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Clifford Chance

Employee profile

Kristjana Nikolls

Trainee Solicitor

I first came across CC at a Law Fair, where I was impressed by the very personable graduate recruitment team and trainees. Off the back of this, I applied to attend an Open Day and then the Summer Vacation Scheme. I met lots of friendly and ambitious individuals at these and thoroughly enjoyed my experiences. I was awarded a training contract as a result of the vacation scheme. It was the numerous wonderful encounters with interesting, diverse and ambitious personnel at CC that made me want to be a part of the firm. It was clear to me very early on that CC did not look for a mould, they looked for individuals with a good work ethic and good humour. Equally, I found CC's broad range of work, the high calibre of work and CC's international footprint very appealing.

I think one way to describe where we fit in and what work we do is to image a long chain. The work that you do on a regular basis, such as general transaction management, revising documentation/preparing documents for execution or answering client questions, is one link in the many that form the stronghold of the overall matter. By that I mean your supervisor relies on your work as a foundation, reviewing it, adding to it and preparing for the next phase as a result, and their supervisor above them is allowed to do the same. Typically, you will find small or big drafting exercises, research, taking client calls and notes, answering questions from clients or your supervisors on a legal topic or issue, reviewing the other side's drafting or documentation as part of due diligence and, without fail, firefighting with your email inbox.

Each department (e.g. Finance, Corporate, Litigation) run training at the start of each seat to refamiliarize you with key concepts and documents in their department. Beyond this, each specific seat provides individual training sessions at the start of the seats and also ongoing training on specific topics for trainees and the wider team. These vary in nature and length. Corporate trainees, for example, must partake in a two-week negotiation exercise drafting a SPA. Litigation and Dispute Resolution trainees must give a presentation on a business initiative. Beyond the training sessions, there is a general view that getting stuck in with transactions and matters is the best way to learn and develop your skills. More senior lawyers explain matters, draw diagrams, highlight key issues when you join a deal or case team and this is a great way to build your experience and knowledge.

Highlights of my training contract include an investigation and disputing a decision from a governing body, both of which landed front page news in various newspapers. It was remarkable how close I was to drafting key documents, analysing and reviewing items and even client contact.

Other highlights include my work with Accelerate >>>, our gender parity group. Recently we organised a trainee event that was attended by more than 60 trainees and 10 partners. Also, in collaboration with REACH, our diversity and inclusion network, we produced a resource pack on racial justice which has been circulated to the whole firm. I also had success in a recent pro bono matter for a client through Free Law, we successfully got the other side to drop a claim for £200k+ against an individual. Calling the client to inform them of the successful outcome is one of the highlights of my career so far and demonstrates the key role of trainees in our work.

The responsibility you are given is wonderful and the trust that accompanies the greater responsibility helps give confidence in our abilities and push us to challenge ourselves. I love that I am in an environment where I feel I can ask questions, take risks and challenge myself and get constant feedback – these characteristics are exactly what you want for your career development. More than anything, I think this environment that is created at CC is testament to the wonderful people that make up the firm. I've also made some lifelong friends through my training, people I look forward to seeing both inside and outside of the office!

High pressured situations are always difficult, be that because its late or be that because a lot needs to be done very quickly. I'm lucky that I have experienced few late nights, but I actually find I develop with every high-pressured deadline – it forces you to be efficient and work smart. I always look to my peers on key ways to work, and I am critical of every working technique in an attempt to conclude whether it works for me and whether it works in general. Learning from those ahead of you is the best way to get an idea of how to overcome difficult situations, the likelihood is that someone before you have been through the same thing at some point.

It would be a feat to count the great number of events and initiatives CC has that encourage ESG, diversity, inclusion, progression, gender parity, charity work, pro bono work, homelessness and much more. What I love about CC is that these issues genuinely matter to the firm and its people. The mantra 'we have an open-door policy' is not just a platitude. I invited multiple partners (including department heads and the managing partner) to the Accelerate >> Trainee Event and all of them responded personally, and many took the time to attend. This is just one example of the supportive environment in which I work. The firm and the people within it care about my progression and they also create an environment where individuality, diversity of thinking, inclusion and friendliness define how people work and how they spend their spare time. This is a manifestation of the most crucial and best thing about CC: its people.

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