What top City partners would tell themselves if they were starting their TCs now

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By William Holmes on


Legal Cheek asks leading lawyers to share their pearls of careers wisdom as firms across the country welcome new trainees

As many embark on the beginning of their legal careers at various law firms, Legal Cheek has sought out advice from some the UK’s top lawyers.

Having survived law school and the trials and tribulations of obtaining a training contract, starting life out as a trainee lawyer is an exciting, yet daunting experience. Newbies often have questions such as “how can I make the most of all the opportunities on offer?” and “how do I deal with the pressure of securing an NQ position?” lingering in the backs of their minds.

So we asked those who have been through the process and gone on to enjoy high-flying legal careers what advice they would give themselves if they were starting a training contract now. Here’s what they had to say:

Camilla Sanger, trainee recruitment partner at Slaughter and May

Slaughter and May’s Camilla Sanger

“I would tell my younger self just how important it is to be authentic. Firms aren’t looking for someone to fit a standard mould, they don’t want people who are robotic in the way that they interview or conduct themselves. Embracing my differences and being my natural self at work has helped me to get where I am today — strong Yorkshire accent and all.

I would also encourage my younger self not to be scared of being the first, or one of the first, to do something. For example, I chose to have a child before joining the partnership which, at the time, wasn’t something many others had done. If you don’t have a role model for what you want to do or achieve, don’t let it put you off trying. You could become that role model for someone else.”

Ruchit Patel, graduate recruitment partner at Ropes & Gray

Ropes & Gray’s Ruchit Patel

“This is a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy the journey. Remember to be civil, respectful, and kind to everyone around you. Careers are long and you see people again. Your training contract is over in the blink of an eye. Have fun.”

Edmund Reed, managing partner at Travers Smith

Travers Smith’s Edmund Reed

“Learn everything you can from those around you – that is key – but don’t try and be them as that never works. Use what you have learnt but be yourself.”

Fionnghuala Griggs, corporate M&A and trainee recruitment partner at Linklaters

Linklaters Brexit solicitor training contract
Linklaters’ Fionnghuala Griggs

“I would tell my younger self to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities and challenges, even when it feels daunting or means going outside your comfort zone. You never know where that new challenge will lead you, and the skills you gain from pushing yourself and trying something new are incredibly helpful for a career in law, especially in an environment of fast-paced change and innovation.

I would also say that it is never too soon to invest time in developing and maintaining the network of relationships you build with colleagues, clients and co-advisers over the course of a career — for me, that is one of the most rewarding parts of this profession and something that you can factor into your career from the very beginning.”

Edward Brown, partner at Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells’ Edward Brown

“I would advise the younger me to keep an open mind about what sort of law you like and where you want to qualify. As a trainee I had my heart set on qualifying into competition, and didn’t engage as fully with my other three seats as I ought to have done as a result. At qualification, four candidates applied for one competition job, and I was one of the three unsuccessful ones.

I picked-up a job in pensions — a seat I had never sat in and knew nothing about — in the 2nd round of qualification jobs as I wanted to stay at the firm (and I had debts to pay!). I thought if I hate pensions I will leave after six months. Seven and a half years later I was the first trainee in my intake to become a partner… So keep an open mind as you never know where your career may take you!”

Iain White, partner at Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance’s Iain White

“Ensure that you understand the role of a trainee. Be curious, interested and proactive in seeking out information to build the foundations of your knowledge which will support you for the rest of your career. Keep an open mind about where your career can go and what work is right for you. Embrace challenges as an opportunity to learn.”

Jat Bains, finance and graduate recruitment partner at Macfarlanes

Macfarlanes’ Jat Bains

“I would encourage new trainees to seize every opportunity that comes their way with confidence and energy. The more that you do, the more you will learn and develop as a lawyer.”

James Partridge, graduate recruitment partner at Allen & Overy

A&O’s James Partridge

“Be open minded about the different seats and areas of law you will experience as a trainee. There is a lot you don’t know when you start out. Take every opportunity to do research and develop your legal and practical knowledge — the things you learn early in your career stay with you. You will make mistakes, try and learn from them and don’t catastrophise!”

Applications are open for the Legal Cheek September UK Virtual Law Fair 2022

Michael Cavers, early talent partner at CMS

CMS’s Michael Cavers

“Get involved in BD [business development] as soon as you can. A good relationship between a client and a firm needs people at all levels to be making connections. And people who are junior at a client will move up the ranks with you and may be your main clients when you are more senior.

Leverage your trainee cohort. Your friends and peers will be able to share experience and make connections so don’t be afraid to take advantage of a ready-made network. Don’t set out to compete with your fellow trainees. Focus on doing the best job you can.

Try to get a broad range of experience across different practice areas, even if you think you might not enjoy them. Working in an area of law is generally nothing like studying that area at law school or university, so don’t have too many preconceptions.

Don’t be scared to give input on the challenges facing the legal industry. The trainees are the future of any firm. And on issues like legal technology, mental health and the modern working environment, trainees bring a fresh perspective and the opportunity to challenge the status quo.”

Do you have any advice for those starting their TCs? Share your top tips and experiences in the comments below!

Applications are open for the Legal Cheek September UK Virtual Law Fair 2022

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