We caught up with Dakota, who studied History at the University of York before joining Clyde & Co on their vacation scheme, and then as a trainee solicitor. Hear her story below…
I actually wanted to study dentistry, but got cold feet and so I changed to history last minute. I became interested in corporate law because it’s academic like history, and you come up with real-life solutions to real-life problems. The mix of analysis and problem-solving drew me in most.
How's your experience at Clyde & Co been?
It’s been great! I applied mainly to magic circle firms and received a few offers, but my friend suggested I apply to Clyde & Co - they accepted me for their vacation scheme, and I loved it. My favourite aspect of the firm was definitely the culture and ethos, which, in my opinion, is far better than in other places.
What attracted you to Clyde & Co and the role?
The thing that attracted me most was that Clyde & Co is the sectors it offers.. There is a clear idea of who we are and what we want to do. Another thing is that I’m interested in law that’s tangible: that’s why doing law specifically for the financial sector didn’t appeal to me, for example. We are focused on sectors like Marine Law, and it’s great that in these areas we can get tangible results from our work. Marine Law is also my favourite field because there is so much variety and there are clients based all around the world. As a history student, as well, I find it really interesting how traditional Marine Law is.
Do you have any tips for the application process?
A lot of people make the mistake of just looking at how much the firm pays, how it’s ranked, the grade requirements, etc. I’d recommend spending your time looking into the firm and trying to work out the specific aspects you like - this makes the application stronger. For example, look at the fields a firm works in, and research into those fields. I personally didn’t do this enough, and I should have!
Also, people get really hung up on what commercial awareness is and having lots of legal experience. What law firms want people to remember is that they are businesses, and follow the corporate structure where they want to keep clients happy and are affected by current affairs. People need to focus a lot on this as well as just law: for example, working in a shop gives you real-life commercial experience and shows commercial awareness, even though it’s not related to the legal sector. It’s important to remember that law firms want well-rounded people.
Did extra curriculars help with your application?
Yes, they do - I did a first year work experience programme, and I’d definitely recommend getting onto those springboard schemes as it’s a good way to get involved with a law firm early on. It really helps get your name out there and get your experience in early.
I did a lot of sports at university as well and was in a few committees. Being in a committee is a good way of showing commercial awareness. I was in charge of money and events for my committees, and it really helped show my commercial side.
Attending law events is also very helpful because it’s important to get to know people and expand your knowledge. I actually attended some Bright Network Law events in London and found that they helped a lot! Getting to know the firms and meeting people was really useful in getting your name out there and understanding more about the process.
What was the toughest part of the application process, and what was the most enjoyable?
For me, the toughest part was getting rejected. To make a good application, you put in a lot of time and effort, which is hard enough as it is, but it’s a lot worse when you’re trying to balance this with university as well. It was really disheartening to get rejections and not have any clue why. You just have to not give up and keep going.
The most enjoyable part was being able to do the vacation scheme at Clyde & Co and having the opportunity to meet people who are now my future colleagues. As the vacation scheme is a stepping stone to a career at Clyde & Co, it was nice to start a good relationship with the other employees so early on and start my training contract with some familiar faces.
What's the day-to-day life like?
What I increasingly realised was that every day is completely different, especially at Clyde & Co. The variety of work is great; at the moment, I’m running arbitrations, running an official court case and might be asked to create a billing task later. Also, I do work with different partners who have different styles which adds a lot of variety to my day. On top of all this, everyone is really supportive, and there is a strong training network, so you can go to anyone if you need help, not just supervisors and superiors. So, overall, the work is really varied, and you can get a lot of responsibility if you want it.
What do you wish you'd known on your first day?
Two weeks into our induction, we were told to ‘get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable’. That really helped me because a lot of the time, you won’t know how to do things, but the key is to be calm and look for support. Here, there’s not much of a hierarchy and everyone’s very approachable, and Clyde & Co place an importance on being ready to go out of your comfort zone, take on new challenges and get stuck in.
As a history student - was it harder to apply?
Personally, I found it easier. Law students are generally expected to know the legal side of things more. In interviews, I was asked more about general things like commercial knowledge and analytical skills. Firms, especially Clyde & Co, don’t discriminate - you should do a degree you enjoy and get a good mark because law firms want someone academic and well-rounded.
To find out more about Clyde & Co and to view their opportunities, click here.