“Having helped applicants, I often find that they are very reluctant to mention their part time jobs or voluntary work. This is, I feel, a big mistake.”Go to the ultimate guide on magic circle law firms
My legal journey has been a bit unusual. After studying Government and Economics at the LSE, I undertook a two-year accelerated law degree at the University of Law. I had undertaken work experience in banking, consulting, trading and auditing. None of these interested me, and law had always been a consideration of mine. I had heard a lot of mixed reviews about the GDL. Accelerated law degrees are becoming increasingly common with Cambridge, Queen Mary’s, BPP and the University of Law offering the course.
During the law degree, I applied for vacation schemes, and was able to undertake four vacation schemes and one spring placement in 2015. One of the vacation schemes came from my performance at the “Undergraduate of the Year” competition, where I was a finalist in the Law Award. The sponsors offered me the scheme based on this.
The schemes gave me an invaluable insight into working in a law firm, and the different practice areas that were on offer. During my nine weeks of legal experience, I had the opportunity to experience seven different practice areas, which helped me understand which seats I would be most interested in upon starting a training contract. I was fortunate to receive training contract offers from the firms I had gained experience with, and accepted Clifford Chance’s offer.
Upon graduating from my law degree, I then undertook the accelerated LPC with BPP, with the rest of my intake from Clifford Chance. By sharing classes, we were able to bond and work together from an early stage, which made the transition from studying to working very smooth.
It’s a cliché, but there is no such thing as a “typical day” at the firm. There are always unexpected challenges and surprises that make planning a day quite tricky. However, it is that dynamic environment which makes the job so interesting.
In the past, I made the mistake of expecting my day to be “quiet”, only to end up with urgent matters come in and spend the evening drafting or lunchtime in a conference call with a client.
The training contract application process at Clifford Chance is more streamlined than most, which is really helpful when you are so time pressured. The first point to note is that the firm does not operate on a rolling basis. You need to submit an online application form, undertake a Watson Glaser test and then, if successful, an assessment centre with two one-hour interviews (both CV blind). Be prepared to share your passions, strengths and be inquisitive.
In order to stand out in your application form, it is important that you demonstrate why you want to join the firm you are applying for. All experience, legal and non-legal, voluntary and paid, at university or elsewhere, is worth mentioning. Every experience that you have had, whether it seems big or small, has given you an opportunity to learn and develop a different skill.
Having helped applicants, I often find that they are very reluctant to mention their part time jobs or voluntary work. This is, I feel, a big mistake. Be proud of what you have done, and be prepared to talk about it. No achievement is too small.
The biggest problem applicants still have, however, is that they make errors in grammar and spelling in their application. I would advise all applicants to get someone they trust to read their application with a critical eye to spot these mistakes. It is easy to get blind to them when it is your own document.
From my time at the firm so far, I think there are three qualities that are most desired in a trainee at Clifford Chance; trainees need to be passionate about wanting to learn, flexible and a team player. Nobody is expected to draft a facility agreement or an offering memorandum on day one in the seat. The trainees that are most flexible, keen to learn and able to work within the team find that they develop quickly. The firm offers a raft of opportunities to trainees, and taking all those that are available will help you be the best you can be.
The best piece of advice I can give to anyone considering applying for a training contract at any law firm is not to feel intimidated or scared. A lot of people write themselves off and don’t apply. Be ambitious and, if you want something, apply for it.
If you have any questions about the firm you are applying for, reach out to Graduate Recruitment or use LinkedIn to get in touch with trainees. We have all been in the position of applying, and happy to help where we can. Good luck.
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