it.
My experience with Jones Day showed me that this exceptional firm goes far beyond its online presence. The interview process for the vacation scheme (the principal route to secure a training contract) is not a dry series of aptitude tests and assessments. The interview is with two partners who want to get to know you to see if your personality, aptitude and skills make you a person suitable for a career in commercial law and who understands the firm's culture and ethos. Not to mention the unique non-rotational way of training it has been running for nearly 30 years now and which is much more akin to how lawyers also train in the US.
Following a successful Jones Day interview comes the vacation scheme. I took part in the 2015 Winter Placement Scheme. I hope my below ‘day in the life of a vacation schemer’ example explains some of the unique qualities that Jones Day has which (I felt) set it apart from other top tier firms in London.
* I start my day with a coffee from the Jones Day café downstairs. The coffee tastes great and comes with a greeting and a daily update from the two friendly gentlemen who are running the in- house café/restaurant that day. I head on up to my desk on the third floor, passing other lawyers in the elevator and the corridors with a wave and a quick hello. I sit at a row of desks with other vacation schemers. This emulates the Jones Day training contract itself where you share an office with another trainee and means I am surrounded by people in the same situation as me, so I can ask all the questions I want: from how to work the email system, to help deciphering a partner’s handwriting, to what an exemption clause is and where to find it in a contract. I do not experience any such thing as a cut-throat, competitive environment amongst the people attending the scheme with me. We feel reassured that since Jones Day does not have a specific quota for the number of training contracts they offer on each vacation scheme, each person will be judged on their own merits and not in relation to each other.
The office has an open-door policy; and that is not just a marketing statement on the website. Due to Jones Day’s unique non-rotational training contract, trainees have to find work on their own initiative. This means knocking on lawyers' doors and asking to help them with their work. The vacation scheme mirrors the training contract in this respect, so we vacation schemers walk the floors every day talking to lawyers in all the departments to learn more about and experience different areas of law. I discover that a large proportion of the associates and partners (nearly half the partners I was told) went through the training contract themselves, so they know and understand how the system works and are (consequently) more than happy to invite me into their office to give me work; or if they don’t have anything on which they need immediate help, to get to know me and explain to me the case or matter they are working on at the moment.
I spend my morning working on various tasks for lawyers in a number of departments. This morning I am redrafting a letter the firm will send to the Competition Authority in the UK on behalf of a client; helping compile the M&A submissions to Chambers UK for Jones Day's key deals of 2015; and doing some case research for a partner in Global Disputes. The work that I and other vacation schemers do is important to the lawyers or trainees who ask us to help them, and hard work and attention to detail do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
I have lunch with a group of vacation schemers in the café/restaurant downstairs, and then head back to my desk to continue working for the afternoon. Late in the afternoon I have a coffee with my associate mentor and update him on all the work I have been doing and what else I want to accomplish before I finish the vacation scheme. Each vacation schemer is paired with a trainee mentor and an associate mentor, people at different levels in the firm who can help with finding work, answering questions about a career in the firm and giving advice about life as a lawyer in general. My mentors are so open and kind that I am able to go talk to them about everything; and they immediately make me feel I am a part of Jones Day.
This evening there is a Christmas drinks event where there is the opportunity to talk to trainees and lawyers we have not yet had the chance to meet and get to know them in a more informal setting. Throughout my two week Winter scheme I notice there have been a number of firm Christmas events and a dedicated ice-skating outing for all of us vacation schemers. These events are definitely a highlight of my experience: I get to know people from different departments and it is also a chance for the lawyers to get to know each of us vacation schemers individually.
Doing the vacation scheme cemented my desire to start my career in law with Jones Day. I would say that the Jones Day training contract is ideal for people who are confident in themselves and enjoy talking and working with people from all backgrounds and areas of expertise. Everyone at the firm is extremely hard working and dedicated but always willing to lend a hand to others and to make sure that the office environment is one that fosters a positive and fulfilling work life."