Advice

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

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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!”

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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!

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24 Comments

Raul

Cavers clearly not a fan of sticking to word count.

(22)(1)

Yeah

Womble have increased their NQ by 10k

(3)(0)

7 years a lawyer

Resist succumbing to the myth that good and successful legal careers come only from slogging it out at a big city law firm. So many people who dislike that environment stay because of the bravado that alternatives like smaller firms or in-house are for “failures”, when that’s simply not the case and hasn’t been for a long time.

If you find city law isn’t for you that’s fine, there’s plenty of other options and you’re not weird for not wanting to work late every night or constantly cancel your plans.

(43)(1)

In the City

Ah yes, recruitment partners give an honest opinion all the time… Time for some practical realities following nearly a decade in this game:

1) No matter how collegiate your team is, they are not your family. Your family won’t consider firing you during an economic downturn, and you being appreciated by your family is not contingent on you bringing in 3.5-5 times your cost. You owe your supervisors, your team, and your firm, absolutely nothing.

2) Move frequently and move often. Look at most CEOs throughout history and they never had a role for more than 3 years. Loyalty will inevitably cost you a significant chunk of your potential lifetime income.

3) It takes an incredible amount of hard work to secure the TC and qualify, and a very long time for most. So its inevitable that being a lawyer becomes a big part of your identity. It’s a great job and undoubtedly a prestigious job, but if it consumes you you will lose friends and partners, and no job is worth that.

4) The bonus schemes are typically garbage at most British firms, especially at NQ-5PQE levels. Do you really want to miss family member funerals and weekend escapes with great friends burning the midnight oil in order to get a £5-7k bonus, half of which is taxed away? This isn’t investment banking. It’s not worth it. Work your hours and clock off.

(101)(3)

Associates Anonymous

This is some good and accurate advice from the above commenter “In the City”. I must say, there’s a lot of bullshit in the rec partners’ remarks – they can’t be too honest and quite of lot of them are pseudo sales pitches. The woman from Slaughters’ spiel about not losing her identity, implying she’s working class and female with children and still muddled through setting precedents like Martin Luther King…

No matter how nice people are at work, they can turn on you in a heartbeat. You have to be unemotional and cold inside, but outwardly pleasant.

Moving every 2-3 years is also fine and most people do it. Your associate career isn’t long. Slaughters is a relatively isolated exception if you want to become partner. Otherwise, have at it. You’ll probably end up in house anyway.

(43)(1)

2PQE

I thought it looks bad to move around too often – suggests you can’t stick it out in each place without being managed out and/or you’re an undesirable employee because unlikely to stay long-term.

Expecting downvotes but genuinely interested as I’d like to keep moving around myself.

(6)(22)

City Recruiter

If you stay at a firm 1.5-2 years (maybe once, 1 year), then move it doesn’t look bad. Firms are always keen to hire hard-working individuals, if you have a good reason for each move (even if made up) then you will find no problems in the future.

(5)(0)

2PQE

Thank you for answering rather than downvoting

Ex-Weil trainee

Avoid training at an elite US firm if you can – I find myself to be technically weaker (at 2PQE when I escaped Weil) than many of my UK firm trained peers. Took me a long time to be retrained.

(48)(3)

Huh

I thought weil has good training for a US firm?

(3)(14)

Anon.

Bunch of unsupervised halfwits.

(8)(0)

curious onlooker

What do you mean by ‘escape’ and what practice area you qualify at Weil for reference?

(5)(5)

Ex-Weil trainee

Restructuring

(15)(1)

City Lawyer

My advice:

For the love of god don’t do it.

(18)(6)

Truth

I hate when people become city lawyers, and then tell people “don’t do it”…everyone has different experiences. No job is perfect but on the outset there are certainly more positives than negatives otherwise it wouldn’t be one of the most sought after professions worldwide.

The negative perception gets annoying sometimes.

(43)(8)

City Lawyer

The question was advice you’d give yourself. You may give different advice, that’s up to you.

(6)(5)

Stop crying

Bear in mind that anyone who says stuff this has never worked a dead-end manual labour job in their lives

(21)(2)

Agree

Yes. Having worked 5 or 6 boring and low-paid jobs before starting my TC, I know a good thing when I see it. It’s hard work but an interesting/challenging career and very well-paid. People don’t know they’ve been born.

(10)(0)

Kirkland NQ

Get that TC, give it two years and then Lambo time baby

(10)(13)

Tf

Be serious. You cannot afford a lambo as an NQ at kirkland. And even you did, you’ll have no time to enjoy it

(21)(3)

Reality

Not just a lambo, you can’t even afford to buy a boxy one bed in central London!

(14)(2)

Kirkland NQ

Love to see your face when you see my Chelsea townhouse. You can pop over one day, I’ll even let you in (through the staff entrance of course).

(2)(10)

Kirkland kid

Mate it’s getting boring now

(10)(2)

Kirkland NQ

Life’s never boring when you’ve got a model girlfriend, a bank balance that would make a Sheikh jealous and of course a Lambo on the drive.

Comments are closed.

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