Sophia's vacation scheme diary
19 July 2011
A client meeting in Belgium, lots of interaction with associates and partners, exposure to interesting deals, oh and croquet at Exchange Square. These were my experiences on a vacation scheme at Latham & Watkins.
My journey into law started at the end of my second year at university as a Management student at Royal Holloway. By the end of the summer I had completed two work placements at a high street law firm and barristers chambers. These left me assured that I was interested in law and at the start of my third year I made full use of my university careers centre, bundling legal brochures and law magazines into my backpack after lectures. Whilst reading Lawyer 2B I saw an advert for SEO London (Sponsors for Educational Opportunity), an organisation that helps to place students from ethnic minority backgrounds into City work placements. I didn’t know much about the organisation other than that, but a few days later I received an email from the careers centre saying Hason Sandhu, SEO’s Executive Director, was coming to Royal Holloway to give a talk. I was blown away by how good the programme sounded and went through the stages to be accepted on to the programme, which has been invaluable in my search for a training contract.
Anyway, in a nutshell these experiences took me from a clueless Management student to the Monday morning start of my vacation scheme. I was excited about starting at Latham as I had been really impressed by the people I had met and the relaxed attitude of the vacation scheme assessment process, which comprised two thirty minute interviews.
During my first week of the placement I sat with the competition team in litigation. It was a great practice area and I think anyone from a business background would find it interesting. Each morning we had presentations by various associates on different practice areas, pro bono work, training and development opportunities as well and what to expect as a trainee and associate. These gave a good insight into what is expected of Latham lawyers and what they can expect in return. These morning sessions were also a great chance to catch up with the other vacation scheme students. The afternoons were spent sat with our supervisors who had assigned us a written task as part of the training contract assessment process. My task was to research recent OFT merger decisions and summarise them for the internal competition quarterly as my supervisor felt this would give a good overview of competition law. On top of this, a couple of trainees asked me to help them with some work they had… this work wasn’t particularly glamorous but it was great to lend a hand and contribute to the cases they were working on. I was also assigned a trainee mentor, Nicola, who I met up with for lunch and coffee, having someone to chat to about the firm and for advice was a great help.
During the second week I sat in Finance. The weekend had flown by and before I knew it I was in front of my fellow vac schemers and members of the graduate recruitment committee giving a talk on M&A with my partner. I also found out on Monday that I would be going to Belgium by Eurostar for a client meeting which was very exciting. I went with a partner and senior associate in the US Capital Markets group as well as my supervisor. The trip was fantastic! I sat through a presentation given by the partner and associate and witnessed the Latham lawyers having to think on their feet as the client revealed information that required immediate advice. Champagne and a slap up meal on the Eurostar home also made for a great day out. During the rest of the week I learnt about how corporate financing works and my supervisor was generous with his time in explaining how investment banks, companies and law firms interact to ensure deals are done. I was given a waiver agreement to draft and attended internal meetings, which gave me a great insight how people within the firm interact with one another. On the Thursday of the second week we had our final interview and as an end of vacation scheme treat we were all taken out for the evening for a delicious meal and drinks.
So that’s my overview of my vacation scheme experience. I knew very little about what it would be like to work for a US firm before starting my placement other than hearing rumours that you receive no training and that you’re effectively a satellite office. From the presentations I’ve seen, the lunchtime training session I attended and the range of awards and accolades of Latham London, this didn’t seem the case.
One of the things that really struck me at Latham was how generous people were with their time and their willingness to answer questions and offer advice. As a potential future trainee this atmosphere and the relaxed, easy-going nature of many of the people I came across seems an incredibly supportive environment in which to learn.