Francesca Walker

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I first applied to Norton Rose Fulbright’s (NRF) 2018 Summer Vacation Scheme during my second year of university. I was initially interested in NRF because it seemed to be a firm of people who genuinely wanted to be (and are) the best at what they do and are at the forefront of dynamic and essential sectors, i.e. renewable energy, transport and cybersecurity. Because of that I attended the on-campus event that NRF hosted in Durham and talked with trainees, associates and partners from the firm who were all very interesting, very sociable and I felt like were people I would enjoy working with! I was then invited to attend the vacation scheme (after submitting an application and completing an assessment centre) and spent two weeks with the intellectual property team. At the end of the vacation scheme (after a further interview and various assessed tasks) I was offered a training contract.

A training contract is a formal two-year graduate scheme required by the Solicitors Regulation Authority in order to qualify as a solicitor in the UK (after completing the formal study i.e. law degree / law conversation and the Legal Practice Course). At NRF, and in the majority of city law firms, the two years is split into four six-month periods where you will sit in a different department of the firm every six months, referred to as “seats”. Because NRF is a full service firm i.e. offers services across the spectrum of what a commercial client may require, there are certain requirements for the rotations, such as the requirement to complete at least one Corporate seat and one Banking seat. At the end of the training contract, provided certain requirements are met, you will qualify as a solicitor. I am now a third seat trainee in the second-half of my training contract, working in the firm’s Banking Project Finance team. I have previously sat in the Corporate Energy, Infrastructure, Mining & Commodities and Transport team as well going on secondment to work in-house at one of the firm’s clients for six months.  

The work you do as a trainee at NRF will vary hugely depending on the team you are in. However typical trainee tasks may include proofreading documents, assisting with the signing and completion process on transactions, drafting and reviewing ancillary documents and registration forms, liaising with other NRF teams and local counsel, research, and running transaction / document checklists. I also think the more willing you are to take on responsibility the more you will be given! I have been lucky to get involved in some really interesting work at NRF and joined the firm when it was particularly busy. Because of this it has been an intense but rewarding year so far – particularly when a transaction makes it over the line. The work that NRF does is often very complex and that makes life as a trainee challenging as you need to have a good grasp of the matters you are working on and keep up with the pace. I personally really enjoy this challenge and think if you embrace it and be inquisitive you can really learn from the best.

One huge characteristic of my training contract has been that, due to COVID-19, it has been almost entirely remote this far. This has made the experience more challenging as it is harder to build relationships online and difficult to learn and pick up on things by seeing it in the office. However the people I have worked with have made an active effort to include the trainees and have taken their time to explain things and answer questions. Working remotely has also made me more resilient and independent as I have worked through problems alone before calling to ask for help.

Personally I really enjoy working at NRF. The work is wide-ranging with a lot of nuanced, complex matters that are frequently industry / geographical firsts e.g. first power generation in emerging markets. The people are also diverse, all of whom work really hard but are still human and happy to have a chat and a joke!