When applying for training contracts, RPC's strong reputation in disputes appealed to me as I was confident that my contentious experience during my training contract would not be confined to one seat. I was quite unusual in that from the age of 18 or so I knew I wanted to be a contentious lawyer (although at that point in time I would have articulated it as wanting to be paid to argue!). In fact, I have completed three litigation seats and am excited to be joining the Commercial Disputes department on qualification later this year.
While RPC may not have the largest international footprint in terms of number of offices, the firm's work is most definitely international in nature. For my third seat I applied for the secondment to RPC's Hong Kong office, which I was lucky enough to be offered. Mondays to Fridays were spent working in the Commercial Disputes and Insurance Litigation departments, while weekends were spent jet-setting around Asia with some of the 50-odd trainees from other firms on secondment there. The seat was a great opportunity to build on the litigation experience I had gained in London, as well as work on arbitrations and mediations. The work here wasn’t just confined to Hong Kong, with the disputes involving countries such as mainland China, the BVIs and Singapore.
In my seat in Commercial Disputes in London I worked predominantly on one case, in which we represented Russia's largest private bank in its claim against a former oligarch. As part of this, I travelled to Russia twice with various associates, senior associates, partners and Counsel to interview witnesses. As well as being incredible experience work-wise (especially for a trainee), it also offered valuable networking opportunities and development of soft skills. Back in London I was then involved with preparing the notes of the interviews which formed the basis of the witness statements, and was pleased to be given a chance to draft a couple of witness statements myself. Although the seat was a definite baptism of fire, I enjoyed the early responsibility I was afforded.
Although I've enjoyed a lot of responsibility in all four seats, I have never felt unsupported. I think this is due in part to the open plan layout. Trainees tend to sit on the same "pod" as their partner and senior associate supervisor, which means they are always close by if you have a quick query. I like that I don't have to awkwardly knock on someone's door in order to chat to them; it's easy to use your common sense to judge whether that moment isn’t a good one to strike up a conversation about a case you're working on or to discuss last night's Game of Thrones episode.
Trainees are also expected to take responsibility for their time. The firm has had a recent push towards encouraging people to work flexibly, which includes trainees. Long hours are inevitable at times, but trainees are given responsibility for managing their day and are trusted to plan their time taking into account any court or client deadlines. I've benefitted from flexible working on many occasions, whether it's been popping out in the early evening to take a gym class before returning to my desk, or working from home when I've had workmen visiting my flat.
With qualification only a few short months away, I feel confident that my training contract at RPC has prepared me well for life as an associate.