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Zsofi's Insight | Trainee at Watson Farley & Williams

Book open Reading time: 5 mins

We caught up with Zsofi, a current trainee at Watson Farley & Williams (WFW), about her journey from university to securing a role at the firm. She shares a great insight into what a typical day in her life looks like, alongside some top tips for kickstarting a career in Law.

Tell us a little about yourself and your journey from education to your current role at WFW.

I completed my higher education at Swansea University, where I graduated in 2019. During my final year of university, I attended law fairs and spoke to regional firms about their work experience opportunities. I was fortunate enough to receive one week of work experience from a regional firm in Cardiff, where I assisted a trainee in the corporate department. I enjoyed the transactional element of the work, so I voiced my interest in paralegal roles to the partners on my last day. A few months later I was offered a role in their banking and finance department. After six months there, I moved to a national law firm for one year, during which I did my training contract applications and secured my current role with WFW. Before beginning my LPC and Masters, I did a six-month stint as a paralegal at a US law firm, again in their banking and finance team, focusing mostly on private equity work. These experiences have given me a solid foundation of knowledge to use in my first seat at WFW, which involves asset finance transactions.

What inspired you to apply to WFW?

I particularly enjoy the cut and thrust of transactional work, so WFW’s reputation in the asset finance sector was initially what attracted me to the firm. I also liked the way training is set up whereby trainees get to share an office with their supervisor; this increases openness and collaboration, and it makes you feel more supported. Finally, and most importantly, the guaranteed international secondment is a truly unique offer to trainees at WFW. Having the opportunity to work and live abroad, potentially in more than one country, during my training contract will broaden my horizons and stand me in good stead to work on international deals.

How did Bright Network help you to secure this role?

During lockdown, I attended lots of Bright Network events led by Ben Triggs which grew my understanding of what firms looked for in applications. This helped me refine my application technique and perform better in assessment centres and interviews. I especially enjoyed listening to Thinking Commercially, the podcast by Bright Network, as it gave me a good understanding of commercial issues and allowed me to discuss topics like green investments and international trade in my final partner interview.

What does a typical day look like in your current role?

Though it depends on whether we have a completion, I will usually get into the office between 8.30am – 9am. First, I will check my time is recorded from the previous day, before catching up on any new emails and writing my to-do list for the day. Depending on the stage of the deals that I am on, I might be drafting and/or reviewing legal opinions, corporate authorisations, fee letters and process agent letters. If we are gearing up to a completion, I run completion searches, gather signatures and register security. There is always a lot of email traffic to monitor on every deal, so I spend a couple of hours most weeks ensuring our documents lists are up to date with the latest correspondence and circulate updates to our teams internally. Most days I’ll have lunch prepared and my break will be spent chatting to my trainee cohort in our canteen downstairs. Afternoons are typically busier, because I will review draft documents that the other side or local counsel have prepared. Once reviewed, my supervisor checks over my work and we discuss any feedback she has for me. Before clocking off, I record my time and check what tasks and meetings I have lined up for the next day.

What do you find most interesting about the sector?

The sector I currently work in is transport, with a focus on aviation finance. I am enjoying the international scope of the deals, as every day I get to work with local counsel from dozens of different countries. The structure of transactions is also unique to aviation, which make them more challenging to work on, but also more rewarding. The most interesting change that is happening in aviation is in relation to green and sustainable finance. This is because of the new technologies that are being developed for airlines to minimise their carbon footprint. The impact of these changes are summarised well in Richard Williams’ recent article (https://www.wfw.com/articles/get-into-the-green-scene-sustainability-linked-finance-in-aircraft-finance/). This will generate fascinating work for lawyers in aviation in the near future, as they figure out the legal implications of sustainability linked financing. 

What’s the culture like at the firm?

WFW has been very welcoming from the beginning. We (trainees) have been given multiple opportunities to network with our colleagues before joining and this helped us settle in at the start. Everyone, from paralegal to partner, is very friendly and the ‘open door’ policy is genuinely present across the firm. We also have monthly drinks trolleys and brunches organised for the department for everyone to catch up.

One of Bright Network's focus is driving social mobility across the UK, which includes increasing the visibility of state-school educated members. With this in mind, would you say you have encountered any challenges/lack of resources when applying for jobs?

I mostly experienced a lack of resources when it came to involvement in extracurricular activities relating to law. I had to travel an hour to and from my state school to a private school every week to take part in a debating society because there were no activities which focused on building the skills needed for a career in law. This impacted my applications when it came to getting into Russell Group universities, which then affected my applications to London law firms who look more favourably at Russell Group educated applicants.

What top 3 tips would you give Bright Network members looking to follow in your footsteps?

  1. Be patient with yourself and the process. Getting a training contract can take a while and can be mentally and emotionally draining, but if you learn from every application and persevere, you will get the position you want.
  2. Every experience will give you some transferrable skills, so prepare to talk about what you learnt from your dog-walking, waitressing, retail and other roles. It’s all valuable. 
  3. Talk to as many people in the legal industry as you can before applying and make sure you are clear about what this career entails and what the expectations will be.

Keen to find out more? View their profile here.