Position: Associate at Slaughter and May
Location: London, UK
HOW DID YOUR EDUCATION AT SOAS BENEFIT YOU IN THE APPLICATION PROCESS AND THROUGHOUT YOUR TRAINING CONTRACT AT SLAUGHTER AND MAY?
I think the diversity and range of subjects offered as part of the SOAS law degree can serve as a benefit for training contract applications. Law firms in the last few years have opened up across various jurisdictions and regularly advise clients with business interests across the globe. As cliché as this sounds, law firms are looking to grow and nurture lawyers who are not only technically brilliant at the law but truly understand their clients’ needs. A SOAS education is a great opportunity to pick up and understand a range of legal systems. This is a fantastic way to train your brain to adjust to the nuances of differing types of law, and it counts as an important transferable skill because private practice will often involve different legal systems. The SOAS LLB was really helpful to me as I worked on a number of deals that required me to analyse the position across multiple jurisdictions.
My degree at SOAS also confirmed my interest in different legal systems and this was a really great way for me to differentiate myself and get involved with a number of initiatives at Slaughter and May. The firm has a huge Africa working group and we work quite closely with other leading law firms in the region and putting forward my interest was a great way for me to get involved and contribute to the firm’s Africa practice. I’m also quite keen to get involved with project financing and oil and gas work in Africa and there’s a lot of nuances involved with this given the complexity and protectionist nature of the market. My academic background provides a great foundation and platform to build my knowledge and experience in this sector.
WHAT WERE YOUR REASONS FOR TRAINING AT SLAUGHTER AND MAY?
When applying to the firm, I wasn’t entirely sure what area of law I was interested in, but I was sure that I wanted to be trained by and work closely with people who are experts in their field. Slaughter and May seemed to be the perfect fit for this; the “multi-specialist” approach would allow me to gain wide experience across a range of areas within a particular practice and the firm’s reputation for high-quality work was particularly appealing. This turned out to be very true in practice- as a trainee during my financing seat I was able to get experience in aircraft asset finance, get involved with oil and gas contracts, and work on renewable energy by way of project financing for wind farm projects. The quality of work was also truly impressive: you may have this idea that a trainee’s role is limited to administrative tasks, but my experience really exceeded my expectations and I had the opportunity to engage with and send advice out to clients, carry out research on complex areas of law (which appealed to the law geek in me as I got to read and research real cases), and take on responsibility and ownership over my work.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR TRAINING EXPERIENCE?
The diversity of work and clients. Before starting at the firm, I was aware of the firm’s “multi-specialist” approach but didn’t have much of an idea of how this would work in practice. Another highlight has been the structure of training- it is quite common for trainees to work directly with partners and generally trainees will often be supervised directly by a partner during parts of their training contract. As a result of this, it’s not unusual for trainees to be given more responsibility and be able to take ownership of a piece of work and become the main point of contact for the client.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR SOAS STUDENTS LOOKING TO ENTER THE LEGAL PROFESSION AS SOLICITORS?
You should really do your homework about the different types of firms out there and decide which one is a fit for you. The size and structure of teams is quite important and can shape your experience. It’s also worth thinking about the type of work a firm does and whether this fits in with your interests. As a student, I assumed that law firms only cared about legal work experience and made the mistake in my initial applications of downplaying or overlooking other types of experience which actually provided me with a more diverse range of transferable skills. Lastly, a SOAS law degree is unique in comparison to other law degrees - it’s definitely a unique asset to have and I think more and more law firms are starting to see and appreciate this.