We recently caught up with Danielle who secured a brilliant role with Slaughter and May. We wanted to discover how she used her transformed her unsuccessful application from the year before into an impressive training contract and how she used Bright Network events to get there.
What stood out to you about Slaughter and May?
Slaughter and May were actually the first commercial law firm I met through Bright Network Future Top 100 Future Lawyers. Through that, I was invited to a networking breakfast at the firm. At the event, I met Jane Edwarde who is a partner in the Real Estate team. The passion for her work really stood out to me, alongside the fact that the unique multi-specialist approach allowed her to see a Real Estate transaction from all sides and be involved in a multitude of different elements on the deal. This multi-specialism is what particularly stood out to me about Slaughter and May as the majority of other law firms take a different approach and tend to put their lawyers into niche specialities, but Slaughter and May are able to put train their lawyers to be able to understand the broader elements of a transaction, without sacrificing the quality of work. I was also able to meet the Head of Trainee Recruitment, Janine Arnold, and she happily answered my many questions with a very positive attitude. The invitation to the networking breakfast subsequently put me on a mailing list and I was invited to another Slaughter and May event later in the year, where I had the opportunity to meet more of the lawyers. I quickly built up an interest in the firm, and as a result of learning about their unique multi-specialist approach, international strategy, and client-focus, I consequently knew that I had never met another firm that I felt suited me so well.
How did you show a passion for the firm/role?
I had met them three times prior to gaining the Training Contract and I had also submitted an unsuccessful application the year before for their work experience scheme. I think that shows a lot of passion, as I had taken every opportunity to meet them and was still not deterred by previously being unsuccessful. I spoke to a current trainee at Slaughters who attended my university and he gave me two tips: firstly, you need good grades and secondly you need to know why you want a career in commercial law. As I was unsuccessful in second year, it really drove me to improve my grades. Despite the initial rejection, I still managed to gain an insight into their work as I secured a legal internship with one of their clients, Lendlease. During the internship I was able to see the high quality of work that Slaughter and May were given, and I was also able to work alongside the Slaughter and May secondee. I don’t think law firms are looking for a specific type of candidate, I was able to personally develop and mould myself into a much stronger candidate without changing who I am as a person.
How did you prepare for your interview/assessment centre?
The Slaughter and May interview process is quite unique because it’s like an assessment day, but you are on your own. I went onto a variety of student forums to find out how I could prepare. Essentially, the main advice is to know your CV and cover letter inside out as they will ask you questions on that. The thing that I avoided this year, as it did not work for me in other interviews, was to script my answers, because once you get a question you have not prepared for it can throw you completely off. Make sure you know why you want to go into commercial law, know what lawyers do, and know why you would be good at it. Also, it is really important to know why the firms are different. Slaughter and May are really distinctly different, and you have to be able to explain why their unique approach is going to work for you. It is also really important to link your commercial awareness into most questions and don’t just wait for explicit questions on current affairs to come along, as they might not, but you definitely want to still show that you are commercially aware. If you are quite personable, just try to make it more like a conversation, and then it will be a lot easier to direct questions back at them. The key to a law firm is through their clients, if you have worked with any of their clients before, really hone in on that in an interview. They want to know if they can put you in front of their clients in a business capacity and if you have already done that, it is a huge benefit.
At the end of the partner interview, you go through the news articles you were given earlier on in the day. The partners will press you and question you on your views, but it is definitely not an interrogation. Do try to come up with creative solutions too, and don’t be afraid to concede if they think of something better. It’s about getting that balance right.
There is also written exercise too which is more about your ability to write. Follow the structure they advise and utilise every bit of information they give you. BIG TIP that I was given by a current trainee, that I went on to do - write an executive summary at the beginning outlining what decision you have chosen, and then go onto explain it in the main body. This really helped with my structuring. I used subheadings too while using a SWOT analysis and incorporating Porter’s 5 Forces.
Finally, you have the HR interview. The team are lovely and they round off the day with a positive attitude. They ask questions about how the day was, why I chose Slaughter and May, and they even asked me why I chose not to be a barrister. It is probably quite easy to believe it’s not assessed, but it’s important to remember to be on your toes at all times as they have a say in who gets an offer. I came out of the interview and said ‘even if I haven’t got it, I learnt so much and had a really great day’ - the biggest piece of advice I can have is to go in really enthusiastic.
What three tips would you give Bright Network members looking to follow in your footsteps?
- Know the clients. That was a huge pivotal moment for me realising that. Go to events that clients are having, try and get work experience with the clients, and have a genuine enthusiasm for the work that the law firm completes for the clients.
- Commercial awareness. Make sure to link back to why the stories you discuss could influence the firm. I chose only a few things which meant I could go in really deep. Link your stories to how it will affect the clients of the law firm and ultimately how it will affect the law firm. Separate the sectors of your reading, i.e. I chose Oil, Banking and Infrastructure.
- Meet the law firms. Try to meet the firms where you can, law firms may seem great on paper but not suit you in person, or alternatively you may discount a firm by their website, but they could be brilliant in person. If the law firm is sending representatives to events, they will be a good reflection of the qualities that they look for in their lawyers. Go to Open Days, or if there are none that you are eligible for (as most are first years only), they may have different events all year, like the ‘What Does a World of Difference Look Life’ event that I attended.