RPC initially stood out to me because of its broad range of practice areas which are distinctive from those of other City firms.  However, it was only after the assessment day that RPC became my preferred choice.  Though the schedule was quite intense, I really enjoyed it; the tasks were varied and stimulating and I was chuffed by the number of people from all levels of seniority who made an effort to meet the candidates over lunch.  Overall, it was clear that a lot of time and energy had been invested into the procedure, and it's that people-first approach which has continued to impress me since I accepted the offer of a training contract.

RPC runs a program for its trainees-to-be consisting of workshops and social events designed to introduce you to the office, people and RPC life.  It really made a difference walking in on Day 1 already knowing my way around and recognising various friendly faces.  It was also a great way to get to know all of the trainees.  As a result, I started the Training Contract with a ready-made network in which I could share concerns, problems and funny hiccups.  Other more formal support channels available to trainees include seat supervisors, mentors, the HR team and our Training Principal, all of which I have found to be receptive and helpful.

My first seat was with Employment, which is a sub-team within the larger Commercial Disputes group.  I was given a really good spread of contentious and advisory work, and the team made an effort to give me experience in areas I was interested in.  I was really surprised by the level of responsibility I was given from an early stage.  I was expecting to be eased in with proofreading and photocopying but within a few weeks of joining the team I was sent on part-time secondment at one of the firm's commercial clients.  Other highlights were presenting to clients in fortnightly know-how sessions and collaborating with the Tax team to bring an employment-related judicial review claim against HMRC.

My second and current seat is Energy, which specialises in high-value international disputes.  It is challenging as a trainee to arrive midway through long-running and complex claims, but the Energy team were highly sensitive to this and invested a lot of time taking me through the various nuances of their cases.  Now that I am up to speed, typical tasks include attending meetings with counsel or experts, reviewing documents and (inevitably) bundling.  I have also had ample opportunity to practice my BD skills which, in the insurance sector, typically requires socialising at events such as the Lloyd's Rugby 7s.  

My favourite aspect of RPC is its rejection of hierarchy.  The open-plan office promotes a collaborative environment – I am comfortable approaching anyone in the firm, including partners, to ask a question or check instructions.  Moreover, I feel that trainees are properly respected and encouraged to use their initiative.  For example, we are currently organising an event for young players in the insurance market so that we can start developing our own professional networks.  We also have our own blog on the RPC website, which recently won a commercial awareness accolade over partner-led publications at competitor firms.

In general my hours at RPC have been pretty exceptional in comparison to my peers at other firms.  Whilst there is the occasional late night, the special character which first drew me to the firm keeps me motivated.  Equally, it is that same character which means that I am completely at liberty to leave at 5.30pm when I can.