Students looking for a career in commercial law should look at all aspects of the prospective firms, using the firms' recent news stories and websites as a start to gauge the ethics and character of each firm. The ones that match closest to your own qualities and career aspirations are the firms to pursue further. You can apply for a training contract at Clifford Chance without having completed a vacation scheme at the firm (I did). However, it is still important to have a basic understanding of what the firm does and what sets it apart for you.
I first came into contact with Clifford Chance at a university networking dinner during my first year. The dinner was primarily aimed at finalists but I decided to go anyway (partly for the free food, to be honest!). I was already feeling on edge when I managed to pour wine over the partner I was sitting next to. Despite the initial awkwardness of the situation, she was exceptionally kind and her first instinct was to put me at ease. We carried on talking and, from her insights of the firm, it became clear that Clifford Chance was somewhere that would suit me and that our values and priorities aligned.
What has surprised me the most since joining the team is the firm's diversity. Even in my trainee intake alone, we have people from all over the globe with different life experiences which makes it a really interesting place to work.
The supportive culture
I've had an exceptional experience during my training contract with Clifford Chance so far. The firm dedicates energy, time and money to assist with your development, from the initial acceptance of the offer through to your final seat and beyond. When I first joined, we had a week of intensive training, interspersed with many socials. Having only limited experience of a City firm, it was really helpful to cover the basic internal processes as well as get to know colleagues/friends. In addition, there is usually two or three weeks of training sessions at the start of each seat, which are invaluable for the upcoming six months, and teams regularly host training lunches for the entire department, led by those with experience and expertise in a particular area.
The whole two years is very much a learning process and, as such, the supportive firm ethos is exactly what any trainee needs at this stage in their career. The teams operate an open door policy and considered questions and opinions are encouraged. My supervisors, in particular, have remained invested in me throughout my training contract – even after moving departments – and have always been willing to offer advice and discuss future career objectives. Everyone in the office, whether supervising or not, has taken the time to explain complex areas and give guidance on other matters.
What attracts me most to commercial law and Clifford Chance is the intensity, and the high quality, of the work, which tends to be interesting and intellectually challenging. On larger transactions, trainees form an integral part of the transaction team and are involved in a wide variety of jobs. In each seat, I've been tasked with research, reviewing comments on documents, drafting simpler documentation, attending client meetings and organising the signing and closing of transactions. On smaller transactions (such as amendments to loans and asset disposals and releases), there is scope to take a more leading role, acting as a primary contact with clients and progressing the documents from concept to completion. It's rare that you do a task such as proofreading.
From London to Frankfurt
Trainees are encouraged to make the most of the international opportunities that Clifford Chance has to offer. I was delighted to go to Frankfurt for my second seat in the asset and project finance team and the experience was better than I could have possibly imagined. The move itself was smooth as Clifford Chance arranged for accommodation, assisted with general living costs and provided support with all of the administrative aspects. On starting with the department, the strength and experience of the Frankfurt office became particularly evident. Smaller than the office in London, the team encouraged an increased level of responsibility, while maintaining a solid support network if required. The mentoring and exposure offered during the six months gave me access to top-quality work and confidence to progress.
The views of St Paul's
Five months after joining Clifford Chance, I had the opportunity to attend my first client lunch in celebration of a matter on which I worked during my first seat. It must be one of my best memories with the firm so far. With views of St Paul's, the lunch was a significant reminder that the hard work (and many hours) dedicated is appreciated by clients and the firm alike. To me, having a seat at the table showed that my work was valued by my team.
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