Many people believe that, at the highest end of commercial law, you can only be an expert in one very specific area. We disagree. There are many benefits to broadening your horizons.
At Slaughter and May we don't pigeonhole our lawyers - all are trained to be multi-specialists across a broad range of legal matters. This is in sharp contrast to the experience that you might have at other City firms where, as a trainee in, say, a finance group, you may well work in a very narrow area, repeating the same type of transaction many times over.
As a trainee in one of our groups, you will work on the full range of transactions on which the group advises. In a corporate group, for example, one month you could help guide a client through the defence of a hostile takeover and the next you could be advising that same client on an equity issue. In dispute resolution, you could attend a hearing on a civil litigation matter in the morning, then meet a client to prepare for a mediation that afternoon.
In the short term, this will enable you to make a more informed decision about which practice group you should join on qualification.
In the long term, it makes for a far more fulfilling career. It provides challenge and interest, exactly what great minds need. It also allows you to develop deeper relationships with clients, because you get to know their businesses better. This level of insight can make an enormous difference for both parties and will help you play a guiding role in changing commercial and legal times.
That said, it is hard work. You have to cover more ground. But with our collegiate approach, the support is always there. The freedom to choose your own direction and the autonomy this flexibility brings more than makeup for it.
On multi-specialism in practice: Eniola, Trainee, Law with French Law Graduate
You are five weeks into your dispute resolution seat. How is it going?
Five minutes into my first day my supervisor called, asking me to pick up some documents, jump in a taxi and attend a meeting to instruct our new counsel. My supervisor, the client's General Counsel and the barrister were discussing elements of case law to support our argument - I really appreciated being involved in that. It took up a lot of the first week, but since then I have worked on four matters, including a competition damages claim in the High Court.
Your first seat was competition. How was that?
That began with three different matters on the first day. I probably worked on at least ten throughout the seat, all very different in nature. These included a big investigation into IT-related issues; a corporate governance review for a major public company - very interesting because we were looking at how the company functions and how to improve it; a rare gemstone sale; public and private mergers and acquisitions, including a reverse hostile takeover; and various share and asset sales.
Day-to-day this meant balancing different things for my supervisor with work for other associates or partners. With Corporate being a central part of the firm, you get involved with many of the other legal groups in different practice areas.
Does that stretch you?
Yes, but that's exactly what attracted me to the firm. Through the multi-specialist approach, I have gained a range of experience in just one seat, making the work interesting, varied and exciting. I am constantly learning and the commercial context is always changing. How your legal advice sits within clients' business operations creates another intellectual hurdle - it's definitely not legal advice in a vacuum.
The impact that has on the legal skills you need to employ is fascinating.