We recently caught up with Katerina about securing a role with Linklaters, how she built up her commercial awareness before the interview and her top tips for Bright Network members looking to follow in her footsteps.
What stood out to you about Linklaters?
As a very ambitious person full of ideas, I like that Linklaters values engagement at the early stages. I talked to Hamza, who launched the Linkubator podcast, about the massive support he got from the Senior Partner. The firm also welcomed his proposal of being seconded to Linklaters’ in-house start-up, Nakhoda. Linklaters also has an exceptional number of trainee-led initiatives (e.g. the Trainee Networking Committee), which convinced me that Linklaters will value my ideas as a trainee and beyond.
I am also really interested in sustainability and renewables, and Linklaters is the only city law firm with a specialised environment team. The Energy & Infrastructure team is also a market leader in renewables (specifically wind power). At other firms, I often heard that “it’s just PR talk” (I once got rejected from a firm for being too conscious). Linklaters got excited about my interest in renewable power and encouraged me to be open about it!
How did you build your commercial awareness before the interview?
I have a free Financial Times subscription from my university and read my Financial Times newsletter every day. I also read a number of newsletters specifically aimed at students: Bright Network, The Corporate Law Academy, Lawcareers.net. Additionally, I listened to a lot of podcasts (such as The Intelligence, Business Daily, and Linkubator). What helped a lot was setting up Google Alerts specifically for Linklaters early on so that I was caught up on the most recent firm news.
What would be your top tip to members going through the application process?
Change your mindset from “I will take anything, just hire me!” to “I am good enough for these firms, but I need to know if they are right for me”. It’s common sense—would you really want to work at a firm you only know from their website? Then, translate this attitude into how you approach applications. The recruiters can tell the difference.
The best and most important thing to do is talk to people. Reach out to someone who already works at the firm and schedule a (virtual) coffee with them. A good place to start is following up with people you met at events. You can also read interesting publications on the firm’s website (typically aimed at clients) and reach out to the authors. For example, when studying in Singapore, I took a Cybersecurity module. I found it fascinating and messaged a TMT partner at HSF’s Singapore office. He was abroad but hooked me up with a trainee seconded from London to TMT. I got to visit the offices and have a lovely chat, where I learned a lot about the firm and the work they do.
How did Bright Network help you secure this role?
I love the newsletters! They helped me understand commercial news and get a sense of what questions I should be asking when reading the news generally. I also read pretty much every guide there is on the website.
A week before my Linklaters vacation scheme, I also attended Bright Network’s Internship Experience UK, which was a great way to refresh my understanding of the legal profession and also get myself in the go-and-get-it mindset (this really saved me from my mid-July vacation attitude). A few people from Linklaters took part in the Internship Experience UK and I followed up with one of them—we had a nice call while I was on the scheme! Whether or not HR was aware of this, her words of encouragement helped me power through the scheme with confidence.
What’s been the toughest interview question you've faced and how did you tackle it?
During my vacation scheme interview for Linklaters, I got asked about my core value. Integrity, that’s easy enough. But then they asked about a time when that core value has been challenged.
I genuinely could not come up with an example. I asked whether we could come back to the question later and talk about something else in the meantime. This was perfectly fine to do.
I will preface this by saying that not every tough question can be tackled this way but, as a general point, it is perfectly fine to ask for a moment to think or to postpone a question!
What top three tips would you give Bright Network members looking to follow in your footsteps?
- Reach out to people from the firms you are applying to and ask them for a call. I cannot stress this enough.
- Applications might be concentrated in one time of the year but your efforts to learn about and engage with the firms should be consistent.
- Understand yourself and know your unique selling points (2-3). Keep those in mind and consciously showcase them in every application and assessment centre.