Travers Smith co-head of graduate recruitment Anthony Foster advises candidates to tell firms what they really think, rather than what they think the firm wants to hear.
Firm: Travers Smith
University: Pembroke College, Oxford
Degree subject: History
Hobbies:Increasing the amount of sport I watch, to compensate for the decrease in the amount I play.
How long have you been a partner?Just over 4 years.
Who/what inspired you to be a lawyer? Arnie Becker, though it transpires that LA Law is not as accurate a portrayal of a legal career as a sixteen-year-old might have thought back in 1990.
What things did you wish you knew before embarking on a legal career?Just how much commercial input a lawyer can have, and how deep an understanding of a client’s business is required – had I known, I would not have spent so long worrying whether a career in law would be a life-time spent with a head buried in a statute book.
What does your typical day involve?A great mix of meetings and calls with clients, meetings on internal matters, negotiating with the ‘other side’, a seminar for associates or trainees, and maybe an interview (interviewing not being interviewed!).
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?Making sure that you strike the balance between seeing the wider picture and understanding the detail.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?I am going to cheat and have two. First, being asked to be co-head of graduate recruitment which has opened a whole new world in my day to day work. Second, completing my first (tiny) transaction which I did pretty much by myself – seemed like a big deal to me at the time.
What are the best aspects of your job?The variety – no day is the same.
What are the worst aspects of your job?Technology means that it is all too easy to fall prey to the habit of checking a Blackberry every few minutes. Learning that the world will not generally fall apart if you don’t respond to a flashing red light within two minutes is vital for one’s sanity.
What tips would you give to students who want to break into the legal profession?When choosing a firm, speak to the trainees at law fairs and presentations – they are the people who can really tell you what your life will be like.
What are the most common mistakes you’ve seen candidates making?Saying what they think we want to hear, rather than what they think and believe.
How has the legal market changed since the days you were a trainee?In so many ways. Many firms have merged, long familiar names being consigned to history; firms have taken on investment from private equity; there is the prospect of firms floating on the stock exchange. For all the changes, though, the legal industry, particularly in the City, is generally in good health considering the wider economic climate.
What impact has the recession had on your firm?A reinforcement of the fact that no one can rest on their laurels. Although we have had a strong year, we know nothing can be taken for granted when we face either recession or simply very low growth in the economy.
What three words best describe your firm?Entrepreneurial, ambitious, friendly
Where did you go for your last holiday?Andalucia
What gadget/gizmo would you be lost without?No pun intended, but a Tom Tom. Sense of direction and maps are not my forte.