Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit the HQ Offices of Reed Smith for an Open Day. In order to attend I had to fill out an application form expressing why I was even interested in attending in the first place. Luckily I was one of the few students chosen to attend from across the country. Realistically, it can be quite difficult to know where to start when thinking about what law firms you want to work for in the future as there are so many options out there. If you’re like me, it is sometimes made difficult when you’re not quite sure just yet which area of law you want to definitely pursue. This is sometimes not helped by the fact that you can’t always research during all the revision as time seems to become more and more like an elusive rare commodity.
Again, luckily for me, the UCL Law society is one of the best university societies out there (no I’m not being biased…) Every Monday night throughout the year there was a career evening held- with wine of course, and in attendance were various people who worked for firms, law schools and chambers. This made the process of knowing what firms were out there a little bit easier for me, and it was useful to speak directly to people and get information that wouldn’t be necessarily on the websites.
So when the opportunity to attend an open day at Reed Smith arose, I definitely took an interest. For me personally I usually go on a gut instinct of whether or not I would fit in, in that place and whether or not I would like it.
Why Reed Smith?
One of the main reasons I wanted to find out more about them was the fact that their culture appealed to me. When I went down to the offices everyone was so down to earth, approachable and friendly, despite it probably being a stressful working environment at times. As with anything you can tell if someone is just putting on their best face, but with this the atmosphere seemed genuine. It was also clear that community was something that mattered as there were also a lot of opportunities to get involved within the community, especially through pro bono work. Examples include The Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre, which provides free legal advice to the local community. They also have a letter writing clinic addressing queries from the general public about human rights issues and a free legal drop in clinic for the homeless.
The second main appeal for me was that the firm was client driven in the way that they operated, and the way they were structured was aimed at delivering the best possible service to the client. This seemed possible even more so mainly due to the fact that the employees are made to feel welcome and at home as much as possible.
The third reason for me was that it suited my personality. They don’t necessarily have a mould of the personality type they employ. Rather they focus on whether or not you’re; hungry, ambitious and dedicated, as opposed to employing identikit candidates, they seem to focus on attracting the best talent no matter what the background, in order to make law more accessible.
Facts & Figures
They employ around 18,000 lawyers in 25 locations; with expansion in Asia and offices opening in places such as Kazakhstan and Houston. This also means that in terms of travel options and secondments there is a wide range of choices for trainees and employees. Despite being an American firm, their biggest office is actually based in London. It is not a Swiss variant structured firm, rather they identify as one global partnership, and I think this is one reason that the firm’s culture is strong as it means they operate together better. Some of their clients include companies like Microsoft, BBC, ITV and FTSE. As a company Reed Smith has grown a lot from mergers and being careful about who they merge with, and they are most definitely good at them, as they have recently seen a 13% increase in revenue.
It was invaluable to hear the experiences and advice of the trainees and employees during the Q&A Lawyer Panel. If you do receive a training contract you spend 2 years training as a trainee, and this helps to also make it easier for you to find what you like as you take different seats. All of the trainees and employees were normal down to earth people, so once again contrary to popular belief lawyers are human. Another encouraging fact was that it reminded me that there are many ways and routes to reach your goal as a lawyer. Not all had gone through Oxford, one trainee had done a music degree and then the GDL, which goes back to my point about identikit candidates- it’s all about you as a person as a whole and whether you are the best candidate.
What are they looking for?
From what I could take away from the experience they don’t just focus on the academic (which is of course important to prove you can actually do the job), but they look at you also as a person and your experiences.
- Can you do the Job?
- This involves taking into account your ability, qualifications, experience and skills.
- Do you want to do the job?
- So they look at your motivations, do you know why you want to pursue law especially there and your knowledge, and knowledge of the firm and how they operate.
- Will you fit in?
- Values, attitude and your personality, do they match up?
Overall I would say that the experience was definitely useful as it wasn’t just about getting you to consider applying to Reed Smith. It actually involved some practical advice and educational value that perhaps you wouldn’t normally get from the company’s website. For example we had a session focusing on the Legal Sector and how recent economic, political and social changes were not only changing the legal landscape but how this affected city firms such as Reed Smith. This led to discussions about how we could continue with the innovation of the legal industry to adapt and change with the times, whilst still offering the best service to clients and of course remaining in business and relevant.
When the day rolled up, I didn’t quite know what to expect as I took the City line towards Broadgate Towers, but I can say my gut instinct was right. And if that wasn’t enough the breath-taking views across London definitely did it for me.