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Meet Chris | Trainee Solicitor at Watson Farley & Williams LLP

Book open Reading time: 4 mins

Tell us a bit about your background

I joined Watson Farley & Williams at the age of 28 after a whole different “working life”. I graduated in 2014 with a degree in geography, and then worked in a few different places, including an environmental consultancy and ski travel company, before making the switch to Law. Law had always interested me, so in 2018 I decided to take the leap and change career paths, studying first the GDL and then the LPC in 2019. Halfway through my GDL, I got offered a training contract at Watson Farley & Williams following a vacation scheme at the firm – that’s how I got to where I am today.

Why did you choose Watson Farley & Williams?

I chose to apply for a training contract at Watson Farley & Williams for three main reasons. Firstly, as a geography graduate and someone with a strong interest in the natural environment, the firm’s work in the renewable energy sector really inspired me. Secondly, I was attracted to the culture at the firm. Throughout my career, I’ve always thrived in collaborative working environments, and given that WFW is renowned for its friendly, teamwork-based culture, I knew it was the right choice for me. This was confirmed by the vacation scheme I did at the firm, as everyone I met there was so approachable.

Finally, I loved the fact that WFW gives trainees and newly qualified solicitors so much freedom to explore different sectors. As a trainee, you rotate through six different seats, each for four months, giving you plenty of varied hands-on experience and the chance to figure out what you want to specialise in.

The best part, though, is that all trainees at WFW are guaranteed the opportunity to go on international secondment. It’s one of the few firms that gives this guarantee, and since I’ve always wanted to experience life in a different country, that really stood out to me. I’m currently in Greece, in our Athens office, which has been an incredible experience so far.

What types of work have you got involved with in the Athens office, and what encouraged you to choose Greece for your international secondment?

Our office in Athens specialises in the shipping sector and works for some of the biggest and most high-profile clients in Greece. This was a huge pull for me when applying for international secondment opportunities. I also wanted to experience a totally different working life to the one I’m used to at home – and also visit some of the Greek islands!

Whilst the work is similar in nature, there are differences in the culture which surrounds it. For example, so far in Athens I've found that there tend to be shorter deadlines on things and, Covid-restrictions permitting, there have been more face-to-face meetings with clients.

On a day-to-day basis, I also start and finish my day later than in the UK. Most people here start work at 10am and leave the office later, around 8pm. In fact everything in Athens happens later – eating, going out and socialising.

In terms of the work I’ve been doing, whilst a lot of it is similar to what I’ve done in London, the role has also been really varied. I’ve done a lot of conditions precedent collection and chasing of clients to make sure everything is in place ahead of a deal closing. I’ve also drafted corporate and security documents, which are important parts of any ship financing deal, and have spent a lot of time liaising with ship registries and lawyers overseas, as lots of shipping work involves multiple foreign jurisdictions. It’s been really busy and I’ve been thrown in at the deep end – but I work best under pressure and when learning through doing, as a result I feel like I’ve really grown as a lawyer.

If you had any advice for Bright Network members wanting to follow in your footsteps, what kind of advice would you give them?

Top tip #1: Do as much research into the firm as you can do before applying. When I applied for training contracts, I actually only wrote seven or eight applications, but I made sure to put my full effort into each and do plenty of research on each firm I applied for. There’s no point spending a day writing an application for a firm you don’t really want to work for, so make sure that your values align with theirs. Write each application individually rather than copying and pasting each section – make it really clear why you like that firm and want to work there specifically.

Top tip #2: Talk to anyone you can find who has experience in the sector. I reached out to lots of people on LinkedIn when I was applying to get an idea of what the application process might look like and to hear some tips for applying from those who’d been successful.

Top tip #3: Apply for a vacation scheme if you can. The vacation scheme I did at Watson Farley & Williams was truly an invaluable experience. In general, going to a vacation scheme is a really great way of showing that you’re right for a particular firm and that the firm is right for you. Open days are also a good way to meet and interact with the graduate recruitment teams at different law firms, and get your name and face out there!

Top tip #4: Be yourself. Don’t put on a pretence when you’re in interviews or on a vacation scheme. Any false persona can quickly unravel when you’re stressed or busy, so it’s easier just to be yourself.