I took part the First Year Springboard Scheme (now SPARK) in 2016 and, after completing an additional set of assessment questions, I was invited to interview for a training contract. I chose to start my career at Clifford Chance because of the firm's global reputation, well-established structured training programme and, most importantly, the people. Clifford Chance is home to some of the best lawyers in the industry and the opportunity to spend my formative years working alongside such a talented team was too good to pass on! I am now in my third seat and have learnt so much from my supervisors and matter partners.
Every day is different as a trainee. In my first seat (L&DR) some days I would be preparing exhibits to witness statements, drafting research memos, filing skeletons at the Court of Appeal or even reviewing Instagram accounts as part of an investigation! My last seat was in Asset Finance which spanned over the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic. This proved to be an extremely interesting time to work in the department and the work was varied. My days ranged from drafting lease agreements to assisting with restructuring deals, to closing export credit agency backed transactions. I am currently sat in SABRE, the firm's Structured Debt and Real Estate Finance department. Typical trainee tasks in my new department include drafting short agreements, reviewing and amending documents to reflect comments from key transaction parties and managing the conditions precedent process. Key responsibilities include liaising with the FCA, requesting comments from the Rating Agencies on transaction documents and managing the deal closings.
At the beginning of each of my seats I received formal introductory training which helped to build a basic foundation of knowledge required. During the first two months of each seat I also attended mandatory further training on specific topics relating to the department. Additionally, there are a number of optional knowledge seminars throughout the year on topics of interest such as post-pandemic politics, restructuring and insolvency reforms and IBOR updates. These seminars provide trainees with a good opportunity to learn more about issues affecting the wider market.
The Clifford Chance training contract involves four six-month seats. I am currently in my third seat (in SABRE) having already completed a seat in Asset Finance and L&DR. The firm requires trainees to complete at least one seat in a core practice area (Corporate, Finance or Capital Markets). As Clifford Chance specialises in a range of different areas, trainees are able to select seats which align with their individual interests whilst still complying with both SRA and firm requirements. There is also the opportunity to work in Clifford Chance's international offices on secondment or spend six months on a client site. At the end of the training contract, trainees apply to qualify in the department of their choice.
The highlight of my first seat was seeing my findings cited by the Court of Appeal in their judgment. During my seat I had the privilege of working on a case concerning agency and principal which was heard before the Court of Appeal. As part of the preparation for our submissions, I was tasked with finding evidence that a clause in the joint venture agreement was commonplace at the time the agreement was executed. The extract of the textbook I found was put before the judges during oral submissions and ended up appearing in the official judgment! The highlight of my second seat was when I closed my first aircraft deal. My supervisor let me run the deal from start to finish with minimal assistance so I had a real sense of achievement once the executed documents were circulated. Although I am only a quarter of the way through my current seat, my highlight so far has been identifying an error in the FCA turnover timetable and liaising with the FCA directly who subsequently amended the timetable on their website. Even though this may seem to be insignificant, identifying the error early on has meant that deal teams have the correct timetable to hand when planning FCA submissions and deal closings around the festive period.
I value the opportunity to work alongside and learn from some of the most experienced and well-respected lawyers in the industry on a daily basis. My work is varied and I find it interesting how academic concepts learnt a university and on the LPC are put in practice. Clifford Chance also encourages trainees to undertake pro bono work alongside billable matters. This has given me the opportunity to volunteer for a range of initiatives such as Free Law, the Caritas House Literacy Mentoring Programme, the Centre for Reproductive Rights and AgeUK Camden. The nurturing environment fostered at Clifford Chance has helped me to improve not only as a lawyer but also as a person.
At the beginning of lockdown, I found it difficult to create a work-life balance. I had never worked from home before and I found myself in front of my computer first thing in the morning until just before I went to bed. However, the team and the department's resource manager made it very clear from the start that we were not expected to be online 24/7. Adapting my day to carve out time for myself and taking regular screen breaks improved my efficiency and mental wellbeing. The firm provided a generous allowance to purchase any work from home equipment needed. My department's social committee also organised virtual social events and weekly afternoon tea sessions. Even though I was working from home, I never felt unsupported or alone when working on tight deadlines and there was always someone online I could ask questions to. The firm strongly encourages outside interests and celebrates personal achievements. I found Clifford Chance's positive pastoral attitude invaluable during this transition period.
Everyone I have encountered is really friendly and always makes time to answer questions or have a chat. Pre-Covid the Budgie (our onsite bar) was a great place to meet up with trainees from my intake at the end of the week. We also have a newly refurbished gym and a swimming pool with very good views! The firm is extremely thoughtful too. As we were unable to have a Summer party this year, every single member of the London office received some delicious brownies made by Luminary Bakery. Each department also organised a range of virtual activities including cocktail making, virtual Bake-Off and the Chocolate Bar World Cup. We also have a Trainee Committee, elected to voice our concerns as well as organise bi-annual social events for all the trainees. Again, as we were unable to have a social this summer, the Trainee Committee organised lovely giftboxes for all the trainees as a thank you for all of our hard work over the past six months.