On Monday 4th September 2017, we welcomed 100 of our brightest law students graduating in 2019 to the City of London to gain valuable careers advice and connect with top law firms.
The students started off getting to know each other in warm up networking, while telling us what they wanted to get out of the day, with most students keen to find out why to apply to one firm over another and to build a network with other people in a similar position.
Two of our Bright Network alumni, Rose Pollard and Sam Unsworth, shared their success stories on securing roles with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Skadden Arps, as well as tips for applications, including:
Commercial law is a small world, so do talk to your peers because you’ll end up meeting them again.
Every firm will ask why you want to work there, so make it a personalised answer. Try removing the firm’s name from your application - do you know which firm the application is for and does it make no sense if you substitute a different firm’s name.
Law firms all come to campus in September and October - go to these events, meet people and make a good impression.
Some law firms might reject you (maybe even without interview) but don’t get disheartened, most people have several rejections.
The students heard from a panel of partners from Clifford Chance, Clyde & Co, Herbert Smith Freehills, Macfarlanes, Shearman & Sterling and Travers Smith on a range of questions about commercial law, including:
What does it take to make it? Motivation, being commercial and entrepreneurial, being organised, having empathy, being curious about and interested in the law.
What has been the most challenging part of the role? Plate spinning on a day to day basis - making each client feel that their job is the most important to you. Being confident in what you do when you don’t have a family background of law or even attending university.
Why do you love the job? Fighting in the trenches, then cutting through to find a solution. It’s motivating to be in the privileged position of advising people what to do. It’s ever changing - the skills I use today are different to those I used when I started.
Why is the firm’s culture important? It’s difficult to go to work each day if you don’t like your colleagues - make sure you meet people from the firm at events and vacation schemes.
After a couple of hours of structured networking, where the students had the chance to talk to all twelve partner firms, there was another panel session offering advice for obtaining a vacation scheme, from Dentons, Mishcon de Reya, RPC, Slaughter and May, Watson Farley & Williams and Weil, Gotshal & Manges (London) LLP, including:
Top tips: Don’t self-censor, include your work experience of any kind. Our clients are usually businesses rather than law firms, so any experience you might have will help. If you did work experience you didn’t enjoy, you can still use it and explain how it’s informed your decisions. Talk about your passions. If we don’t like the person you seem on the page you won’t make it but if we do, you will.
How to choose a firm: All firms present themselves in a certain way on their website and in content like podcasts, which should show their personality to a certain extent. Try to talk to people at your university, friends and family - you’ll know those people and whether you’re like them so their opinion can be useful. Look at yourself - what do you enjoy doing and which modules at university you have enjoyed.
What to do at university to prepare yourself for a career in law: It’s not for us to tell you how you should be spending your time, we don’t care what you’re doing, we care about the skills you develop doing it. ou can tell when people really care about something, they can make the mundane come alive. Do what you care about. If you do something you enjoy, you’ll commit to it, you’ll succeed and show your passion.
What you should and shouldn’t do on a vacation scheme: Be enthusiastic and ask lots of questions but don’t try too hard - be yourself. Go to the social events, including breakfasts and lunches, as well as the evening events, they’re a good chance to chat to trainees. Be careful if you have your trainee interview towards the end of your vacation scheme - don’t become complacent and relaxed. Do something to take you out of the building beforehand, so it feels like a proper interview.
The day finished with the Bright Network Awards ceremony, where the firms chose to reward Bright Network members who had achieved excellence. With twelve outstanding students awarded prizes by some of the world’s leading law firms, the attendees clearly have a bright future ahead of them.