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Gerard's Experience | Newly Qualified Associate at Watson Farley & Williams

Book open Reading time: 4 mins

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I'm a newly qualified Associate in the Dispute Resolution team in WFW's Bangkok office.

I studied in the United Kingdom, opting to read Law with French Law at Exeter University, which included a Master’s year in Rennes, France studying European Law in the French language.

I lived in London for around four years post-university, gaining legal experience at another firm as a white-collar investigations paralegal before completing the Legal Practice Course during the peak of the pandemic. Once done, I started my Training Contract (TC) with WFW in London.

I moved to Bangkok a little over six months ago, having worked over here previously on an extended secondment as a Trainee from the London office.

Describe your journey through WFW, from Training Contact to Qualification.

I first came into touch with WFW at the Exeter University law fair in my third year of study. I came armed with questions and, admittedly, fairly superficial knowledge about the firm. However, this was enough to connect with the friendly WFW Trainees and Graduate Recruitment team in attendance at the fair.

I was offered a Training Contract at WFW off the back of an insightful summer Vacation Scheme. I spent the first year of my six-seat TC in the London office, working in the Disputes, Asset Finance and Project Finance departments. I was then fortunate enough to be seconded abroad for the entirety of my second year. I worked in the Bangkok Disputes team across two seats (due to work demand flowing from a huge renewable energy dispute), and then went over to the Dubai office for my final seat where I gained exposure to a mix of Disputes, Corporate and Finance work.

I went into my TC knowing that I wanted to qualify into WFW's Disputes practice, so I aimed to maximise my exposure to such work over my two years of training. I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to do so in the Bangkok office, where I am able to work on varied commercial disputes across Asia.

What is the culture like at WFW?

The culture in our Bangkok office is truly international. Thai and foreign qualified lawyers work together on multi-faceted projects – often arbitration proceedings between parties form multiple jurisdictions. The firm's Dispute Resolution practice promotes collaboration across WFW's network of Asian offices, so disputes projects often comprise a mix of lawyers from the Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong offices (and beyond!).

There is a supportive feel to the office. We have a mentoring scheme running between junior and more senior Associates, along with excellent supporting legal secretaries and the delightful office tea ladies who are more than happy to prepare your regular coffee order upon your arrival to the office! In terms of socials, we have a Bangkok social committee who plan monthly themed social evenings - most recently, an Oscars-themed movie night and games evening.

What has surprised you most about being a newly Qualified Associate?

First of all, the varied matters I work on. As mentioned, WFW's Asia Disputes practice is keen to encourage teamwork across offices. To this end, I'm currently working on projects with lawyers in the Bangkok, Singapore and (the recently opened) Seoul offices.

Given that the Bangkok office is smaller than the London office, with around 35 fee earners, there is plenty of scope to take on greater responsibilities as a junior Associate. I can support Partners with attracting and onboarding new clients, as well as coming up with ideas for business development projects to promote our service offerings.

The Bangkok office is also committed to their pro bono projects, which provides me the opportunity to vary my workload and experiences of legal work. At present, I'm supplementing my usual work with pro bono research on accountability for human rights violations in Indonesia and, separately, a project to promote the use of neutral industry experts for efficient dispute resolution.

What top tips would give you those wanting to secure a Training Contract?

I would encourage students to attend their local law fair and to go ready with some background knowledge and interesting questions targeted at your favoured firms. This will enable you to hold an engaging discussion with firm representatives and to stand out as a switched-on candidate. I went to my law fair with an interest in the impact of emerging cryptocurrencies and their potential regulation. This is probably not the most fashionable topic at the moment…but you get the idea!

I would also suggest identifying points of difference in your preferred firms which are particularly attractive to you, or match one of your personal qualities as a prospective Trainee lawyer. This may help you to come across as a genuine and interested candidate. Personally, I was drawn to WFW's seat-six TC and guaranteed overseas secondment, through which I could maximise my exposure to Disputes work and experience projects from a global perspective.

Finally, where possible, I would encourage Vacation Scheme applications over direct TC applications. I think this is probably a good bet - candidates can show that they are keen and capable during the scheme, while seeking out work which interests them. This then provides genuine experiences and knowledge which can be drawn upon at the concluding TC interview.

How did Bright Network help you in your career journey?

Bright Network was particularly useful in my initial background research. It enabled me to get a flavour for different firms and arrive at a shortlist of those to which I wanted to apply. Their insights from "firm insiders" are extremely useful as a starting point to gather information and facilitate interesting conversations with firm representatives at law fairs, or at Bright Network's legal networking events.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Don’t be disheartened if you are unsuccessful in your first round of Vacation Scheme/TC applications - take some time to reflect on your firm preferences and to obtain some relevant work experience, if possible. Your applications will become stronger and more convincing as a result.