29 March 2011
Some people relish life at a big firm but many do not, so take time to read a little and think about the environment you like, as well as the training experience that would suit you as a person.
Firm: Watson Farley & Williams
Degree: French and Italian
Where did you study the GDL and the LPC? College of Law, Bloomsbury and Moorgate
Hobbies: Sport, cooking, theatre
Why did you decide to train as a solicitor? After my degree I decided to go back to the career I had been thinking about since I was 15. I had wanted to be a barrister but in the end I opted for the solicitor route as it is more commercial and practical.
Why did you choose commercial law? Commercial law in London is unrivalled in terms of opportunity and breadth of work. Things move quickly and clients rely on their lawyers to find smooth solutions to their needs, which is a fulfilling challenge.
What has been the highlight of your training contract so far? Attending a three-day hearing in the Supreme Court. Listening to QCs presenting was a fantastic experience, and it’s a stunning building.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? The challenge and variety, especially being a trainee. Moving from finance to litigation involves a shift in attitude - suddenly you find yourself working on something that has been going on for 10 years and you have three days to research a finite point of law. In a transactional seat things move faster, and work is more business-based.
What are the worst aspects of your job? It can be hard to make social plans. You can never tell what your day will entail, so halfway through you may be given something urgent and find yourself just starting your regular work at 5pm.
What is the biggest misconception of the legal profession? That only a certain type of person is involved. In fact, City law is a diverse environment - the Oxbridge-only style is rare now, and you see all sorts of people becoming commercial lawyers.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law? Think ahead. It seems ridiculous that you should be applying for jobs before studying law, but give it a shot. This involves making a decision early on, but if you know it’s the career you want it’s worth it. Applying for training contracts during your finals or GDL/LPC can be stressful.
What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career? Being indiscriminate when it comes to applying. Some people relish life at a big firm but many do not, so take time to read a little and think about the environment you like, as well as the training experience that would suit you as a person. If you decide on a size or type of firm you can cut down the number of applications you make and focus on good answers.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a training contract? The endless questions asking me to “give an example of a time when you…”. I was only 22 at the time, and it’s hard to give examples of things you haven’t done yet.
How is law in practice different from studying law? It means something to someone - it’s not just theory. If a client asks you a question it has a real impact on their life and business.
What are the common attributes of successful candidates? Enthusiasm, willingness and friendliness. If you are keen and you get on with your colleagues they will want to work with you.