University: University of Lancaster / University of Cambridge (King's College)
Years attended: 2011 – 2014 / 2014 – 2015
Degree: BA Philosophy, Politics and Economics, 1st class / MPhil Political Thought and Intellectual History
How did you find out about Clifford Chance and why did you decide to apply?
I became interested in a career in law whilst studying for my Master's degree and therefore decided to join the university's law society. Clifford Chance was one of the firms that came to give presentations on their Training Contract programme and what the firm had to offer to those interested in applying. Following the presentation, I signed up to a dinner hosted by Clifford Chance, an event which turned out to be a very stimulating and enjoyable evening with representatives from the firm, although it wasn't until I had later attended an Open Day at Clifford Chance that I made up my mind to apply. Unlike some of the other firms I had spent time at, I found the culture at Clifford Chance to be a unique balance of being welcoming and encouraging, whilst also pushing you outside of your comfort zone; everyone there wanted you to be able to rise to the challenge of presenting your best self at the interviews and assessment centres and were always more than willing to support you in doing this. For me, this was very important. Of course, there were the usual draws of being exposed to some of the most high-profile cases and prolific practitioners in the market. However, it's no secret that the workloads in a magic circle law firm can, on occasion, be very large and the fact that the culture at Clifford Chance is one that takes supporting and encouraging its staff seriously was the factor that ultimately led me to focus my attention on applying to the firm.
What does your role involve: typical activities and key responsibilities
Typical activities and responsibilities really depend on the department you are sitting in. I have been fortunate enough to have seen a variety of the different practice areas at the firm. In some seats, responsibilities included taking the lead on a piece of research that fed into a broader argument being put forward on behalf of a client, writing the note of consultation following meetings with a barrister, and putting together the first draft of a presentation that my supervisor was due to give to a panel of industry experts. In other seats, tasks included running a particular part of a transaction. Within this, responsibilities can range from drafting different types of documents (security agreements, legal opinions etc.) to liaising directly with clients. In some instances, you are trusted to take a decision on how best to proceed, which can be daunting at times, but it also allows you to take more ownership over what you are doing and ultimately to learn more about the practice area you find yourself in.
What training have you received to date?
The bespoke LPC you complete prior to starting your Training Contract is tailored specifically towards the type of work you will encounter when you arrive at Clifford Chance. As such, the course gives you a solid grounding in the concepts and procedures you will be expected to be familiar with in your role as a trainee. Upon joining a department, you will be given an in-depth training course on the work carried out in that department and what will be expected from you during your time in that seat. These have proved to be most beneficial in that they serve as a useful primer for the work you will be involved in and offer the opportunity for you to ask questions about and become familiar with some of the more technical aspects of that practice area. Moreover, there are always opportunities for ongoing learning and training, and you are encouraged to constantly update and refine your understanding of the work you are doing and to stay on top of the latest developments in your area of specialisation. This can take a number of different forms, whether it be a lunchtime lecture from one of the partners, or a firm-wide event where leading figures from different fields are invited in to discuss a particular issue or event that may affect the legal sector.
What has been your biggest highlight so far?
There have a been a few standout moments. One was working on cases that were being closely followed by the press; some days you would wake up to see the Financial Times offering updates on matters that you had been involved in only a few days previously. Another was being tasked with drafting client briefings on human rights issues and how the legal and financial worlds will need to respond to them. Being on international secondment (I recently returned from the firm's Singapore office) was also a truly excellent experience; I miss being able to run off to the airport to go to Indonesia or Borneo for the weekend after team drinks on a Friday now that I have returned to London!
What do you enjoy about your role and Clifford Chance?
I enjoy being challenged and being presented with situations that allow me to develop my existing skill set. There is such a wide variety of work to be involved in that one is never short of opportunities to learn something new or to contribute to a fascinating project. I also enjoy the culture at the firm; the teams of which I have been part of have always been environments where questions are expected, and people want to aid you in your progression. At least in my experience, you are never left on your own to just figure something out; this is something you realise the value of when it's late or the pressure is on and you are trying to finish a piece of work!
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome any difficult situations – what support has been provided?
There are times when you have a lot of different tasks to juggle and competing deadlines that need to be managed. One of the crucial things to learn as a junior is how to deal with such situations effectively so you manage the expectations of those who are counting on you. Occasionally, there are times where you just aren't going to be able to please everyone. In those instances, it's important to gauge the best way to go about starting a conversation about moving deadlines or even perhaps seeing if someone else is available to assist with a task. Whilst sometimes those conversations can be tricky to navigate, people are normally very understanding and appreciate that you are often pulled in lots of different directions as a trainee. You are encouraged to be vocal about your workloads, what you think you can manage and when things might not have gone to plan. Moreover, if things get really difficult, your supervisor and/or resource manager are always on-hand to consult and ensure that a solution to the situation is found.
Why would you recommend Clifford Chance?
The Training Contract at Clifford Chance offers you world-class training in an environment where you are able to try your hand at work that is at the forefront of the legal market. The support systems are second to none, whether that be in the form of our excellent support staff or just interested and approachable seniors; I have always had excellent supervisors who have taken a real interest in my development and gone out their way to involve me in work they thought I would find stimulating. Finally, on a lighter note, being an avid swimmer, having an in-house pool to jump into after a long day at your desk is a luxury that I very much appreciate!