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By The Careers Team on

ULaw visiting professor Simon Firth explains what his firm, Linklaters, looks for in prospective trainees


In a video that is circulating on Facebook, Linklaters capital markets partner Simon Firth — who is also a visiting professor at ULaw — has given an insight into what it takes to land a training contract with his firm.

Interview with ULaw’s Visiting Professor Simon Firth, Partner …

Calling all aspiring lawyers. Check out our latest interview with ULaw’s Visiting Professor Simon Firth, a partner at Linklaters. Simon was ranked in 2013 by Chambers & Partners as the leading capital markets lawyer in the UK and one of the 10 leading UK business lawyers.

Posted by The University of Law on Monday, January 25, 2016

We caught up with Simon to find out more…

Legal Cheek Careers: In the video, you warn students against attempting to regurgitate the contents of the Financial Times. Why don’t you like this approach?

Simon Firth: Look, it’s better than nothing, but it’s not the right way to demonstrate commercial awareness. What we are looking for is something authentic. Have you thought about why companies make money, or lose money, why they are successful or unsuccessful? An interest in the commercial world is something that you build up over time, and students really need to start doing this early on — from their first year at university ideally.

Did this curiosity about business come naturally to you?

The criteria used to assess students was very different when I was joining the profession in the late 1980s. It was less sophisticated and there was less competition. So I was able to develop my interest in commercial law by doing a vacation scheme and then a training contract. In those days the key differentiator was A-levels, but now that has gone because of the deterioration of the grading system.

How are students assessed now?

We assess students’ interest and commitment to a career in corporate law by gauging their motivations in the very broad sense outlined above and explained in the video. We then assess their intellect via a critical reasoning test. We also consider wider factors, such as interpersonal skills, and look at what extra-curricular activities they have been involved in.

How important is students’ performance at university?

It’s important. But which university they attended is not a consideration at all. I can’t see why it should be. Grade modules should be the same wherever you study.

Do you have any other pieces of advice for students?

Distinguish between the commercial awareness you need to get a job, and the commercial awareness you need to do the job. The latter is obviously something very different, and can only really be developed through looking at issues from a client’s perspective as a professional — and then giving legal advice in a way that is practical. Some people pick that up more quickly than others. But at the graduate recruitment stage we are just looking for potential.

More information on careers can be found at ULaw’s employability service.

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