We recently had the opportunity to talk with Jesse about how they secured a Future Trainee Solicitor role with Slaughter and May. They told us about how they built their commercial awareness before the interview, how Bright Network helped them secure the role and their top tips for members going through the application process.
What stood out to you about Slaughter and May?
The firm adopts a multi-specialist approach to training. Unlike most firms where you will be quite siloed off within a practice area, Slaughter and May trainees are given a range of new and different areas to work on. This means that you receive a broad legal training and the ability to do a lot of tasks very well, rather than merely mastering one area. This provides for a very stimulating training contract and will definitely make you a better lawyer.
How did you build your commercial awareness before the interview?
I ensured that I was regularly exposed to business news. For example, I subscribed to the Financial Times using my university subscription, and other news providers like the Morning Wrap and Legit. I read these regularly. I also found podcasts like Watson's Daily and the FT News Briefing very useful.
It was also beneficial to do commercial reading related to the firms’ strengths and key areas. This is vital to showing commercial awareness and interest in a firm.
What would be your top tip to members going through the application process?
Firstly, ensure that you have undertaken a range of experiences at university. These can be law-related (for example, mooting) or leadership roles. These are useful in demonstrating your skills indirectly, but also provide useful talking points in an interview. In my interviews, I was always quizzed on university life!
Secondly, it is important to stay resilient. Everyone experiences rejection, however, it is those who motivate themselves to push harder after rejections that experience success.
Thirdly, manage your time. Applications are stressful and can be difficult to balance with university work. Therefore, ensure that you have a clear timeline of priorities.
How did Bright Network help you secure this role?
Bright Network was the first organisation to introduce me to commercial law as well as Slaughter and May - therefore kickstarting my career aspirations. Additionally, resources like Bright Network Academy have been very useful in my preparation. More specifically, Bright Network played an important role in my other training contract offer from Sidley Austin. Through an application to the referral scheme, Bright Network recommended me to the firm and definitely made my application stand out.
What’s been the toughest interview question you've faced and how did you tackle it?
In my Slaughter and May interview, I was asked whether I would recommend English, American, or Russian literature (as I have an A* in A level English Literature). This was a very rogue question as I've never read a Russian book in my life. Therefore, I wasn't quite sure what the interviewer was testing. Rather than pretending to know Russian literature, I was honest and said that I had never read a Russian book (although I expressed my certainty that Russia has some great literature). I then went on to say what literature I would recommend out of English and American. With these sorts of unorthodox questions, it’s important to be honest and to pause before answering. Often rushing to answer a difficult question causes mistakes.
How did you use Bright Network Academy during your career search?
Bright Network Academy was useful in understanding the different skills I needed to develop for interviews and the application process in general. At the start of my career search, I often found it difficult to know what law firms wanted in a candidate, so having the Academy courses as a source of information was incredibly useful. Moreover, the commercial awareness course also shaped how I engaged with business news and how I expressed myself when talking about business news.
What top three tips would you give Bright Network members looking to follow in your footsteps?
- Be organised - know when applications are due alongside your academic commitments.
- Incorporate commercial reading/listening into your daily routine. For me, it was the FT News Briefing every breakfast for six months - without fail.
- Show personality in your applications and interviews - firms want academic candidates, but also candidates who make the most of their university experience, for example, getting involved in societies and sports!