Four successful applicants were selected from a pool of Generation UK funding recipients to attend the British Council’s Meeting with Sir Martin Donnelly in Chengdu this week. I was fortunate enough to be one of those lucky applicants. I would like to share the insights that I gained from the opportunity to meet Sir Martin Donnelly through the Generation UK-China programme in Chengdu with my fellow network members.
Generation UK is a global outward mobility campaign which was established by the British Council in 2013. The British Council’s work is inspiring younger generations to become more culturally agile so that they can compete in an increasingly borderless marketplace. Without Generation UK I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience life in China.
Sir Martin Donnelly KCB CMG (Joint Permanent Secretary for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Acting Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Trade) wanted to hear our thoughts on the internships supported by the British Council and asked for our opinion on how Generation UK could promoted outward mobility for young British nationals in China (particularly in the South West).
I am personally a massive enthusiast for funded opportunities like these for many reasons. The British Council’s programmes are reflective of the Government’s view that global-minded graduates are needed more than ever. In today’s modern world where continents are reachable at the tips of your fingers, international cultural awareness is more important than ever. The government recognises that if UK businesses are to remain competitive, graduates entering the professions must have a competitive skills set which they can bring to the role.
I also expressed how grateful interns are for the Generation UK scheme, which enables talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds to experience life in China. I highlighted to Sir Martin that leading law firms are recently becoming more conscientious in their recruitment process and are looking for a more diverse pool of trainees. There are a number of organisations such as Aspiring Solicitors who are helping to tackle these barriers, and I also believe that the Generation UK funding schemes are also playing a part in this movement.
Sir Martin wanted to know what else we could do to promote outward mobility to China. I thought to myself that the answer to this question is sitting around this very table. The British Council, if it is to successfully achieve its target of 80,000 internships by 2020, needs to work closely with the alumni members to promote the Generation UK program. Promoting a country which often receives bad press in the UK can be a mundane task, which is why Alumni members are needed to challenge the negative perceptions of China. It would be great to see the British Council at more events, along with recipients of Generation UK funding, to show prospective applicants what China has to offer.
My final thoughts on the importance of engaging with Chinese companies through internships are clear. As the only member state to decide to unilaterally withdraw from the European Union, our Government now has a blank canvas to play around with. The next generation of graduates are crucially the paint that will form the canvas of our Country in the long term.
That burden of withdrawal from the Union will require the UK government to guard its competitive edge by encouraging talented graduates to grow their international awareness. Given that both China and the UK have both revealed their optimism of a free trade deal, a relationship with China in the near future looks promising and this may demand graduates to bring their experiences of China to the working world.
Ni hao! I left the UK about a fortnight ago in search of new and exciting opportunities in China. I was selected and interviewed by a domestic law firm for a role which would require me to offer my knowledge of UK and EU law. One week in and I am absolutely loving it!
At my firm, I have been put to the task of preparing a report for the client who runs their business in a very complex and highly regulated market. They operate in multiple jurisdictions, and so I have had the responsibility of analysing law from multiple legal systems across Europe. I would love to tell you more about the research I am undertaking, but of course I am bound by a non-disclosure agreement.
My colleagues have been so kind and friendly to me throughout my first week. On my first day, I was taken out for lunch with my colleagues and received one of the firm’s leather note takers. Going to lunch with colleagues is a regular occasion in the business world in China. Already I have tried a number of authentic Sichuan dishes suggested by my colleagues, including (very spicy) pig lung.
I currently share an office with my supervisor who I am yet to meet. As the firm has offices across the country, I have been anticipating his return from Beijing this past week. We speak frequently on WeChat, and he is looking forward to teaching me how to play Majong! One of my other supervisors has brought in gifts to share around the office on numerous occasions, such as mango jelly and mung bean pastry. Sadly, she has now left for her trip to America will be sorely missed by all.
WeChat is such an important social platform for individuals. It is used to communicate with friends, colleagues and potential clients. It is a little bit like Facebook, where you can make pages, groups, post photographs and updates. Also, because many of my colleagues do not speak English, they find it really useful to communicate with me as it allows them to translate from English.
The receptionist has invited me to try a different tea each day, and has shown me how to prepare it the Chinese way. Tea is a valued commodity to the Chinese people, it is the nation’s favourite drink and the Chengdu office is home to a wide variety. It is unusual given the hot and wet climate to be drinking a scalding hot cup of tea, but it does somehow make you feel much more refreshed than bottles of cold water. Tomorrow I will be trying a type of Oolong tea!
So far I am getting on really well with my colleagues. They have said that I am ‘very friendly’ and have been told that the boss has been ‘looking forward to [my] arrival for a long time’. I have found mutuality with my colleagues – they are impressed by my knowledge of Chinese history and politics and they enjoy discussing the BREXIT ordeal. They are also pleased with my open-minded approach to their culture.
InternChina has given me all the materials and support I need for my first week, including a SIM card, a travel card and even a personal introduction to the firm. The orientation was most useful for preparing for those nuances between western and eastern business culture well in advance. You can find out more about the agency and their internship opportunities at www.internchina.com.
There is so much more I want to share about the experiences I have had here already, but there is just too much to do in the little time that I have out here. The agency regularly organises events for us whilst we’re out here, so I am eager to get involved with as much as possible! Meanwhile, I will continue to share photos of this beautiful country on my Instagram account ‘SolicitorToBe’, so please go ahead and follow that. In the meantime, Zai Jian!
Just as Preston College had thought it had seen the last of me, I returned again this year with long-established friend with whom I had also studied law with at the College. It was all thanks to a fantastic team effort that we managed to successfully deliver a quality workshop in a bid to persuade business students into the legal profession.
The afternoon session took place in the college’s new STEM building. I was camp as pink when I found out that we would be given the opportunity to use the new facilities to deliver this workshop.
So the plan for the day was to first outline the role of a lawyer, break apart all of the LPC GDL BPTC jargon and then talk a bit about the practice areas. There was a heavy emphasis on the distinction between personal and business services, so as to cater for our students with a particular interest in business.
We wanted to come up with a practical activity for the students so that they could get a real feel for what being a lawyer or law student is really like. So after hours of brainstorming on all sorts of topics which fall within contract law, we came up with this idea of a ‘frustrated contract’ scenario.
The students were provided with the abstract of some relevant case law, a general outline of the principles of contract law (Offer and Acceptance, Privity and Consideration), a Practical Legal Research template, and a bundle of documents with which we weaved our scenario into. In a nutshell, this was a hypothetical dispute between a college and a supplier as to the sale of furniture which was delivered late.
The students had to analyse an email from a partner, a telephone attendance note, a letter before action, emails between the claimant and defendant and a purchase order. We wanted the students to use their skills of analysis and work with attention to detail to figure out what exactly had gone on. We moved around the groups to talk about some of the potential legal issues; we helped them to extract the ratio of cases and experiment with the potential outcomes each precedent might manifest.
The students had really engaged with the scenario and cases. In fact, we were so impressed with some of the discussions we had engaged the students in, to the extent that we really could not pick an overall winning team!
It was so rewarding to see students engaging in material that I had created for them. They were provided with everything which I felt that I would have needed had I been in their position. We were able to outline LPC, MLaw and GDL routes and provided them with some practice of the basic skills expected of a lawyer.
With the help of multiple organisations, we were able to disseminate leaflets, brochures and information which would really help them to make an informed decision about a career in the legal profession. It was also a pleasure to have students come and talk to us at the end of our workshop.
We received some positive feedback from our liaison – formerly our law tutor (pictured below). We were pleased to receive an email shortly after our departure; “Thank you so much for today, it was wonderful […] I will get you back in next for the next A levels!”.
I am hoping now to streamline our workshop, make the necessary improvements now that we move into a BETA stage, and ultimately return next year to deliver our workshop in front of the next cohort of students.
In summary, this has been an experience which has really paid dividends in respect of all the effort that we had collectively put in to the project. We look forward to our return – see you next year Preston College!
A special thanks to Humera Patel for all the support in this endeavour and to Rukhsana Ahmad for facilitating this event.
The title reads ‘I want to go to China’
This is the biggest piece of news I have been looking forward to sharing with you all the most. I am delighted to announce that I have been granted funding for an internship in Chengdu, the business capital of Sichuan province. It has been a month now since I received the good news, and now that most of the reservations have been made I am eager to tell you all the details.
What exactly is the internship?
Generation UK funding, which is awarded by the British Council, is available to UK citizens to complete an eight week internship in their chosen field. However, there are some other eligibility requirements which you should read through on the Generation UK website. There are various seats, from commercial law firms to business consultancy agencies. There are three prime locations where internships are offered – Qingdao, Zhuhai and Chengdu. Interns share apartments during their stay with other interns on the programme, and are provided will full support from the agency. The GUK funding covers some of these costs. As we speak, the agency is currently sourcing firms from their panel for me to complete my internship with, so where I will be next summer I am still not quite sure (Big up Clare Pearson from DLA Piper, Asia!)
Who is Intern China?
Intern China are one of two agencies (the other is CRCC Asia) selected by the British Council as an Internship provider. Whilst CRCC Asia focuses on the more westernised parts of China, such as Beijing and Hong Kong, Intern China offers opportunities in more cultural parts of China. They have an office in the UK, and an office in each of their destinations.
What is Chengdu like?
Chengdu is famous for three things: spicy food, pandas and rice wine. It has an urban population of eight million people and a suburban population of fourteen million. The economy in Chengdu is attractive; in 2007 Chengdu was surveyed by the World Bank and declared the “benchmark city for investment environment in China”. There are thirty of the Fortune 500 companies present in Chengdu, such as Microsoft, Nokia, Semiens, HP, Intel and IBM. These technology giants give Chengdu its position as a national base for the electronics and IT industry.
What about language barriers?
At present, I am currently using a mixture of textbook and software based learning for Mandarin. I am currently taking advantage of the Worldwise Learning Centre, which offers UCLan students access to Rosetta Stone. Whilst Mandarin is the worlds most natively spoken language, it is not the only language spoken. There are many dialects in China, such as Cantonese and ‘Sichuanese’. But, the written language is consistently Simplified Mandarin, and most of the younger generation are fluent in Mandarin.
Mandarin is a language which is heavily dependent on context. Words can instantly change their meaning when more words are added to the sentence. As well as this, there are different ‘tones’ which change the meaning of a word. Just like when you ask someone a question, you bring the tone up by the end. There are four tones: mà mǎ mā and má. Note that all these words mean different things because of the tone. The pitch of the tone is the little line above the vowel, so for example ǎ, the pitch drops down and then rises back up again. Yes, it is all very complicated and I am nearly through to Level 2!
Why did you apply?
As a student with not so fantastic academics, I am what I like to call myself a ‘late starter’. Although my grades have been improving as my passion for a career in law grows stronger and stronger, it is because of my average A-Level grades that I am facing significant rejections from law firms for vacation schemes and training contracts. I do not think that rejection means time to quit, but time to find another open door. They say that “people who really want something always find a way to get it”, and I guess this internship opportunity is my way of finding a way around. I am hoping that this opportunity will launch me ahead during the next round of training contract applications, where I will be able to demonstrate to employers: a knowledge of another (and increasingly popular) legal jurisdiction; the soft skills required of a good lawyer and more importantly my ‘well-rounded’ personality.
How do I apply?
Now I have recently spoken to the guys at Intern China, and I am informed that a high volume of applications for funding are coming through for the limited funding which is available. It might be a good idea to press on with your application as soon as possible, and if you get cold feet there is always an opportunity to back out before signing the paperwork. There are a few documents you need to have ready, including a reference and a valid UK passport. There are some other requirements and terms and conditions which you should always read through on the Intern China website. Do not forget to mention me in the ‘How did you hear about InternChina?’ section!
Please note that the above should not be construed as an offer and terms are always subject to change. Always to the official guidance notes on the British Council website.
In early December last year, I was given the opportunity to attend the NationalLawLive conference. There were 138 delegates selected to attend this prestigious event. But unfortunately, that meant that many were unable to benefit from this opportunity. I am hoping that by writing this article you will gain an understanding of what the event had to offer, and that it encourages you to put yourself forward for future NationalLawLive and CityLawLive events.
A video from the day – can you spot me?
We were conveniently provided with a list of all 138 delegates attending. I have used this information to produce some interesting statistics for you all.
- 10 MLaw Students attended (whoopy!)
- 21 Non-Law Students attended
- 21 Graduates
To my surprise, there was a very diverse pool of students contrary to what I had originally envisaged when I applied. As you can see, this event is not just for undergraduates, or law students in particular, so please do not be deterred from applying!
The morning session was with the keynote speaker Andrew Davies, a partner in DLA Piper’s finance and projects group. Andrew gave some useful advice on vacation schemes – what are they and how to secure them. He spoke of the training programme at DLA in Manchester. He felt that the training was of better quality as opposed to training in London where the all too familiar situation of being “tied to a photocopier” might occur. Andrew also reminded us all to “try and stay open minded” as there are “low lights” of commercial work. He commented on the disastrous situation of spending “38 hours in the same pair of shoes”. Andrew describes the firm as very client focused – growing relationships with clients and introducing them to other practice areas and other jurisdictions that DLA has to offer. He describes the firm’s culture as dynamic, enthusiastic, driven and fun. People at DLA are fun, there is a good quality of work even in the northern territory. You can find out more about Andrew Davies on the LawCareers.net website here.
Following our keynote speaker, we had a panel discussion with partners and firm managers from Addleshaw Goddard, Squire Patton Boggs, Irwin Mitchell and Osborne Clarke. This was a brilliant opportunity for the delegates to put forward their questions in relation to the future issues which the firms will have to tackle. Alternative Business Structures and BREXIT were some of the hot topics for discussion.
Each delegate was given the opportunity to select firms for morning and afternoon sessions. Every delegate was allocated to at least one of their first choices. These were:
- DLA Piper – Corporate
- Nabarro – Real Estate
- Osborne Clarke – Litigation
- Squire Patton Boggs – International M&A
- Addleshaw Goddard – Banking
- Eversheds LLP – Commercial Awareness
- Irwin Mitchell – Personal Injury
- Shoosmiths – IP and Creative Industries
Most delegates received pre-reading for the workshop via email. This was a brilliant opportunity to prepare for the workshop, and allowed us to move swiftly through each of the activities.
Nabarro on Real Estate
The Nabarro workshop was led by Maria Scott, a real estate partner who joined as a trainee in the late 90s. The workshop evolved around a practical due diligence task which required delegates to work in groups on a hypothetical transaction. As a second year law student with no expertise in land law, I was lucky to be allocated to a group of fabulous LPC students who really knew their stuff. We were tasked to look through a title register, heads of terms, memos and correspondence with the client and consultancy firms, to identify the issues the client might face as a result of acquiring the land. With the guidance of Maria and one of the firm’s trainees, we were able to identify the issues which the client might want to discuss with the vendor before purchasing.
Addleshaw Goddard on Banking
The AG workshop was delivered in groups by NQs with experience in Banking. This was essentially another due diligence activity which, in particular, demanded a high level of intellectual rigour. To break it down, a company sought to acquire another company, but it needed the funding to back the transaction. Finally the years of A-Level accounting were paying dividends! There was lots of lingo to grasp, from revolving credit facilities through to bullet loans. But, I assure, it all fell into place when put into practice. We considered the sources of lending, debenture agreements, the financial institutions and the implications which these elements of the transaction might have on the client.
Reflection on Skills
Throughout the day I had the opportunity to speak with partners and trainees about the culture, ethos and strategies of the firms. I had jotted down a list of qualities which the firms believed were valued in prospective trainees.
- Show your personality – everyone will be trying the same tricks in their application, they want to know what makes you who you are.
- Show a commitment – you need to be prepared to demonstrate your commitment to law, be it staying behind at the office, or turning out the grades.
- Get to know the firm – law firms are similar in nature, but they all have their own USP, their own culture and their own strategy.
- Do not exaggerate yourself – of course if you work part time, mention it and draw out the skills you have gained. But be careful not to exaggerate these examples, you need to back it all up with real situations.
- Have stability and longevity – ultimately these are the qualities that will carry you through your training contract, so get organised and get a feel for the different practice areas.
NationalLawLive is a fantastic opportunity for students with ambitions vested in commercial work, but it has also opened eyes to commercial work in the north, a territory which is thriving and expanding. The important point is that not every aspiring commercial solicitor has to migrate south for exciting and stimulating work!
Unfortunately there are not enough hours in the day to talk in detail about every last detail. Nevertheless, I hope you found this article useful when you come to consider your career trajectory and I hope it encourages to you put yourself forward for future opportunities such as NationalLawLive!
Find out more about NationalLawLive here
A special thanks to LawCareers.net for making this opportunity available
And if you did not spot me in the video, here I am!
I am delighted to inform you all that I had the pleasure of attending the Allen & Overy Commercial Awareness event in London a couple of weeks ago. Thank you to The Student Lawyer who made it possible! This was an exciting and insightful event, and here is what I made of it.
About the day
The day kicked off with the usual networking in A&O’s conference suite. We were welcomed by Claire Wright, the firms’ Graduate Recruitment Partner who advises clients such as Amazon. Claire gave an
insightful talk about who A&O are, what sets the firm aside from other magic circle firms, what types of clients they advise and the types of trainees they are looking for.
After a short break, we were introduced to Talent & Development Specialist, Madeleine Spence, who gave an enlightening networking skills session focusing on issues such as: the right handshake; use of body language; growing and nurturing your professional network. This was particularly useful as a second year law student with the view of attending future networking events.
Shortly after the skills session, we were introduced to trainees from Banking, Corporate, Tax and International Capital Markets (ICM) to name. I had the opportunity to speak to A&O trainees about their experiences as an aspiring commercial lawyer. From what I had gathered, the trainees really enjoy their work, the people they work with, and the quality of training they receive.
Although, if one thing can be improved; the firm needs to be more ‘open’ about the way in which partners make decisions. Whilst leaving no stone unturned, generally A&O is an exciting place to work, hard work follows and the trainees are duly rewarded.
After lunch, the trainees stayed at our tables to help us with the A&O ‘Business Game’, which looked at the anatomy of a deal. We had the opportunity to apply our commerciality and knowledge of the law to a hypothetical scenario whereby company A sought to take over company B. There were news bulletins, reports and various other artefacts which had to be considered in advising the company. Essentially, this was a due diligence operation which required a level-headed common sense
approach. Despite this, it was a very intellectually stimulating and enjoyable experience for all of us in the team. I might also add, it was a brilliant opportunity to practice our skills for future assessment centres.
The day was closed by Hannah Salton, the Graduate Recruitment Manager at A&O. Hannah was very helpful in explaining issues surrounding the application process including, inter alia, vacation schemes, training contracts, LPC and GDL funding.
BULLETIN for MLaw students. Yes – you are OK to apply to A&O – but it must be noted that the firm likes candidates to attend BPP to complete the MA (LPC with Business) course. I spoke to the course leader at BPP who advised that MLaw students would simply be exempt from having to retake particular LPC modules.
A thought for diversity
As a student who describes themselves as ‘northern and proud’, you can understand that this being my third time travelling to London this year (and in my life) is quite a significant thing for me. Including other factors such as my; accent, state educated background, sexual orientation, and low income background; making it to a magic circle law firm in the city is my proudest achievement to date.
Although there is still great progress to be made in the industry, and whilst organisations such as Aspiring Solicitors and Rare Recruitment are helping to open doors to individuals from all walks of life, you should never let who you are bring you down! We are always drawing closer to a society which lets individuals pick their own hand of cards. Celebrate your skills, focus on your weaknesses and you will get there. With a little support from your university careers service and other external organisations such as above, that one small drop in the ocean can create waves of opportunities.
Reflections on the day
I am still as excited and passionate about pursuing a career in commercial law. I have had this fantastic eye opening opportunity which has allowed me to ask my questions and get the answers I need to proceed onto applications for further open days and vacation schemes in 2016. Over the short term, I will now need to consider ‘how big’ I am willing to take my career. Can I imagine myself clocking 36 hours of straight working on high profile cases, in potentially what will be the next stage of my career?
Well, next month, I will be attending the NationalLawLive conference at the MOSI in Manchester to have a look at the smaller UK commercial firms based in and around Manchester. I am hoping that I can answer the aforementioned question and ‘sniff out’ the pros and cons of working for the more national firms such as Shoosmiths, Nabarro and Irwin Mitchell.