Laura J.

Future Trainee Solicitor
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Laura J.
United Kingdom

My employment

Future Trainee Solicitor
White & Case LLP
United Kingdom
Legal services
Large business (250+ employees)

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A day in the life of a Future Trainee Solicitor in the United Kingdom

Despite being a non-law graduate, my History degree fostered the ability to think analytically, to argue persuasively, and to conjure up creative solutions to questions.

Briefly describe the organisation you work for

White & Case LLP is a full-service international law firm, with 44 offices worldwide. It fosters a global and entrepreneurial environment, which it uses to creatively meet the needs of its multinational clients.

What do you do?

Currently, I am a future trainee solicitor. This means I am undertaking the necessary qualifications before starting a training contract with the firm in March 2023. For a non-law student, this involves a law conversion course (the GDL) and the Legal Practice Course. As a future trainee, White & Case provides me with funding for these qualifications.

Life as a trainee solicitor at the firm really depends on the practice areas you choose for the two-year training contract! White & Case has a 6 month x 4 seat structure and has a unique offering of a guaranteed international secondment in the final seat. Examples of seats you can undertake include Mergers & Acquisitions, Litigation, Project Finance, and Capital Markets. Tasks can include client contact, drafting, proofing, and note-taking during meetings.

White & Case is characterised by its light supervisory touch, on-the-job approach to learning, and flat hierarchy. You are expected to find your feet and seek opportunities for yourself, but there will always be a hand to guide you if you need it.

Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?

Despite being a non-law graduate, my History degree fostered the ability to think analytically, to argue persuasively, and to conjure up creative solutions to questions.

I first sought to apply these to a career in Marketing, but quickly found this was not a genuine passion of mine. This provoked me to sit down with myself and consider what I truly wanted from my career. I found that I was searching for: international opportunities, collaboration, the opportunity to give back, and stimulating and meaningful work.

This is how I arrived at pursuing a career in commercial law. The leading firms provide many international opportunities, work is typically conducted in teams, many firms encourage pro bono involvement, and the work is cross-border and relevant.

To further explore the industry, I attended networking events (dinners, fairs and open days) with 11 different firms in the first term of my third year. This gave me a strong understanding of the culture and work of different organisations within the City. I was then lucky enough to secure a week-long placement at PricewaterhouseCoopers early in my third year. This in-house experience reinforced my interest in cross-border law but confirmed my interest in private practice.

These experiences prompted me to apply for a two-week vacation scheme with White & Case in my third year, involving a written application, a video interview and then an assessment centre. This involved a one hour written assessment and an interview with a member of graduate recruitment and an associate. Having been successful in this process, I gained a place on the firm's spring vacation scheme and undertook work for my supervisor and trainee buddy, a group assessment, a written assessment, and a 45 minute Partner interview (during which I presented on a topic for 10 minutes).

Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?

Yes and no! I'm a History graduate so converting to Law can seem a little unconventional to someone looking outside in. But actually this is a very common path for History graduates as the skills nurtured in each industry are similar.

Describe your most memorable day at work

After my two-week vacation scheme with the firm, myself and another vacation schemer were invited to meet the members of the practice area we had been sitting in (Mergers & Acquisitions). We met in Hyde Park and then went to a bar afterwards; the team were so friendly and welcoming, making us both feel at ease immediately! I loved the work I'd completed during my scheme but this social experience really reinforced my desire to join the firm.

Are there any challenges associated with your job?

There's no point in sugar-coating the long hours associated with working at international commercial law firms. You are expected to work hard, but in return you are gain interesting and relevant work, great benefits, and inspiring colleagues.

What’s your work environment and culture like?

White & Case is incredibly international. This is not just reflected in the multijurisdictional work it takes on, but also in the diverse backgrounds and experiences of its employees. It has 44 offices worldwide, 49 languages are spoken in its London office, and 54 nationalities are represented by its UK employees alone.

The people are hardworking and entrepreneurial, but extremely approachable. I felt very inspired and able to ask questions if I was struggling.

It also has a very suave and polished office on Old Street in London, taking full advantage of the buzz and expertise available in the City. Despite being a US-headquartered firm, it is unique in the fact that most of its employees live and work outside of the US and UK. Moreover, unlike other elite US law firms and the Magic Circle, White & Case has a strong foundation in both the US and the UK (where it has been running since 1901) - this transatlantic capability is a key strategic strength of the firm.

As an entrepreneurial and quickly growing firm, it is able to secure important lateral hires from other firms such as Clifford Chance and Slaughter and May. This is because the firm carries a message of growth, and has more responsibility and opportunity on offer as a result.

What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?

My extracurriculars at university included being Halifax Badminton Captain, Ladies B Team Captain and Ladies' Captain for the University of York Badminton Club. These positions developed my ability to work as part of a team, to time manage, and solve problems (all of which solicitors need to be able to do).

I also undertook Japanese Levels 1 and 2 and Mandarin Level 1 as linguistic extracurriculars. These enhanced my written and verbal communicative skills and my global mindset. Linguistic skills are not essential to work at an international law firm but they can help you to demonstrate your interest in global opportunities and completing cross-border work.

Outside of term time, I secured volunteering (York: Human Rights City) or part-time jobs (The Range, Clarks, Boots). These positions developed my adaptability and customer service skills. As a solicitor, its key to be able to prioritise workloads, to be able to flexibly shift from one task to another, and to build strong client relationships.

What would you like to do next with your career?

I'd love to complete my training contract and qualify as an Associate with White & Case. As for which seat I qualify into, I'm waiting to see which seats I enjoy during my training contract!

What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?

Be patient and kind to yourself. It's always been stiff competition in the job market and that's more true than ever now because of Covid-19. Try not to dwell needlessly on rejections; learn what you can from them and search for new opportunities. As I tell myself frequently: "rejection is redirection".

Let your mental health take precedent. Once you feel comfortable, go ahead and upskill! There's so much on offer online at the moment on sites such as Forage and Coursera. These skills will not only be enjoyable to develop but will help you in later interviews and jobs you undertake. The journey should be just as enjoyable as the destination!

What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?

Anything at all! I'm happy to help.

Next steps...

If you like the look of Laura’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Laura a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Laura to be your mentor.

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