I took the opportunity during my degree to explore various work environments, in order to establish what sort of career I wanted to pursue. The range of experience I gained, from working in a small business selling luxury chess sets to an internship in the in-house legal department of a growing bank, helped inform my decision to pursue commercial law. When making applications, it’s important to remember that all experience counts. Lawrelated placements are important for demonstrating an interest in law, but other experiences will also help you build the transferable skills that will serve you down the line. Don’t overlook the value of your voluntary position as a mentor, participation in a student society or a barista job in the local coffee shop.
My experience helped me work out that I wanted a career that would be challenging, and would allow me to keep learning. I knew that I wanted to work in teams with a diverse range of people, and with a range of businesses in different industries. With my
background in languages, I was keen to work on high-profile cross-border matters, and so White & Case was my first choice when I came to apply.
I completed a two-week vacation scheme with the firm, during which I had a chance to observe (and try out) the work, meet the lawyers and get a sense of how the firm ticked. One of the key attractions was the fact it was very easy to approach all people and ask questions – this is very important for a good learning environment.
The training contract is spread over two years, during which trainees sit in four different departments. I am currently in my second seat, corporate mergers and acquisitions, and previously sat in equity capital markets. White & Case offers a guaranteed international secondment, enabling trainees to spend six months in an office overseas. The seat system allows you to build up an internal network – this is extremely helpful as we often work across practices and offices and having met somebody in person makes it much easier to pick up the phone when you need a hand.
As a trainee, your daily tasks will vary depending on the kind of deal you’re working on. Typical trainee tasks in corporate include due diligence, drafting documents and legal
research. One of the best things about being a White & Case trainee is that there are always opportunities to take on real responsibility from an early stage. In my seats, I have had a significant amount of direct client contact, and have been allowed to negotiate minor documents with other law firms and lead due diligence calls with the entire working group. Crucially, there is always support available from colleagues, so I feel comfortable asking any questions that come up in the course of the transaction, and am never left out on a limb on my own. This combination of responsibility and support creates a great environment in which to learn.
One of the highlights of my job is seeing deals I have worked on in the Financial Times. In my seats to date, I have worked on a variety of matters such as initial public offerings (IPOs) and takeovers, involving companies from various industries with operations all over the world. This means that I am always learning, and it keeps things interesting.
White & Case is truly global – it has opened up overseas offices organically instead of through acquisitions or joining a network. The firm encourages employees at all levels to come together and build connections across the network. For example, within their first month at the firm, trainees are sent to a conference with new joiners from the other European offices. This helps us to build relationships so that we can offer clients a seamless service across the network.
I’m glad I decided to study languages as my degree as it has opened up career opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. My Russian skills took me to Kazakhstan, where I spent a month interning in a local law firm. This helped me to build up my professional proficiency, which has in turn enabled me to use my languages during my training contract, for example translating emails relating to a case, interpreting for a client who was not comfortable using English during negotiations, and assisting a pro bono client.