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How competing in the Grand Prix Challenge can be a speedier route to a training contract

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Applications for Norton Rose Fulbright’s competition close next month

Crazy about all things fast and furious? In partnership with its client McLaren, each year Norton Rose Fulbright selects five student teams to take part in its annual Grand Prix Challenge. Those who reach the finals are one lap closer to the training contract finish line. Last year Ethan Dodd (pictured above, second from right), who is now a future Norton Rose Fulbright trainee, came in a respectable third place in the challenge.

So, how did Ethan and his team do it? It all started with four uni friends interested in cars and motorsports. The University of Exeter quartet, three reading law and one studying physics, formed a team and called it ‘Raising the Speed Limit’.

To apply, they first had to tackle a question:

‘When it comes to planning for risk, what do great lawyers and Grand Prix teams have in common?’

Sat round the kitchen table, the four commenced their research: “It was a mix of brainstorming, looking at the Norton Rose Fulbright website for points to include and using the physics student’s experience with Formula 1 and engineering,” Ethan tells Legal Cheek Careers.

The team filmed their answer in a high-speed 90-second video. “Don’t be afraid to be different”, advises Ethan, “make it more interactive than an interview-style video in front of a white wall”. Indeed, he says that their content wasn’t as special as their delivery: “We took a creative approach,” he continues. “The video opens with a scene in which one of us is drawing an F1 picture. We dressed in suits in the first half of the video. In the second, we wore the only overalls that we could find — orange prisoner jumpsuits — and filmed the clips around a car”.

That’s one way to recycle your Halloween costumes this year! The more camera shy can submit a written entry instead of a video. Either way, you’ll have to build a creative answer. Ethan lends us some clues:

“Anything can come up for an F1 team; tyres can burst, collisions occur, weather can be unpredictable. The same can be said for law firms; tight deadlines, unexpected information and odd client requests are all examples. You need an inter-disciplinary team that’s ready to solve any problem. Our core idea was that lawyers anticipate the unexpected”.

Five star teams are selected for the finals, which are held at Norton Rose Fulbright’s swish London office. On the day, candidates get their teeth stuck into a fictional legal case for a couple of hours, before they present their advice to a ‘client’ in front of a panel of judges. This might be the time to impress your future real-life clients, as representatives from McLaren Honda also sit on the panel.

The Norton Rose Fulbright GP Challenge Apply now

Be equipped with what Ethan says are three essentials — confidence, public speaking magic and an element of creativity. Legal knowledge helps, but it’s more about approaching fictitious rules and knowing “how to work with the law”, he explains.

It is tough, and you’ll need to be speedy. “We spent a long time wondering what we were going to say, before realising we’ve got 15 minutes left and needed to cram our presentation together,” he adds.

The winning team, made up of “good articulate speakers”, bagged themselves a work experience placement at the law firm. Crossing the finish line in third place, Ethan and his team were treated to a trip to the McLaren Technology Centre.

With cars worth millions parked in the lobby alone, the experience was “stunning” says Ethan. Designed by Norman Foster, the glass building itself is a site to behold — “everything there works and has a function,” explains Ethan. Outside, an artificial lake cools the building, as well as the wind tunnels that McLaren uses to test its aerodynamic car parts. It’s the ideal opportunity to soak up all the knowledge you can about the Grand Prix racing industry.

As he looks ahead to his training contract at Norton Rose Fulbright, Ethan tells us that taking part in the GP Challenge is a smart way of getting your foot in the City door. Commenting on “how human they are”, Ethan says that the “unique insight” into Norton Rose Fulbright that he gained boosted his subsequent applications to the international mega firm. Aside from the fancy prizes, the GP Challenge is one of the best ways “to gain experience in the sports legal industry, which I found out is really interesting” he adds.

It’s worth a shot. There is information on how to enter the competition here.

Ready, set, go…

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