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Travers Smith LLP

Employee profile

Fiona Cantlay

Fourth seat trainee, soon to be a newly-qualified associate

Before university, I was unsure what I wanted to study or which career path I would eventually want to take. I chose Natural Sciences as a degree because I enjoyed maths, I was interested in neuroscience and the course was the perfect combination of both. So how did I end up practicing law at Travers Smith?

Why Law?

I had always been attracted to working in the city and being part of the "city buzz.”  I began to consider my options towards the end of my university career - having established research science was not the industry for me - and discovered there are a huge range of transferable skills between science and law. By studying science, one develops skills in problem solving, research abilities and logical-reasoning, all of which are useful attributes for a lawyer.  I also liked that law is a profession which requires you to adapt to changing environments and evaluate and solve complex legal issues.

Initially, I considered intellectual property as this is an area of law where a science background is particularly useful. However, after attending a couple of IP open days and a work placement at an IP-focused law firm, I quickly realised that a science background does not uniquely qualify you in IP and there were many different areas of law which I enjoyed and wanted to explore further.

Why Travers Smith?

I was attracted to Travers Smith because I felt the combination of a small trainee intake of 25 and no billable hour targets whilst working in small, close-knit teams would create one of the best training environments in the City. On top of this, everyone I had met at Travers Smith through networking events and law fairs was incredibly friendly and had a good sense of humour; it seemed like it was a firm where you could be yourself.

I applied for a two-week winter vacation scheme and following an interview with one of the partners, was delighted to be offered a place. The scheme was packed full of seminars, social events and workshops and sitting in two different departments provided an excellent insight into the variety of tasks and significant responsibility given to trainees at Travers Smith.

Two years and four seat rotations later and I will soon be qualifying into the Finance department as a newly-qualified associate. I spent my first seat of my training contract in the Private Equity & Financial Sponsors department, my second rotation was with the Tax department, third in the Finance department and my fourth and current seat is in Dispute Resolution. My training contract has been challenging, exciting and at times demanding but never without the valuable support and supervision from the partners and associates with whom I have shared a room with. The unique room sharing structure is one of Travers Smith's best features. Not only does it contribute to our non-hierarchical culture but it provides plentiful opportunities for trainees to learn from exceptionally talented lawyers and to coin our classic phrase, "learn by osmosis". Each time I moved seat my support network of role models, partners and associates grew larger and larger.

The room sharing system also ensures trainees are given early responsibility with an array of interesting and high calibre work. I have often taken the lead on several workstreams and am frequently in contact with clients. Some of the tasks I have been involved with include negotiating acquisition and banking documents, assisting on cross-border transactions by personally sourcing advice from the firm's "best-friend" international law firms and drafting employee incentive plans from scratch. Alongside client work, the firm also has a comprehensive training programme which consists of firm-wide and department-specific sessions and are led by both partners and associates. These sessions continue throughout the two years and provide an invaluable foundation to a trainee's education.

The best thing about Travers Smith is that it is not all about the work. I am a sports enthusiast and get my fix during the working week by playing for the firm's netball team every Tuesday evening. If you are more musically talented (which I am definitely not!) then you can join the firm's choir or even take up music lessons during your lunch break. If neither are for you, then you can also get involved with the firm's CSR Art Programme or enter into the firm-wide cooking competition. The list goes on!

The firm is also involved with numerous pro bono and diversity initiatives and encourages all employees to get involved. I am currently part of a team working in collaboration with a number of other law firms across the city to address social and domestic abuse issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

All in all, my expectations of the firm on that very first day have been far exceeded. The culture at Travers Smith is incredibly supportive, inclusive, sociable and one I am proud to be a part of.