I rarely admit to being nervous. If anyone ever questions me on the subject, before an exam, or at half time in a particularly important football match, I will usually reply that I am “full of anticipation”.
So it is a credit to how much I had built up my vacation scheme at Lovells in my mind that when I entered the reception area at Atlantic House – top button on my shirt overwhelmingly tight around my neck, freshly dry-cleaned suit – I was nervous.
Nerves are inherent in any situation where you feel out of your comfort zone, but sat overlooking the “Square Mile” with 26 other young, “Apprentice” look-a-likes clutching a complimentary cranberry juice, the nerves were less inherent, more obvious and apparent. Especially in the current market, the “current economic climate” as I believe I described it to anyone who would listen. We were all sat there excruciatingly aware that not only were we at a very good law firm, we were also there on a very bad year for the legal sector- the worst in living memory.
Inevitably as the team bonding games got underway, the question was raised – first in under the breath murmurings and then finally to the leader of the activity – “Is this assessed?” Quite how the graduate recruitment partners would extrapolate our abilities to find gold in a fictional desert into our potential as future employees was hard to grasp, but the concern was there nonetheless.
The next topic of conversation was the tried and tested “What University?” question. With the “law is too elitist” cries of Alan Milburn still fresh in my mind, I was taken aback by the amount of Oxbridge students on the scheme. A strong majority immediately slipped from the “What University?” chat to the “What College?” chat as punting and the mysterious “plodge” became the order of the day.
The rest of us – Sheffield, Manchester, Queen Mary, Bristol and of course Exeter – were initially taken aback, but it didn’t take long for the old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover” to raise its egalitarian head above the legal parapet. I personally found that the only people who found Oxbridge an issue were the people who hadn’t gone there, and any chip on my shoulder was quickly filled in by the realisation that – much like the soldiers in World War One meeting for a Christmas kick about – the “Oxbridge types” were not the enemy after all, in fact arguably my best friend on the scheme recently graduated from Cambridge.
So, with my concerns and pre-conceptions assuaged, I found myself heading back down in the lift to find my office for the week, the ominously named “Investment Banking and Funds Litigation”, read about this and much more in my next “on the ground” report from the City.