We catch up with Bright Network Member Sophie, who recently secured a Training Contract at Herbert Smith Freehills. Hear about Sophie's application process and find out what advice she has to offer those wanting to following in her footsteps.
Why did you choose this firm and this role?
I chose this firm because they were definitely the most welcoming and interesting firm that I had met throughout the recruitment process. By the time my first week on the Winter Vacation Scheme was over, I knew that there was absolutely no way I could train anywhere else. Every type of role in the firm was involved in the recruitment process - trainees, associates, senior associates and partners. This was a huge draw for me because you genuinely feel like the firm is investing in you and everyone really does care about your development and how they can help you to better yourself.
Herbert Smith Freehills is also an incredible firm to train with because of their international scope, which I believe is a huge training asset for becoming a great lawyer because it forces you to learn the skill of simplifying difficult concepts for clients that have no grasp of English law. I chose the role because I really felt that there was no other career which would offer me the same amount of opportunity to really develop intellectually and personally. As a lawyer you never stop learning and you work in such a big, diverse team that it allows you to explore avenues of yourself you never knew existed. Your preconceptions of what you might enjoy or what sort of person you will be in certain situations are really thrown out, that is what I loved the most.
What was the toughest part of the application process? And your favourite part?
The toughest part of the application process was definitely self-doubt. I am not from a traditional background and I am the first in both my immediate and extended family to go to university, I will also be the first lawyer that we have ever had in the family. For me I was constantly comparing myself to the other candidates and I think this sometimes made the process all the more stressful because I always checking myself.
I think throughout the process the most important thing is to be kind to yourself and remember that everyone's process that has got them to that stage is different, which is completely fine. I would say that the key is to always believe in your ability, which sounds like a cliché but it is a cliché for a reason - if you believe that you deserve to be there then your talent begins to show through far more.
My favourite part by far was meeting the other candidates. I have genuinely met people who I know will be my best friends over the next four years, at least. The great thing about the training contract is you become super close with your intake because you are sent to university together and you train together. When we were all finding out whether or not we were successful, I was just as nervous for them as I was for myself. I think that is a really great feeling when you all care for one another's success and I think that is a common characteristic across the whole of Herbert Smith Freehills.
Were you surprised by anything in the process?
I was really surprised about the areas of law that I actually enjoyed. When I applied for the firm I thought I was set on litigation. I had previously wanted to be a barrister but did not like the isolation of the job, so I thought this would be a natural course for me to take. Whilst I enjoyed my seat in Litigation, I also really enjoyed my seat in Corporate and for me that was really exciting. As a non-law student I was unsure about whether or not I was making the right decision. You can do all of the research into a career in law as you like but there is always an element that feels like a bit of a stab in the dark. However I found myself learning lots about my personality, my ability to pick up concepts quickly and how I worked in teams.
One of the amazing things about the Graduate Recruitment Team is that they take the time to give you feedback on your assessment centre performance even if you get onto the Winter Vacation Scheme. They do this so you can improve across the two weeks. I was surprised to have done well in the parts which I thought went terribly and I was surprised to have done not so well in the parts I thought went well. So really, the whole recruitment process is full of surprises!
What three top tips would you give your fellow Bright Network members?
- Take the time to meet employers because building a relationship prior to submitting your application can REALLY make a difference
- Take the time to develop your own hobbies and do not be completely blinded by just getting a first class degree (this is great but employers need to know there is more to you than a brain!)
- Always believe that you deserve to be there, doubting yourself and focusing on other people can be draining and take away from your performance!
What's your lucky charm or pre-interview ritual?
I take the time to talk to the other candidates when I am there because it takes the edge off the interview when you humanise the other people. I also use loads of tea tree oil on my face when I am feeling anxious the night or morning before an interview - works wonders.
Discover more about Herbert Smith Freehills and their career opportunities here.