Generation UK meets with Sir Martin Donnelly

Photograph courtesy of the British Council
Courtesy of the British Council

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).

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Courtesy of the British Council

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.

Photograph courtesy of the British Council
Courtesy of the British Council

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.

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Courtesy of the British Council

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.

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REPOST: InternChina introduces some of their Interns

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REPOST: I want to share with you a post by InternChina Chengdu. These interns are pretty awesome people who have been a pleasure to experience China with. If you are interested in an internship in China, visit www.InternChina.com and tell them I sent you!

Last time we’ve introduced our IC team to you… Now it’s time to learn more about you guys!

Thanks to Suzy, Brett, Peter, Steph and Ross for their time, now let’s discover what they have to say about themselves and their life in China!


Where are you from?

Brighton, England (actually I’m from Worthing but no one has heard of that)

What do/did you study?

Physics

Where are you interning at? What is your job there?

I am working as a marketing assistant at IObit.

What is your favourite Chinese dish?

I think one of the nicest meals I have had was grilled fish. Think normal barbecued fish but so much better.

What is your favourite place in China?

My favourite place I visited whilst in Chengdu was probably QingChengShan. The rewarding feeling of reaching the temple at the top is just an amazing bonus to the incredible scenery you find on the climb.

What is your top tip for Chengdu?

As cliché as it is, never say no. Put yourself out there and make friends with Chinese people because I guarantee that a lot of them will jump at the chance to treat you to dinner or a trip etc. The best food I had whilst in Chengdu was definitely the food bought for me from my Chinese friends.

How is life in China?

If I had to describe it in one word; unpredictable. You never know in the morning what crazy things might happen to you, what amazing food you might find, but most of all what the weather is going to be (I carried sun cream and an umbrella with me every day).But I think it is the element of uncertainty that gives it its charm.


Where are you from?

England , Brighton

What do/did you study?

Law

Where are you interning at? What is your job there?

Tahota Law Firm – Reviewing contracts and making suggestions, comparing the English and Chinese legal system, attending events and meetings to grasp how law works in China and researching investment opportunities in and outside of China.

What is your favourite Chinese dish?

Gongbaojiding – I once ate it three times in oneday YUM

What is your favourite place in China?

Jiu Zhai Gou – it’s absolutely stunning and I have never seen water so blue!

What is your top tip for Chengdu?

Eat everything even if you have no idea what it is.

How is life in China?

I love China – there’s always something to do and everyone is super welcoming and happy to help! I’m really sad to be leaving this weekend.


Where are you from?

I am from South Tyrol, a German minority in the north of Italy. North of us is

Austria and in the West Switzerland. My home is in the middle of the alps.

What do/did you study?

I study European Ethnology in Munich, Germany. The internship is part of my subject for learning more about other cultures. The subject means, that I learn how other cultures are changing my own. Like Chinese customs are getting famous in Germany and why they are.

Where are you interning at?  What is your job there?

I am doing my Internship at Comeplus. My job is at the moment to do market research. I am here with other interns and they showed me things, they did before the actual research program, so I am looking forward to have also other different projects to experience.

What is your favourite Chinese dish?

I am since some weeks in China, so I am far away from trying out all. I would for now favorites the dumplings in their different variations.

What is your favourite place in China?

I don’t have yet a favorite place, I have seen so less from that place. But it´s what I would suggest everybody: to not stay in one city or daily way to work, but to spend every free minute by travelling around.

What is your top tip for Chengdu?

You can´t visit Chengdu without trying out the Hotpot here.

How is life in China?

Different of course, but it is safe and interesting. To see different culture and different way of living. I enjoy the difference and challenge already, that the end of my time here is coming to quick.


Where are you from?

Newcastle, UK

What do/did you study?

I studied Ancient History and Archaeology

Where are you interning at? What is your job there?

I’m interning at British Chambers of Commerce as a Marketing Assistant, where I update the website with events and members news, send newsletters and make various WeChat posts.

What is your favourite Chinese dish?

This is hard as the food here is amazing! I think I’d have to go for dumplings though-any kind

What is your favourite place in China?

Kangding- it’s so beautiful and really chilled out, but still has some of that city vibe.

What is your top tip for Chengdu?

Be open to new experiences- nothing here is predictable, and it’s important to try everything that the city has to offer.

How is life in China?

Surprising! Every day is different here, and every day I see something that interests me or makes me smile. It is a very exciting city to be in, and something is always happening here.


Where are you from?

Lancaster in the North West of England.

What do/did you study?

I study Law.

Where are you interning at? What is your job there?

I’m interning at Jin Kai Law Firm as a research assistant.

What is your favourite Chinese dish?

My favourite Chinese dish is Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans (Gan bian si ji dou 干煸四季豆)

What is your favourite place in China?

My favourite place is Chengdu of course.

What is your top tip for Chengdu?

My top tip for Chengdu is to get to know the locals as much as possible, Chengdu is an amazing place and it’s the people here that make it come to life.

How is life in China?

Life in China is convenient, you can find pretty much anything you want (except clotted cream for Afternoon Teas)

Anything you want to add?

Thanks so much for an amazing 8 weeks out here. Interning in China will change your life so be prepared to postpone your short term ambitions

BREXIT dooms whilst China looms

Image shows the Union and Chinese Flags together.The legal profession in China has rapidly grown since the establishment of the current Chinese legal system in the early 1980s, when the Ministry of Economy and Trade publicised regulations (see below) permitting consulting firms to bridge foreign trade into China. As a result, many foreign law firms, including a number of British firms, had established subsidiaries to provide legal services in China.

International professionals are permitted to join firms in the UK to interpret both English law and international law; these professionals are prohibited from referring to themselves as solicitors or barristers. The same applies in China. To trade under the title of ‘律师’ or lawyer in China, you have to actually be Chinese.

However, according to the Regulation on the Administration of Foreign Law Firms’ Representatives Offices in China, a foreign law firm in China (established with permission of the Judicial Administration Department) may only be engaged in some activities that do not involve the affairs on Chinese Law.

So what can these representative offices actually do? Under Article 15A of the aforementioned regulation, representative offices are permitted to provide clients with the ‘consultancy’ on jurisdictions other than Chinese law and may ‘provide information on the impact of the Chinese legal environment’.

But when it comes to Chinese law, representative offices are instead required to entrust Chinese law firms to deal with affairs concerning Chinese Law on their client’s behalf. Chinese domestic law therefore has the added layer of protection whereby domestic firms have to act proxy to deals concerned under Chinese law.

On the other hand, English law is becoming a popular jurisdiction for many international commercial contracts, and the Law On The Application Of Relevant Laws To Civil Relationships With Foreign Parties allows contracting parties to explicitly * select a law applicable to regulating foreign-related civil relationships.

In fact, in 2010 the Solicitors Journal reported * that Bar Council chairman Nicholas Green QC had urged barristers to distance themselves from legal aid work and forge markets in areas such as China and the Middle East. The report claimed that England and Wales already has a 40 per cent market share of international commercial contracts.

Many critics have suggested for decades that the legal profession is doom and gloom, and I am sure many would agree now that Britain has decided to leave the European Union. Lawyers will surely be required in the medium term * to untangle the legal mess that the BREXIT will leave behind.

China has an open attitude toward signing a free trade agreement with Britain

Chinese Commerce Ministry

In the long term, it is certainly clear that Britain and China, who have both expressed their intention of having a free trade deal * in future, will become ever closer in the decades to follow. I would therefore suggest that the law students wishing to broaden their horizons should gain an international dimension to their CV.

 

My first week in China

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!4

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.

313821305034462833I 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.

649329003939556951WeChat 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!

721098956538475928So 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!

A foreword on TC applications

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A quote which comes to me in those difficult times on the path to becoming a solicitor was one given by Thomas A. Edison.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up”

Thomas A. Edison

Imagine you are in a race which you will run completely blindfolded. You have been running for about thirty minutes; you are absolutely exhausted and there is no telling how far away you are from the finish line. Could you imagine if you gave up and disqualified yourself from the race, only to find that you were three metres from the finish line?

Of course, this statement was given in the earlier years of the 19th century when the legal profession was enjoying better weather, but it is highly relevant to the present date. Our current legal economy enjoys thousands of legal graduates, many have already completed their LPC, and this saturates the market with plenty of raw talent to be exploited for nearly half a salary of what a newly qualified solicitor would be paid.

It is now more important than ever to do what you can to stand out in that market, and I have no doubt that many of you are already taking steps by participating in pro bono opportunities and the like. If you are already doing paralegal work along side your studies, then that is fantastic.

But I do not think that it should end there – there are a few more points I think are missing from the record. I will elaborate on three points which I think are absolutely fundamental, albeit not the characteristics or qualities you can simply learn by reading profession magazines or  becoming ‘commercially aware’.

1. Desire to change the world

A desire to, as Steve Jobs put it, ‘make a little dent in the universe’ sounds quite ambiguous, but do not let that discern you. Are you sure that earning lots of money and making it to partner level will offer all of the fulfilment you need in your life? If so, is this really the career for you? There is more to becoming a solicitor than working 9 to 5; you will be placed in a position where people will want and respect your opinion – they will be paying for it.

When you finally embark on your ambit, keep it to yourself. Just as the Colonel did not let on about his secret 11 herbs and spices, neither should you. Be careful who you share those ambitions with; some people will be on board with your goals and offer their full support, whilst others will do all they can to stand in your path. It is true that people with big ambitions have broad horizons, and many (but not all) recruiters will be looking for this rare and genuine quality.

Furthermore, a genuine desire to exact change will give you the persistent and resilience you will need to face the obstacles ahead. It will also serve as a constant reminder of who you are and what you are doing here. You cannot walk down a path that you cannot see.

2. Show some persistence

Imagine you are told that 10 of the doors you knock on will open. There are 150 doors to choose from, and so because you favour the probabilities, you get straight to it and start knocking on every door. This is the logic of many law students, and I think it is flawed. Imagine that doors numbered 141-150 were all those which would open, and by door 80 you had given up. To even further complicate the scenario, perhaps the reason why only 10 of the doors would open was due to the remaining 140 occupiers being out at that time. You did not even think to go back at a mutually convenient time.

Now just to bring you back into the room, cold calling is very much illegal and I do not intent to encourage it. The point I am trying to make is that perhaps  2015 was not a convenient time for you or the firm when you submitted your application. The amazing thing about university is that you develop rapidly in such a short space of time. There are new opportunities which just keep unfolding, and in turn you develop skills you never had. A little persistence, with a hint of pragmatism, could eventually work out in your favour.

In summary, the message is to never be discerned by your present situation; even if that involves rejection. Part of being a solicitor involves being a proactive forward-thinker and thus it is no excuse to be idle minded, fooling yourself into thinking that your current situation is the be all end all.

3. Be resilient at all costs

Night terrors, day dreams and tears – I am not shy in admitting that I have suffered from all of the above on many occasions. If you truly are likewise devoted to a legal career, you may have also shared these experiences – absolutely nothing wrong with that what so ever. And as rightly stated by Douglass, these are all the result of being steps closer to the things you want in life.

“Without struggle, there is no progress”

Frederick Douglass

I was downhearted to discover that 8.1% of paralegals surveyed by LAWYER2BE had given up on their ambitions to become a lawyer. Not ‘wasted-talent’, I would rather describe these people as ‘potential yet to be unlocked’.

Having an above-average fortitude is something which does not grow on trees, but it grows around the times of adversity in your life. Elasticity increases the more something has been stretched. Therefore, putting yourself outside of your comfort zone, and braving the unknown (for me, this will be going to China) will serve you in both the medium and long term.

Resilience will get you through the late nights at the office, the unhappy clients and chiefly the many rejections you will face as a student looking for a place in the working world. Celebrate and nurture this quality, rather than avoiding the situations which might harm your self-esteem.

And so to draw to a conclusion, I hope you that have found some strength in this article despite my many confusing analogies. I offer solace for all of those undergraduates, graduates and paralegals who begin to write their training contract applications, and I wish you all the strength in this hard month. Best of luck to you all!

 

Exam Success

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Hello all. I know that it has been a while since I last wrote to you, but rest assured I am still kicking and screaming my way into becoming a solicitor, and it starts with exams. I thought I should write to you all, since the exams are fast approaching, about some study tips you might find useful in these last few weeks of exam preparation. I have broken them down into four key areas – my strategy for exam success.

Time management

Managing your time effectively is going to be key to your success in the exam. Not only does it mean managing your revision time wisely, but also the time you have in the exam.

So for managing your revision time, it might be a good idea to create a revision timetable. Many of you will be doing more than one exam this month, so you want to make sure you give each module enough of your attention, no matter how far or close apart they may be. I am using a colour coded timeline which shows me what modules I should be revising on each day, and exactly when my exams are coming.

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It is so important to make sure that your modules are evenly spread apart (see Week 1) so that you are constantly recapping what you have learnt. This will ensure that you retain as much of the detail as possible. Also, be sure to take into account how well you understand the topics when allocating your time to your modules.

As for timing in the exam, your module tutors should provide you with rough guidance. But as I said, this is rough guidance and your ability in the exam will much depend on: what you know; how well you know it; and ultimately, how fast you can write. On that note, it is certainly a good idea to conduct your own little mock exam and see how well you can manage your time.

Technical ability

Law, as with many subjects, is certainly a technical subject. Examiners can tell when students memory dumb, and they do not like it as it shows little engagement with the module’s learning outcomes. If you want to score well in the exam, you really need to focus on your technical ability.

This includes not only understanding the legal rules, but how they apply in the scenario. Lecturers constantly emphasise on application because this is the only way they can see that you understand how the rules work. You can pick this up by reading through judgments, case facts, looking at similar cases which cite those judgments.

Good application

Weak application

The defence of loss of control is not available where there is a considered desire for revenge (s.54(4) Coroners & Justice Act 2009).

The fact that Sandra had bought the weapon on the day of the killing could suggest that she had a considered desire for revenge, and the court would have to take this into account (Ballie).

The defence of loss of control is not available where there is a considered desire for revenge (s.54(4) Coroners & Justice Act 2009).

Therefore Sandra may not have the defence because of the knife (Ballie).

I have learnt first-hand that being able to remember all of the relevant sections of the Coroners and Justice Act is, albeit very impressive, not enough to get you the top marks in the exam. Do not be discouraged to apply the law to the facts if you are pressed for time; you simply have to make the link between the law and the facts.

Information retention

 Many students, including myself, struggle to remember all of the little details. Lucky as we are that we do not need to remember the citation for every case – we still need to remember the case. Have you tried remembering Hirji Mulji v Cheong Yue or Tsakiroglou v Noblee Thorl GmbH?

Being able to show a balance of good application and accurate citation is part of the crusade of doing well in the exam. Therefore, you need to find ways that help you retain information.

Have you tried?

  • Coloured paper
  • Flow charts and mind maps
  • Flash cards
  • Audio recordings
  • Teaching your friends

Flowchart

You should also enjoy the advances in technology – far disconnected from what our senior lecturers had ‘back in’t day’. There are some brilliant online resources out there, as well as the SmartArt tools in Microsoft Office and the voice recorder built in on most mobile phones.

Social life

Many students think that exams are a one-time thing and once they are over it will be all plain sailing. This is not true – throughout the rest of your career, be it legal or not, your employer is going to expect you to be able to maintain that work life balance. Having witnessed people who are very close to me go through this exact struggle, I am brave enough to assert that there is a real possibility that you may graduate into a career in which all seems to be ‘work work work work work work’.  It leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled, and could even spark a ‘quarter life crisis’.

So at this stage, whilst you are a student, I urge you to use this time whilst you can to test out your limits and figure out where that line in your work-life balance falls. From my personal perspective, having a medical condition which creates symptoms that are aggravated by stress, I know just how important it is to take a break now and then.

Sure, we all want to make it to Allen & Overy and DLA Piper, but we are all human at the end of the day. So take a break – and if now is not the time, make it your incentive to be really productive now whilst you can. But also you have to be honest with yourself, because going for a drink or two with friends the night before the exam is not going to be helpful.

Conclusion

I hope you found my advice useful, and if you have any useful tips you would like to share, just post them in the comments below.

I wish every one of you the best of luck in the upcoming exams. To all those legal professionals who took the time to read this article, I hope it was a nice walk down memory lane for you.

Law Firm ‘Culture’

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No matter where you go in the legal industry, law firm culture is something you will have to be mindful of, even after you are a qualified and practising solicitor. This is something I have been thinking about in the past few months, building up to securing that training contract. But with it being such a vague word, we ask what does it mean and how does one measure it? I have teamed up with Shoosmiths’ own graduate recruitment manager, Samantha Hope, to explore this concept.

What is meant by ‘Culture’?

Culture is an umbrella term, referring to ‘the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society’. Swap the last few words with law firm and you are nearly there. You need to think beyond the salary, work, target hours, clients and health benefits which is the day-to-day information that you can find in the job description. The culture is how you feel about your firm, it is what makes working with your colleagues enjoyable, and it is what will make you get out of bed each morning, so it is very important to your future career.

Law firms are inviting aspiring solicitors past their reception desks and into their fancy seminar rooms, filled with all the canapés and posh refreshments that you could consume until you are blue in the face. The whole reason why they do this is so that you can get a feel for their culture, and hopefully, you will find the firm you can ‘settle down’ with. For them, it’s all about securing the top talent and retaining it!

You will have the opportunity to ask the recruiters, partners and trainees some questions, they get to ask you some back, and hopefully that sparks a meeting of minds. Firms set aside thousands of pounds a year and lots of time for all those prestigious events like Pure Potential and National Law Live, simply so that they can get young talent through the door. I do not mean to romanticise the situation, but it is a little bit like dating. It is definitely not a one way street and it requires an equal amount of effort from both sides.

Next you need to have a think about what questions you might want to ask firms. Unfortunately, this is not as straightforward as one might have hoped it would be. It all depends on what you want to know. Being able to think about some of the situations which would really make you want to walk away from a firm after completing your training contract is a skill which you can develop from meeting other trainees who have ‘been there – done that’.

My story

In March, I was fortunate to be invited to an insight evening at Shoosmiths. As usual before the event I was conducting my research into the firm, and as I was halfway into reading the ‘Our values & culture’ page, I paused for a moment, threw my head into my hands and thought to myself ‘sh*t’. The words were a muddle, the phraseology was all so familiar; it was all beginning to sound the same as every other firm I had researched in the past.

Taking a step back from that approach, I realised that this is exactly the problem which only open days and insight evenings could provide the solutions. So, not normally being a person who likes to ask questions to the panels at open evenings, I had a long think about the kind of firm I would see myself working for in the long term, and I manipulated those features into three simple questions which I wanted to know the answers to, and which I would be able to ask during the event.

  1. Do trainees have personal relationships with their colleagues, and what does the firm do to facilitate this?

I am not just looking for firms that send a nice joke in an email every now and then. I like to see that firms are celebrating individuality and holding events such as competitive sports and social outings to bring employees together.

  1. Do trainees receive appraisal for the work they do, and are they being motivated to hit targets and develop professionally?

Who really cares about sitting down once a month to fill in a PDP? What I really want to know is that supervisors are always within arm’s length, providing truthful and constructive criticism and giving thanks when thanks is due.

  1. Do trainees have access to the support they need, are there effective channels for communicating with the management?

Some firms will have an appointment based system, whilst others are usually happy to have a quick chat in their office as and when. What is important is that those lines of communication are clear, efficient and effective for getting the job done.

I was able to weave these questions into my conversations with partners and trainees at the networking session that evening, and I got exactly the answers I needed. I now had an insight into the culture at Shoosmiths and this allowed me to move onto the next stage with my application.

Shoosmiths’ Culture

Whilst speaking to Samantha Hope, graduate recruitment manager at Shoosmiths, at the event, she agreed that all law firms say the same buzz words; quality work, high client contact, supportive training, and a great culture – but that it really is meeting people that enables students to work out which firm is for them.

“It’s certainly a two-way street! In the same way that it can be hard to understand our culture from our website, nothing is quite like meeting you to bring your application to life.”

Shoosmiths tries to show its culture at insight events by providing an informal environment to network which makes students feel comfortable to ask any question, and they emphasised the importance of their values in their recruitment process from application stage to assessment centre.

The trainees talked highly of the supportive open-plan teams they work in every day, and how they felt they could ask anyone in their team, or office, any question knowing that they would receive an answer and would not be overlooked as “just the trainee”.

Shoosmiths only served soft drinks at the event using this as an opportunity to further emphasise the importance they place on attracting a wide variety of candidates to the firm, and in support of the recent health & well-being challenge the trainees have been set. “At some point you will need to decide the appropriate amount of alcohol to drink at a professional event, hopefully there’ll be lots of awards events to attend, but for tonight, we want to take away that decision for the attendees and be able to enjoy the networking without anyone worrying about whether they’re overdoing it, so instead we‘re serving a variety of smoothies, juices and retro pop!” Samantha explained.

So, whilst learning about the culture of a firm might not seem important to you now, it will be during your career, it really will be the difference between enjoying your job or not. Getting to know people so that you can understand the culture will be something which comes naturally to you as you attend more events in the industry.

Putting Yourself Out There

Samantha gave some of her top tips for students looking to embark on a career in law and she said

“Attend events, build your networks and put yourself out there. It can all seem a little overwhelming when you don’t know what the event will be like, and you might not know anyone, but the more events you attend, the more friends you’ll make and the more you’ll learn about what type of firm is right for you – and that won’t be all of them!

 You’ll become great at professional networking, and that’s a skill you’ll need right through your career, so it’s good to start now.

 Ross’ blog is a great example of a student going above and beyond to develop their own networks and to share tips and advice to his peers along the way.

 You can start by setting up a LinkedIn profile and a Twitter account, and start following some of your favourite companies and recruiters – then engage with them by asking questions, sharing posts and inviting your friends to get involved too. Perhaps you could start your own blog too. You’ll soon be able to work out which firms you want to learn more about simply by following them on social media, then you can attend their events and meet them in person.”

 My final tip for you to improve your understanding of ‘culture’ is be active in attending open days and insight evenings, I really cannot stress enough how valuable these will be when it comes to the next stages in the recruitment process. Now when I look back at the Shoosmiths’ website, I really can see that the culture and values are ingrained in the people and the firm. If I had not attended the event, I may not have realised that and would have just thought they were the usual culture-driven buzz words.

Special thanks

 It was a pleasure to work with Samantha Hope, who has taken time out of her busy schedule to contribute her thoughts in this piece. We are hoping to collaborate in the near future on my next article all about the use of social media to enhance career prospects!

Check out Samantha’s blog here