We caught up with Felicity to ask about how she secured her impressive training contract with magic circle firm Clifford Chance! Here are her top tips on how you can follow in her footsteps and secure your dream role!
Why did you apply to Clifford Chance?
I applied to Clifford Chance (CC), because of its market-leading Finance and Corporate practices. My interest in these areas stems from my legal work experience at City law firms where I enjoyed understanding the moving pieces in complex transaction structures. CC’s Tech Group also attracted me having worked as a paralegal in the technology sector. CC’s sophisticated central knowledge and information function and the opportunity to learn using CC’s standardised documentation during the CC LLM CLP further appealed to me having spearheaded the creation of a legal knowledge management system for an IT service management leader. Having attended numerous open days at City law firms, CC’s underlying core of expertise with the CC Academy and Continuous Improvement programme particularly stood out to me as providing a platform to develop an advanced technical excellence and commercial knowledge. Speaking to trainee solicitors, associates, partners and graduate recruitment at CC’s Open Day and Commercial Awareness Workshop about their experiences at CC crystallised my interest in the firm.
What was the hardest part of the application process for you?
The hardest part of the application process for me was completing the initial online application form. It can be difficult to strike the right balance between detail and quantity while communicating concisely and with impact. Focusing on key achievements most relevant to a commercial legal career helped me to strike this balance. I also created a separate work experience entry for the events I had attended with CC before applying to demonstrate what I had learnt about the firm, why it particularly appealed to me and how I could add value. Finally, I treated the quality of my application as a reflection of the quality of work I would be happy to send to a client.
How was the process overall, and what was your favourite part?
The process overall was very streamlined and consisted of an initial online application form, a Watson Glaser test and an assessment centre consisting of an unseen case study and two one-hour long interviews.
My favourite part was the unseen case study, as it provided an insight into a scenario that you may be faced with as a trainee solicitor at the firm and I enjoyed applying the knowledge I had acquired from my preparation and discussing how to creatively approach the scenario with my interviewer. My preparation for the case study consisted of researching over an extended period of time:
- CC’s practice areas and the role and purpose of its lawyers in each;
- The lifecycles of different types of deals, such as acquisitions, IPOs and securitisations;
- The structures of different types of deals, such as share and asset sales;
- The financing of different types of deals, such as syndicated loans, bond issuances, mezzanine finance and high yield bonds;
- Different types of law firm business models;
- Basic business concepts, such as P&L accounts, balance sheets, EBITDA and Chinese walls;
- Two companies I admired through a SWOT analysis;
- Basic contract law concepts, such as warranties, indemnities and MAC clauses;
- Areas covered during due diligence;
- The financial markets;
- Micro- and macro-economics; and
- Current affairs affecting deals, such as Brexit and sanctions on Iran.
I also researched two deals CC was recently involved in, the firm’s efficiency tools and the locations of the firm’s offices to enable me to discuss which would need to be involved in the scenario. Preparing for the case study helped me to think about how CC delivers value to its clients and go beyond identifying the issues presented by the scenario by formulating solutions to them.
What are your 3 top tips for students just like you to apply to Clifford Chance?
1. Make the most of the resources available to you
Attending CC’s Open Day and Commercial Awareness Workshop before applying helped me to gain a real feel for the firm’s culture, strategy, service delivery methodology and unique selling points as a business and employer. I recorded the information I learnt to use in the online application form and interviews to demonstrate my understanding of the firm and why it was an ideal fit for me. Reading ‘Know the City’ by Christopher Stoakes, ‘Commercial Law Handbook’ by Jake Schogger, ‘An Introduction to Global Financial Markets’ by Stephen Valdez and Philip Molyneux, and articles from the FT, IFLR, Finimize and Bright Network’s Commercial Awareness updates on topics that interested me also helped develop my commercial awareness. When I read an article, I would always think about why it interested me, the key issues presented, how they could affect CC’s clients as well as the firm as a business and how CC could manage them. Finally, attending a variety of events covering topical developments affecting commercial legal practice from green bonds to cryptocurrency with Bright Network, Aspiring Solicitors, Legal Cheek, LawCareers.Net, The Lawyer Portal, London Law Conference and the Society for Computers and Law helped me to develop techniques for demonstrating my commercial awareness in my online application form and interviews.
2. Prepare for the assessment centre
Prior to the assessment centre and in addition to my preparation for the case study, I researched the firm in depth using the firm’s websites, social media pages, annual review and thought leadership publications, Chambers Student Guide, the Legal 500, Chambers and Partners, Bright Network, the Lex 100, Legal Business, Lawyer 2B, The Lawyer, Law.com, LegalWeek and the Gateway. Using the STAR technique, I also practised answering commonly asked training contract interview questions relating to my CV, strengths, competencies, commercial and technology awareness, career motivation and firm motivation. The Corporate Law Academy’s website is a useful resource for these. I recorded my answers in bullet points to ensure that I did not sound pre-rehearsed. Finally, on the morning of the assessment centre, I read through the FT. I also noted down a list of key achievements I wanted to mention given that the interviews are CV blind and some follow-up questions to ask the interviewers that I genuinely wanted to know the answer to and demonstrated my commercial awareness and understanding of the firm and commercial legal practice.
3. Show your personality and what makes you unique
Preparing for the assessment centre and staying focused on the day helped me to relax and demonstrate my personality, confidence and enthusiasm for the firm and a career as a commercial lawyer. This was facilitated by the approach of my interviewers which focused on bringing out the best in me and trying to get to know me. Focusing on the skills and knowledge I had developed from my commercial legal experience also helped me to demonstrate what made me unique as a candidate.