Rugby-mad trainee Sam Rush, a new recruit at SJ Berwin & Co, tells what to expect from life in the City. Sam Rush is a trainee solicitor at London-based firm SJ Berwin & Co.
A ride on the legal train is a lengthy affair even before the first stop of the the training contract. Having bought a ticket by completing a university degree, navigating the Common Professional Examination (if applicable) and enduring the Legal Practice Course, legal hopefuls then have to persuade a prospective firm that they are individuals as well as great team players – dynamic but assiduous, and bursting with their own ideas, while always being responsive to those of others.
It can be hard to decide where the first stop on your career ride is going to be. I opted for SJ Berwin & Co and the demands of a full-service City firm after enjoying a summer placement there two years before. The firm has only been established for 16 years and the thought of having the chance to contribute to its future direction held a particular appeal for me.
The firm operates a policy of four six-month seats and asks trainees to submit preferences a few weeks before they start the training contract. The initial weeks of my first seat in corporate finance flew past in a whirlwind of new office procedures and meetings with other trainees and colleagues in my department and the rest of the firm.
All trainees sit with partners or senior assistants who monitor and help cultivate workload. They are given as much responsibility as partners feel they can handle, while always being supervised to ensure legal skills are honed. Trainees are encouraged to soak up as much information as possible and throughout the training contract they attend a plethora of presentations, talks and workshops on a range of topics given by firm members and outside speakers. This not only helps cement legal and commercial knowledge in areas that trainees have already experienced, but provides inspiration for future seat requests.
My second seat was in the EC/competition department and involved a stint in the firm's Brussels office. I am currently in the commercial media department and after taking my last seat I will have had a comprehensive training that was worth all the late nights.
The firm actively promotes cross-departmental initiatives, encouraging legal specialists to pool their expertise for the benefit of clients in areas from pharmaceutical to telecoms, media to retailing. With a sports background (I was an Oxford Blue in Rugby Union and Rugby League) I was keen to get stuck into the sports business group – one of the firm's most active sectors. During my 13 months training I have worked on the flotation of football clubs, negotiating television rights for the Inter-Varsity boxing match of my old university and an appearance before the European Commission on cross-border transfer regulations. I also devoted a lot of time and effort to the production of the SJ Berwin & Co/Rugby World Guide to Rugby Union players' contracts. A fast-growing sports practice ensures enthusiasm does not flag and job satisfaction is high.
The life of a trainee is not easy – it can be thankless and there are periods of drudgery and unpredictable hours. But you only get as much out of the training contract as you put in.
If you can have some fun and fulfilment along the way, so much the better.