Harry Buhagiar

Image for Harry Buhagiar

My path to starting my training contract with White & Case was slightly unconventional. After graduating in 2016, I spent a year in sales and two years as a paralegal at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. Having a full time job meant that I could not attend a two-week vacation scheme like the majority of applicants, and therefore I applied directly for a training contract.

From my first encounter at the training contract assessment centre, I had a feeling that White & Case would be a good fit for me. During the assessment centre there were no attempts to trip candidates up, as I had experienced elsewhere. The day was designed to allow applicants to demonstrate their skills and knowledge, and to prove why they deserved a training contract with such a prestigious firm. Although a seemingly insignificant factor, it was really important for me. The Graduate Resourcing and Development team were welcoming and friendly, and I felt at ease from the off. During a presentation to two partners about the impact of AI on the legal sphere, I was able to express myself without judgment. The partners were engaged and keen to learn more about me as a person. This ethos and White & Case’s values permeate the entire firm, making coming into the workplace a genuinely enjoyable experience.

White & Case’s extensive global reach and guaranteed overseas seat were strong factors impacting my decision to choose the Firm. My first seat was in Capital Markets (Corporate Trust). We typically work on high yield bond offerings and every transaction that I have worked on demonstrated just how global the Firm is. I have worked with local counsels in countless jurisdictions, as well as many of our other international offices. Being ‘international’ is not a marketing platitude, it applies to every deal. I highly doubt that I will ever work on a deal whereby the parties are solely British!

In terms of my role as a trainee, I assist with the review of key documentation, such as legal opinions, prospectuses and indentures. I have been given genuine responsibility that added value to each transaction. I was also trusted to speak to our clients frequently, to coordinate signing procedures, for example. My supervisor spent time carefully explaining key legal issues, and was always available to answer my questions and to guide me in the right direction. My responsibility gradually increased over the course of my first seat and my supervisor always wanted to help me progress.

The first six months of my training contract raised many challenges. It is easy to doubt your own work or working style. It is important to be able to voice such concerns and my relationship with my supervisor and my team allowed me to do just that. I was always able to pick up the phone and ask questions and raise concerns. That level of support was really important as it demonstrates that the Firm is genuinely committed to fostering a culture whereby trainees are able to reach their potential, pushing them when necessary, but also being on hand to help when things get tough.

As Capital Markets is such a large practice, I was also involved in other deals, such as a sovereign high yield bond offering and an equity offering for a national bank. Each team has its own dynamic and I gained exposure to the working patterns and techniques of many talented partners and associates beyond my Corporate Trust team. I have also been involved in a pro-bono case for an asylum seeker. We are encouraged to commit a minimum of 20 hours per year to pro-bono and it was fantastic to be involved in such an intimate case for an individual that would usually have had limited access to such legal resources.

There are extensive training courses and materials available to help trainees get up to speed with important, relevant legal issues. There are also training courses that help trainees deal with other, more personal challenges. These are invaluable. They are recorded and therefore can be revisited whenever they become relevant.

At White & Case there is a genuine emphasis on helping trainees develop. There are no ‘closed doors’; associates and partners are always willing to help and to answer questions that arise. There is a refreshing lack of hierarchy, whereby partners and senior associates will dedicate as much time as necessary to ensure trainees understand their roles and the work that they have been given. We also receive lots of great perks, but my favourite is the annual £500 wellness voucher that can be used on things like gym memberships, active wear or even a haircut!