Bristol Law graduate, Ellie, is a trainee solicitor at Clyde & Co, having done the vacation scheme beforehand. We caught up with Ellie, who was happy to share her experience at the prestigious firm and share tips for the application process.
How's your experience at Clyde & Co been?
Overall, my experience at Clyde & Co has been varied and really positive. I’ve just completed the first year of my training contract and joining has definitely been the right choice. At university, people see everything in a vacuum because they go to so many open days and meet people in networking events, and it’s really hard to tell who each firm is and how they’re different from each other. I’ve been here for around a year now and have learnt so much and feel like part of the team already! Here, people invest in you a bit more and you get trusted with responsibility early on.
What attracted you to Clyde & Co and the training contract?
What appealed to me most was how different it is to other firms. I’ve done vacation schemes in other places where they focus on the same fields like finance and M&As and are no different from other corporate law firms. Clyde & Co are unique because they’re specialist and work in niche areas like aviation and shipping, and I knew straightaway it was the place for me. Another big thing was how lovely and welcoming everyone at Clyde & Co was during my work experience there; it was a lot less intimidating than I thought it would be.
Studying law at university helped a lot with figuring out what kind of lawyer I wanted to be. Before, I thought being a barrister was my ideal job, but after going to different law events and talks, being a solicitor was more suited for me because teamwork is so integral to the role.
Do you have any tips on how to make your application stand out?
One of the most important things, especially with Clyde & Co, is to understand the firm and express what interests you in particular. You can’t copy and paste with law applications; each one has to be specifically tailored. For example, because Clyde & Co is so specialist, you can’t write how much you enjoy the ‘corporate’ aspect of the firm or how you are interested in ‘M&As’, because that doesn’t work with us.
Another tip: be honest in your applications. This sounds straightforward, but so many people are tempted to exaggerate and extend the truth. My old supervisor helps out with interviews for vacation schemes and he has told me that you can always tell if the candidate has exaggerated an answer.
At Clyde & Co, one of the brilliant things I can do is mentor university students, and my go-to advice to them is to take their time and reflect on their applications as much as possible. Once you have finished writing your application, spend a lot of time afterwards to re-read every line, be critical, and make sure every sentence has a purpose. Don’t waffle! Employers go through hundreds of applications, so every sentence should make a point. Also, writing well is so important – I’ve read applications that are really good, but they’re let down majorly by the writing. Think about word choice, vocabulary, and check to see if everything flows, because presenting your application well is just as important as what it says.
Did extracurriculars help with your application?
Yes - I helped found the University of Bristol Law Clinic which was a great talking point because Clyde & Co has a strong pro bono initiative. The initiative is actually one of the reasons I applied in the first place!
It’s also important to remember to show that you’re human - law firms don’t just want a textbook. Anything extracurricular that makes you unique makes a big difference, but there’s no need to worry and join every single society at your university – good grades are just as impressive. Having extracurriculars is good, but law firms also require certain grades, so it’s important to strike the right balance. Outside of your degree, do what you genuinely enjoy - it doesn’t have to be law related, and there’s no point doing extracurriculars just for the sake of bolstering your CV because people can tell if you’re feigning interest in something.
What was the toughest part of the application process, and what was the most enjoyable?
I was really lucky because, for me at least, the application process was very informal; it’s much more structured now. Clyde & Co try and keep the interview process quite light-hearted and want to help you feel at ease, so even if it doesn’t go your way, you can still be reassured that you learnt a lot and hopefully had fun.
On the vacation scheme, you get your training contract interview in the last few days. For me, the interviewers were really lovely, and they were more interested in getting to know me in order to see if I’m the right fit.
I think the hardest part of the process is knowing how to prepare for your interviews. Everyone has different experiences - some have more academic questions, and some interviewers are less friendly, for example. For interviews, I recommend reading what’s in the news as much as possible so that you’re up to date with current affairs. Preparing to defend yourself and your views helps a lot for the interview stage as well; you should think of the application process as an opportunity to prove why you’re the right person for the job.
Also, I recommend making use of your resources - we have just had a set of vacation scheme students, and some have reached out to me to ask for help and for general questions on the firm which is a great way of learning more and showing initiative.
What do you wish you'd known on your first day?
I wish I’d been more open minded. A lot of people come up with a strict plan, like where they’re going to sit, what they’re going to do, but that’s normally completely out of their control. A lot of things will surprise you, so go with the flow.
To find out more about Clyde & Co and to view their opportunities, click here.