Second Year Trainee (2017/8). Qualified 2018 into Banking Finance & Securities
Why Jones Day?
Having done two History degrees, I started my law firm applications not really knowing much about the different practice areas or what being a lawyer entailed day-to-day. Jones Day immediately caught my attention with its unusual, non-rotational training (more on this later). I was also attracted to the fact that Jones Day evaluates applications on the basis of a short cover letter, a CV, a reference and an interview, rather than the various "competency-based" online evaluations or assessment centres. To me, Jones Day was more interested in me as a person than in what score I might have achieved in arbitrary tests.
I interviewed with Jones Day in December 2013. Of course, all the key questions like, "why law" and "why corporate/commercial law" came up, but the interview was much more of a conversation than an interrogation. The two lawyers who interviewed me were interested in my personal experiences, my interests, my motives and my business nous - rather than in my technical legal knowledge (which, not having studied law, I had none of). A trainee showed me around the office after interview, which gave me the chance to ask questions about the day-to-day life of a Jones Day trainee and to gain an honest picture of what it's like to work at the Firm.
Why try the vacation scheme?
The Firm mainly recruits its trainees from its vacation schemes – wanting people to have experienced its unusual way of training first hand. At most other London law firms, a trainee sits in a certain department with a supervisor for 4-6 months at a time, and moves department to sit with a different supervisor another 4-6 times during the two year training period. At Jones Day, I was free to take work from any department I chose. I knocked on doors and asked for work from lawyers in departments which interested me. My vacation scheme was very much a microcosm of this non-rotational way of training and I was able to see (as the Firm was) how suited I was to this system. It did take confidence and a certain degree of entrepreneurship to knock on that first door, introduce myself and ask for work from that lawyer - who could be a junior associate or a senior partner. And it's not something everyone takes to. But I found myself confident enough, surprisingly unafraid of taking initiative, optimistic and hardworking enough to thrive in this system, which is made easier by the Firm’s strong collaborative culture and lack of hierarchy.
What’s trainee life like day to day?
I began my training contract doing a large mix of litigation work as well as finance work. The highlight of the first month of the training contract is definitely the New Lawyer's Academy in Washington D.C.. All Jones Day's new lawyers across the world are flown to D.C. in October of their first year for induction. Apart from being loads of fun, it's a great opportunity to meet the Firm's leaders as well as lawyers from across Jones Day's global constellation -from Cleveland to Frankfurt to Hong Kong - and to really absorb what Jones Day is about. There's no better way to experience and verify for yourself that "One Firm Worldwide" is more than a slogan: it is the Firm's overarching philosophy.
As my training contract has progressed, I floated more towards transactional work, particularly, corporate finance work, which is where I decided I want to specialise. The beauty of the non-rotational system is that all trainees are free to move between departments as they wish and there is no pressure to stay in a certain practice area if your career goals lie elsewhere. For me, I'm lucky to continue working with and learning from lawyers and clients with whom I’ve been working since day one of my training contract, without a need to rotate into another department. Not only do I get to see deals through from start to finish, but I'm also gradually given more responsibility when the next deal comes around. Of course, all trainees start out doing the proofreading, the documents checklists and the document comparisons (all very important tasks), but as the months go by, it is common for senior lawyers to ask trainees to do significant pieces of drafting, run conference calls and negotiate documentation.
As for a typical "day in the life", I would say there isn't one and every day is different. In the non-rotational training system, a trainee could be working for multiple departments at the same time. For instance, on one day, I found myself writing a letter in a litigation case, drafting board minutes for a corporate restructuring and marking-up a prospectus for a public debt offering - all in one afternoon. The legal profession is not for those who want to have a 9-5 job. My days generally start around 9:30 am, and they end depending on the workload. I've had days where I've been able to leave and have drinks with colleagues at 6 pm, but also very late nights working on deals (weekends here are respected). However, those late nights are always made better by the camaraderie, friendliness and encouragement that is intrinsic to Jones Day, as well as the knowledge that these experiences make you into a better and more knowledgeable lawyer in the end, which is what the non-rotational training contract is all about.