Day In The Life & Tips On Securing A Training Contract (Herbert Smith Freehills) - Amy Carter
Amy's Background Before Joining HSF
I joined the University of Exeter in September 2015 to study Law with European Study (Spanish). My course lasted four years, including a year abroad at the University of Deusto in Bilbao.
When I started university, I knew very little about what a career in law consisted of. However, through various networking and careers events and legal ‘extracurricular’ activities (such as mooting and pro bono work), I gradually developed an understanding of the different career paths available.
I was drawn to a career in a City firm; the breadth of challenging work, high profile clients, international opportunities, and collaborative working environment were all aspects which appealed to me. I applied to a number of insight schemes during my first two years, and then to vacation schemes in my penultimate year. All these experiences (including my applications which weren’t successful) were really valuable, and helped me arrive where I am today.
Vacation schemes provided a particularly useful insight – I did one at Herbert Smith Freehills and one at another City firm. They gave me an understanding of what it would be like, day to day, to work as a trainee. Also, being immersed in a firm and its people for a number of weeks gave me a sense of a its culture which is difficult (if not impossible) to otherwise obtain. This really helped me distinguish between firms based on where I could and couldn’t see myself working in the future.
At the end of my vacation scheme with HSF, I interviewed for a training contract and was extremely pleased to receive an offer from them shortly afterwards. Between graduating and starting my training contract, I completed the LPC and also took a 6 month break in which I travelled around South East Asia (and very luckily arrived home just before the pandemic hit!).
Amy's Current & Previous Areas of Responsibilities
I am currently in the first ‘seat’ of my training contract at HSF. The training contract comprises four seats in total, each lasting six months. I am spending my first seat in a Dispute Resolution department. Dispute Resolution work involves contentious matters - cases which are being (or likely to be) heard by a court or tribunal.
As a trainee, my tasks are rather varied and I never quite know what’s going to land on my desk during the course of the day!
However, typical tasks include:
· Legal research
· Attending calls with the HSF team/clients/external counsel
· Drafting notes of advice to clients
· Drafting correspondence to the opposing side
· Researching press coverage on clients and circulating updates to the group
· Disclosure and document review tasks
· Preparing ‘teaching’ materials to update clients on the latest legal developments
· General case management
Of these tasks, I enjoy drafting notes/correspondence for clients the most. When doing so, I feel very close to the facts of the case and a part of the latest developments. It’s also very rewarding to see your work sent to clients and senior members of the team.
At HSF, trainees are also encouraged to undertake pro bono work (legal work carried out free of charge). I recently did some pro bono work for the Human Dignity Trust - an NGO registered in London which seeks to challenge laws which criminalise homosexuality and work with governments around the world to reform sexual offences legislation. HSF also has strong ties with the Whitechapel Legal Advice Clinic, where trainees are responsible for providing legal advice to members of the public, usually relating to employment or housing law issues.
So, overall, it’s been a great first few months at the firm! It’s been a steep learning curve, but being exposed to a variety of high profile cases has been really exciting.
My main take away from the past few months has been to be flexible in my approach to work. Not being in control of your own workload, and the unpredictability which comes with this, can seem a bit overwhelming at first. However, it also reflects the variable and high profile nature of the work. Being flexible and prioritising appropriately is something you quickly learn to adjust to.
Tips on securing a training contract
· Ask questions. This applies to the interview itself, but is equally important when preparing for applications and interviews. Talk to as many people as you can who have gone through similar processes. Ask them about their experiences - what worked well for them and what would they do differently in the future?
· Be specific. When writing applications and talking in interviews, avoid making generic statements without backing them up with a specific example and, if applicable, explaining what you’ve learnt from that experience.
· Think about what you want from an employer – they’re not all the same. When attending events, really think about whether you can imagine yourself working in that particular firm. If not, why not? If so, why? As much as you are trying to impress the firm, they also need to be the right fit for you.
· Have genuine interest. In terms of commercial awareness, think about what you are genuinely passionate about and follow those stories in the news, rather than those which you think you should be interested in. Think about the commercial aspects of the stories you’re following and how the work of a law firm (and its different departments) may link to those aspects.