We recently caught up with Shona about how she secured a role with Clifford Chance, how she built up her commercial awareness before the interview and her top tips for Bright Network members looking to follow in her footsteps.
Why a role with Clifford Chance?
I decided to apply to Clifford Chance having attended their ACCEPT Conference in November 2020. This event was a great insight into the firm and its collaborative culture, not just within the London office but across the entire Clifford Chance network. I felt so empowered and inspired following this event, so I knew I had to apply to SPARK and learn more about this incredible firm.
How did you build your commercial awareness before the interview?
At the events I attended, Clifford Chance made it clear that commercial awareness is as much about knowing the headlines as it is knowing how the business works. To build this knowledge I researched law firms and how they make money/attract new business e.g., what is the purpose of non-billable work?
When it came to understanding the headlines, I made sure I paid more attention to the wider themes rather than any particular news story. I did this through attending various webinars from firms as well as organisations like the Bright Network and Legal Cheek to ensure I had a wide range of knowledge. I then applied this understanding of the key themes and trends to CC and thought about how it would affect them as a business.
How did Bright Network help you secure this role?
This time last year I had no idea what I wanted to do post-university. When I was researching different careers, I came across Bright Network’s Commercial Law Internship Experience and the rest is history. Since this internship, I have become more and more interested in the commercial world. This was then solidified by engaging with the content available on Bright Network Academy. Through being a part of this organisation, I have been able to meet various individuals at various firms that have really enabled me to ensure that this is the right career for me.
What top three tips would you give Bright Network members looking to follow in your footsteps?
- My top tip would be to stay true to who you are. It is a common misconception that lawyers look and act in certain ways. This simply isn’t true. Law firms are just as interested in non-legal work experience as they are legal work experience. Firms are interested in how you became the person you are today so be proud to tell your story no matter how unconventional you think it is.
- My next tip would be to start early. Commercial awareness is not something that can be crammed the night before the interview. Start early and start with something you are genuinely interested in because this natural interest will make it easier to stay engaged as you develop your wider understanding.
- My last tip would be to remember in the end if you do not succeed everything happens for a reason. Each rejection is an opportunity to get feedback and learn from your “mistakes” to help you develop both as a candidate and as a human being.
What’s been the toughest interview question you’ve faced?
During the case study element of the interview, I mentioned shareholder activism in my answer to a question. What followed was a series of questions about my understanding of shareholder activism and how I think this will change the future. I tried to remain calm but felt that all my answers were wrong because my interviewer kept asking me more about it. When I received my feedback, it was this part of the interview that I performed well in because I was able to respond to this unique line of questioning and was happy to ask questions back to confirm my understanding which goes to show that second-guessing yourself helps nobody.