Joseph Kamyar, University of Birmingham
Week Two: The Verdict
27 August 2009
Before starting my vacation scheme at a commercial law firm, I pondered over the various modules I’ve studied and whether they might come in useful.
Obviously contract, perhaps tort, maybe even land if I were placed in real estate. Having briefly worried that I hadn’t yet studied criminal I soon dismissed this as being irrelevant to a commercial firm and ultimately of little use to me on the scheme. So, as I was taken to my new group in Herbert Smith’s renowned litigation division, I was welcomed to the corporate crime team. Much to my surprise I was placed in probably the only criminal practice in existence of the top 10 firms. Needless to say this would be yet another challenging week.
Immediately I was handed case files on FSA investigations, asked to research and compile memos on insider dealing and solicitor’s misconduct, whilst attending advocacy and alternative dispute resolution workshops. As you can see, this has been a busy week. For me, busy is good; there is nothing worse than sitting at a desk with nothing to do, particularly when Facebook is blocked. However, fortunately a lack of work hasn’t been an issue throughout the scheme.
This week’s social consisted of croquet and a barbeque on Exchange Square. When this was announced I can’t admit to having been entirely enthusiastic about the whole event. I’m glad to say my scepticism was ill founded, as croquet turned out to be brilliant fun, and all the more amusing several Pimms later. Yet, despite socials such as these, easing the vacation students through the scheme, the mood was noticeably tenser in the final week. Interviews were looming and the morning paper had become a must buy for all those involved. I, on the other hand, not being a penultimate year student, had the luxury of a stress free week, as I couldn’t apply this year. This placed me in the somewhat privileged position of getting on and enjoying the week. Yet, in one year’s time, if I’m lucky enough to get on another scheme, I have little doubt I will be joining the ranks of those frantically studying the FT website in every break available.
The Verdict: This is a surprisingly diverse firm and you genuinely meet a whole array people. I can safely say I was sad to hand over my security pass at the end of my placement and this can only mean I had nothing less than an enjoyable time at Herbert Smith. Everyone strives to make you feel at ease and part of the team. Moreover, being fully aware that associates have mountains of work and targets to achieve, they were always willing to dedicate time to their vac students, either for a chat in the office or over lunch and coffee. As I’m sure you’ve gathered, I’ll certainly be sending off an application next summer (so long as the economy holds out!).
Week 1: Law, all plain sailing?
Ascending the steps of Exchange Square; confronted by the suspended metallic structure that is Herbert Smith, marked the beginning of my two week vacation scheme at the City firm.
The day began with introductory presentations by the Graduate Recruitment team, welcoming us to the firm and making us feel at ease in a setting that we would be calling “work” for the next two weeks. This was soon followed by lunch. No doubt many will sympathise with the dilemma of a standing lunch, where you couldn’t pray more for the expertise of skilfully juggling the combination of your plate, fork and drink, keeping all food in ones mouth, whilst managing to engage in conversation with all those around you. Unfortunately for me this wasn’t the case. I’m not known for having the best hand eye coordination and on that day of all I didn’t fail to live up to my reputation. The trainee I was attempting to talk to clearly saw me struggle and quickly ushered me to a quiet corner of the room; where a table was free for me to regain composure. Suffice to say as lunch drew to a close I welcomed the tour of their lavish offices.
Once I’d got my bearings I was introduced to the team where I would be sitting for the first week of the scheme: TMT in their corporate division. My supervisor, a relatively chilled out aussie, welcomed me to the group and we had a chat about the various high profile deals they were currently involved in. In all honesty “Technology, Media and Telecommunications” was not an area I was particularly familiar with and to say I felt out of my comfort zone would be an understatement. Nevertheless, the team eased me into the world of IT law and I won’t pretend I haven’t enjoyed the differing tasks, primarily consisting of research and reviewing a variety of documents. I’ve been particularly lucky and spoilt with regular lunch outings, taking full advantage of the amenities of Bishopsgate and Exchange Square.
As the first day drew to a close all the vaccies made their way on mass to a nearby restaurant. The best analogy for this event is Fresher’s Week. Initially conversation consisted of the following three questions: “What do you study?”, “where are you from?” and “where else have you done a vac scheme?”; except this time conversation was over an expensive bottle of wine in a relatively smart City restaurant, in stark contrast to a pint of snakebite in some grotty 60s student block. As the night moved on so did the conversation and it became apparent to all this was a fairly well matched group, one we would all feel at ease in over the course of the next two weeks.
Highlight of the week? Listening to one partner describe a recent sailing trip, where entertaining clients had been his aim, yet, gale force winds led one client to suffer from a severe bout of sea sickness!
However, I wouldn’t want the image of clients vomit to be the final note on Herbert Smith. So far so good; I’ve been introduced to many partners, given work by a variety of associates, and had coffee with a number of trainees, and I’m yet to encounter someone or something that I don’t like about the firm.