February 2022: Elena joined White & Case as a trainee in London in 2015, and first got to know the Firm on a vacation scheme in 2012. As a mid-level associate, she's got advice for the next generation of lawyers, or anyone considering a career in the law.
When I started out, I didn't know anything about the law
I'm the first in my family to go to university. I'm Italian and no one I knew at the time was a corporate lawyer in the UK (or in Italy). I didn't have any connections in the law, but I didn't have any preconceptions of what a lawyer "should be" either. I didn't have a special "call" to the law, I just thought it was a good subject to study at university with interesting work opportunities thereafter.
No one expects you to know it all
On my vacation scheme and as a trainee, I got more and more comfortable with asking questions. What's the task, where should I start, when is the work due? If you don't ask, you'll never learn. No-one at White & Case has ever been anything but helpful and encouraging.
Networking isn't as challenging as it might sound
At university, you might have friends from your house, from the societies or clubs you're involved with or from your school. At work, it's the same. You'll meet people on different teams, on client secondments or an overseas seat, through an affinity network or just because you have something in common. I'll always have a coffee with colleagues from the Milan office when they're in town.
Feedback isn't personal
I've learnt to take negative feedback as a moment of growth: What can I do better next time? There's a saying, "If you never do anything, you'll never make a mistake." Stay focused and do your best but as a trainee or associate, you're never going to be put in a position where your work could really jeopardise a deal.
Say "yes" to opportunities
Put your hand up for professional opportunities, but also personal ones. As a trainee in the Private Equity team, I was invited to join my team on a sponsored cycle from London to Paris. I'd never even been on a road bike before! We trained together and it was an incredible way to build relationships in the Firm and with the client. And I still love cycling and have since completed the Tour de France in 2019.
This job changed my life for the better
This job is demanding and the hours can be brutal but I will always be grateful for this job and for the opportunity it gave me to change my life for the better. I try to remember this on the bad days and always pay it forward.
This is an amazing place to train
Not everyone who completes a vacation scheme or trains as a lawyer will continue to work in the law. People move sideways, change careers or go in-house. But the training that you get here, and the skills that you develop, is excellent. You'll have an amazing experience, no matter where your path leads you.
Be humble, be open to learning
No deal–and no day–is the same. There's always something new to learn, whether that's a technical skill or insight into another jurisdiction.
Everyone here started out the same
Whether as a trainee or a paralegal, every lawyer started out as the most junior member of their team. They've been in your shoes and should remember what it was like to be at the beginning of your career. That makes for a very human, empathetic working environment.