A huge congratulations to Jessica Arapu on securing her Training Contract at MacFarlanes Law firm. Here she gives an insight into how she achieved her position and the process she went through.
Why did you choose this firm and this role?
I chose Macfarlanes because I felt like I clicked with all the people I came into contact at various networking events and throughout the Vacation Scheme. They all seemed extremely friendly, genuine and willing to help. I felt like I could see myself training there and working there in the long-term.
The boutique nature of the firm appealed to me because I felt like training in a smaller intake would be a more efficient way of learning, where I could be exposed to greater levels of responsibility earlier on. My experience at the Vacation Scheme confirmed this, as I was given a great variety of tasks, such as working on a Loan Agreement and compiling due diligence for an upcoming deal.
I like the fact that Macfarlanes, despite being a smaller firm, offers excellence in different practice areas. It is best known for its work in Private Client and Corporate departments and that in itself was something that attracted me, because normally firms which specialise in Corporate are less engaged in Private Client work. This showed me that the firm is versatile in its work and can take on deals just as prestigious as its larger competitors.
What was the toughest part of the application process? And your favourite part?
Personally, the toughest part of the application process was the negotiation exercise. It can be daunting to arrange your thoughts and speak in a structured and confident manner when you are around new people, especially when you consider that they are competing for the same role. What made the experience enjoyable at Macfarlanes was the fact that the exercises were done in teams of 4 and the supervisor was extremely helpful. There was a genuine sense of the supervisor seeking to see the best in us, rather than catch us out. It turned out to be a very useful learning experience and a great taster for the Negotiation Exercise which ran throughout the Vacation Scheme.
My favourite part of the application process was the partner interview! It resembled an informal chat - I felt relaxed and was able to portray my skills to the best of my abilities. Moreover, it was a great way to meet some of the senior members of the firm and ask more specific questions.
Were you surprised by anything in the process?
I was pleasantly surprised by the support and attention we were accorded throughout the Assessment day. It genuinely felt like the firm was trying to get to know us, as well as us getting to know them. Throughout the day, we were based in a conference room and had various presentations on departments and other aspects of the firm. At the end of the day, we had the chance to shadow lawyers in various departments, which was very helpful in understanding the working environment and trying our hand at tasks which we could expect to undertake in a training seat. Overall, the Assessment Day was a very enjoyable experience. Even the simple fact that Macfarlanes calls it an Open Day instead of the intimidating-sounding 'Assessment Day' shows the welcoming atmosphere of the firm. This contrasted with my experience with assessment days at other firms, where the interviewees were based in the reception of the firm and did not have a clear contact throughout the day - it seemed like we were being handed down from person to person.
What three top tips would you give your fellow Bright Network members?
I think most importantly, research the firm before applying and tailor your answer to the firm - include plenty of facts about it, such as outstanding deals, notable accolades which the firm has received and the ways in which a firm is innovative. Try and find interviews with members of the firm and see if you can incorporate anything in your application!
Secondly, approach the Assessment Day with a positive outlook. It sounds very easy to say, but I cannot stress this enough. It is very easy to get caught up in stress and fail to show your best self on the day and regret it later. If you're finding it hard to calm your nerves before the Assessment Day, try and do some breathing exercises, meditate and take 5 minutes to think positive thoughts and repeat some motivating mantras to yourself. Yes, it sounds very cliche and may seem impossible to do when your mind is racing, but just try it and you'll see even the most minor improvement in your state of mind!
Finally, I'd suggest to just be yourself and socialise with everyone you meet throughout the day in a natural way. A lot of applicants approach this in a mechanical way where they ask targeted questions or only speak to senior members of the firm in an attempt to show off or impress people. Remember that people can see right through that and it will leave them with a bitter taste. Take the social parts of the day/vacation scheme for what they are - they are not a hidden assessment, but rather a way for the firm to get to know you and your uniqueness.
What was the toughest question you faced at interview?
In all honesty it was so enjoyable that I can't remember a particularly unpleasant question.