Since starting the @londonlawstudent account over on Instagram, I have received various requests to go into my journey of how I got a techlaw training contract at Clifford Chance. One of the common asks that I receive is to talk a little bit more about my journey from education, work experiences to finally receiving the offer.
Over a series of posts, I have been sharing The London Law Student Journey Series and going into detail as I talk about each one:
So with that let’s continue with the second part of three. This post goes into my work experience during law school. To keep up with the links to the subsequent parts, keep an eye out on this link:https://lifeofalondonlawstudent.com/work-experience/
Table of Contents:
PART TWO: DURING LAW SCHOOL
Due to financial considerations, like many people at university I worked during my studies. In my first year, I worked at Stanley Gibbons, a specialist stamp and memorabilia shop on The Strand as a Sales Assistant.
This was invaluable as in my earlier applications I was able to demonstrate key transferable skills such as attempting to balance my work with my studies (organised), an ability to pick up technical specialist terms by learning about all things philatelic, being able to persuasively sell stamps for hundreds of pounds and being trusted with high value items (reliable and trustworthy).
In this role, I was able to meet a variety of people through the clients that came in. One such client turned out to be a partner of a small boutique firm nearby in Chancery Lane. Through weeks of building rapport about his stamp collecting and how he got started, when he found out I was studying law, he offered me the chance to come in and see what a small private client boutique firm was like.
The work for me had interesting aspects such as dealing with a client’s estate and having to look up old records of land deeds and wills, which was definitely interesting. Overall and after talking to the lawyers there about what they did, I found again that I preferred a variety of work rather than being focused in one small niche area in a small practice.
As well as demonstrating my commitment to the career I was able to use this experience on my apps to show that I had tried a different area of law, and again working in a small firm wasn’t really for me. Slowly, I had begun to build my reasons for why commercial law and not any other type of law. This was also assisted by my attendance to law fair events held by my university’s law society and through various networking opportunities such as an Open Day at Reed Smith.
During my summers over my university life, I worked full time back home in Manchester for a temping agency that had access to a variety of companies such as luxury car dealerships, medical practices and my highlight, working at Boohoo.com’s headquarters a number of times. My role with this agency was mainly as a cover receptionist which was perfect for a number of reasons. If there is one truth universally acknowledged receptionists and PAs are often the fount of knowledge within a business. I was able to learn a lot about the businesses that I was working in through the mere fact that I was in a position where a lot of information about these companies had to flow through, and in many cases I was being supervised by people who had been there for years.
In my applications I used this to demonstrate that I was able to build up a commercial awareness through appreciating how different businesses operated purely from working as a receptionist in so many different places.
Through leveraging my first year experiences and extracurricular activities, I was able to gain even better experience.
I started this blog back in 2014 after I ran for publications officer for the UCL Law Society’s magazine, The Silky Brief. After a close vote, I ended up losing out but it was one of the best things to happen. Overtime, I have learnt that rejection can sometimes be redirection and that’s not too bad.
Whilst I was still able to assist as an editor and writer for the Silky B, I decided to also start my own thing. I have continued to use this blog as a demonstration of my ability to be creative, successfully commit to a project and using my initiative to essentially make experience for myself. More importantly I was able to demonstrate my ability to build a strong personal brand and marketing skills.
Why a personal brand can go a long way
You might be wondering, why self marketing skills might be an important trait to demonstrate. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that you need to be able to convince a law firm that you’re not just an aspiring trainee but a future lawyer who will be able to win business for the firm. A strong personal brand and the ability to be personable go a long way here. Some firms also mark this as part of their criteria in one way or the other.
Through this blog I was able to land writing in The Times’ The Brief on whether diversity was a buzzword in the city, as well as for Milkround covering a debate on diversity that was chaired by Lady Hale. I was then able to use this to partly gain my first campus ambassador role for DWF. It was the first time that they had recruited for campus ambassadors. I was able to show them why my creative flair and the ability to be a self starter would be useful in helping to drive applications from UCL as part of their first 7 campus ambassadors across the UK.
The Bar or The City: Use Your Experiences to Figure it Out
At UCL’s annual Barrister’s Cocktail party, as well as getting to meet figures such as Lord Neuberger, I used this opportunity to try and get as good an understanding of what it was like to be a barrister. Through this networking opportunity I ended up talking to a judge whose turned out to be from Manchester too. She offered me the chance to come shadow her that summer so that I could see what it was like for myself.
Coincidentally this was also immediately followed by jury service at The Old Bailey. Through talking to people and also seeing an aspect of the bar for myself I decided that a career in there was not really for me.
This was also building on my experiences from participating in the activities arranged by the UCL Law society. For example I really enjoyed negotiations and client interviewing but I really did not enjoy mooting. Additionally the idea of being self employed in such a way did not appeal to me and I was more drawn to corporate law and having a more commercial client facing role rather than going before judges.
Lastly, I had a vacation scheme at DWF as well. While I was unsuccessful in the end it was an invaluable experience for me because it was my first ever vacation scheme and major rejection. It was tough getting that rejection call, I believe ugly crying was involved but after I had a chance to reflect it helped me to form my decision to get other experience first and focus on my grades. It was here that I began to learn that failure isn’t always final but about how you come back or react to its lessons.
Additionally, during my time at UCL, I worked as a Pathways to Law mentoring, helping to widen access to the career by mentoring local sixth form pupils. (For more detail see below in examples from my applications).
In my final year I worked for the first 6 months of term in Gaucho. I was able to use this experience to demonstrate again my ability to balance my work as well as studies. Additionally, I worked in the flagship restaurant in London and I was able to talk about the transferable skills I gained from there. As a hostess I had to ensure tables were effectively seated to ensure a smooth service especially during busy periods. It was also a great lesson in managing in a stressful situation and keeping clients happy.
I decided not to work for the remainder of the year in order to focus on my exams.
However, as mentioned in my extra curricular activities post, I made up for this by getting involved with The Society for Computers and Law after I was highly commended in a student essay competition. Currently I now sit on the Advisory Board helping to champion TechLaw and facilitate in creating opportunities for students to get experience in TechLaw.
Examples from my successful applications
DWF Brand Ambassador (150 words):
I worked closely with the graduate recruitment team to increase brand awareness of the firm across the UCL campus. Working independently, I was creative and proactive in organising my approach in promoting the firm to my peers.
Through using my initiative and being innovative with my campaigns, I was able to contribute to an increase in the number of UCL applicants to the firm. This was a pleasing result, especially considering that I was one of the first ever seven Brand Ambassadors that were chosen by the firm across the UK. Due to this, I was given a high level of freedom and responsibility in how I approached my role.
Given my current work experience, this further demonstrates my proven ability to thrive and define my role in unfamiliar territory. I feel that this initiative and creativity will be vital as a trainee on the innovative Ignite programme.
DWF Vacation Scheme (150 words):
During my scheme, I was able to experience how a law firm works in practise by undertaking typical trainee tasks. For example, putting together bundles, helping with organising document bibles for case files and helping to draft contracts in my Banking and Real Estate seats, I was able to appreciate the range of tasks and responsibilities that a trainee might have and what to expect.
More importantly, being assigned tasks by various people in these departments also developed my ability to prioritise the work that was assigned to me and to manage the work load effectively. I also participated in a number of interactive sessions, including a group mock pitch to one of their clients to persuade them to choose our team as legal counsel, through this I was able to gain an insight of how to work collaboratively with my peers and secure a deal.
Forest Recruitment (Temp Agency) (200 words):
During the summer I chose to work as a temp so that I could gain a variety of work experience and insight into different industries and sectors to see how they operate and gain a better understanding and a greater level of commercial awareness. This gave me flexibility and the ability to practice adapting to different environments and situations at short notice, and to achieve this to a high standard. I was able to understand what a client required of me, and then deliver to the highest standard, as a result I was able to build strong relationships with clients.
Boohoo.com (100 words):
Working on a busy reception, I gained some commercial awareness. It was my duty to check all incoming mail, and this helped as I witnessed how the business was run on a daily basis. I was also able to talk to different people coming in from investors to buyers and suppliers. The most important experience I took from this was the value of every role in a business and I learnt how to professionally raise issues and get a process kickstarted for the improvement of a working environment and methods even though I was only there for a short time.
Pathways to Law Mentor (150 words):
During my second and final year at UCL, I mentored sixth form students and was responsible for providing advice and support about studying law and pursuing a legal career.
Through providing advice and answering their queries, I improved my ability to tailor my research and answers for each mentee, whilst organising their workshops engaged my leadership skills as I had to plan, present and lead interactive workshops.
Furthermore, I was recently invited back to UCL to speak on a careers panel about my fintech experience. Following the event, I was approached by a student who informed me that she was one of my mentees three years ago and I had inspired her to pursue a career in law by subsequently applying to UCL. This is my why in relation to the issue of diversity and I was inspired that my role as a mentor had made a difference.
Gaucho (150 words):
Completing the vigorous training academy to secure this role improved my ability to be resilient and driven. I effectively worked on a busy reception in the flagship restaurant where the standards were very high. I was required to be warm, lively, charming and confident even when it was hectic.
These qualities were particularly useful during the stressful Christmas bookings period, where I was able to effectively deal with conflict and adapted to resolve unexpected situations through being organised and coordinating with various teams.
Using the Open Table system, I effectively managed my assigned floor by logistically planning and monitoring the way I sat guests in order to meet the table turnover targets. The teamwork involved ensured that I was able to appreciate that guests were better served when I was able to draw solutions from different perspectives in resolving problems to deliver a consistently seamless high-end experience for guests.
As mentioned previously, from my second year I chose not to actively go for any law applications as I wanted to discover if I was really sure that I wanted to be a lawyer. For me personally, this was one of the best decisions that I made for my self as it took away some of that pressure. Don’t get me wrong there were many moments where I felt like I wasn’t being truly successful because my journey didn’t look as “expected” (whatever that means). Ultimately though this worked out in my favour as I was in the right place, in the right position for the right training contract for me. Here I really learned what it meant to be patient and persistent.
This meant however that I found myself at the end of my time at UCL, 6 weeks to go until graduation with absolutely no clue as to what I was going to do in order to stay in London.
During this time I did my best to go to TechLaw networking events to see what was out there and started doing applications to startups in LegalTech using resources such as the Legal Geek Startup Map as a guide. In the end, I was sourced via LinkedIn by my then manager due to the work I was doing and my profile. That’s how I found my first job after graduation.
If you are at this stage I would really recommend taking advantage of the easy access to networking events that you have available, whether that is through your law school, open days or external organisations. By doing this, you will be able to get a better and realistic picture of the industry and what being a lawyer really entails.
Allow yourself the space to be open minded and even if you think one path or the other isn’t/is for you, still explore that and confirm that decision. It will ultimately help you to make a better and more informed choice that is right for you.
The key at this stage is information gathering that will help you to make the right choices. For me I found that this came from my networking and meeting various people within the industry.
In my final post of this series, I will discuss my post law school experiences and how this ultimately led to Clifford Chance.