Astonishingly, I’ve been here for 30 years, and over the course of one or two mergers I’ve seen the firm grow from having ten partners to around 350 now. So while I haven’t moved anywhere, the firm has certainly moved around me.
That said, in many ways I wouldn’t say it’s changed. The atmosphere I think has pretty much stayed the same, and from what one hears I don’t think that’s true of every firm.
I’ve reached the giddy heights of a partner in Corporate. I do fairly specialised advisory work on governance plus quite a lot of training, so I’m on my feet talking a lot of the time. I think one of the secrets of a career is finding what you enjoy doing, and one of the virtues of a larger firm is that there is more space to find your niche. I'm probably the only person here who does what I do.
I think that these days, our trainees probably get much more exposure to clients than they have in the past. They’re seen much more as part of the team. The market is developing and becoming more and more demanding in terms of the service we give to clients – because there is so much competition now, you’ve got to always seek to out-perform your competitors. People underestimate how crucial it is to give a client a brilliant level of service. If your client feels they’ve been properly looked after, if they’ve got things on time and at a good price, and they’ve enjoyed the experience, then you have the basis for a strong and continuing relationship. Being a good lawyer should be a given. But quite a lot of business success involves being a good salesman.
While I would hope that we work on a slightly more human scale than the very largest firms, we’re by no means any kind of soft option. We definitely work as hard as anybody – but I’d say that we can offer a little more enjoyment and fulfilment, because the transactions aren’t so enormous that you’re just one of a 40-strong team. Therefore, you’re closer to the client, and closer to understanding the bigger picture.
To be a good trainee, naturally you need brains, but brains aren’t everything. Personality counts for a huge amount. Time and again I despair when I read applications which list interests as reading, going to the cinema, socialising. I mean, for goodness sakes – put down sky diving or flower arranging, something out of the ordinary!
Seriously though, I look for applicants who can demonstrate that they have another life, and that their career isn’t going to dominate them completely. It comes back to the fact that we want rounded and interesting individuals who our clients will enjoy talking to and getting to know. In that context, reading and socialising may not get you very far!
The market for trainees is tougher now than it has been for years, and not about to get any easier. But if you are accepted here, you can look forward to tremendous opportunities because of the size of the firm and the breadth and nature of its work. This is a firm with ambition, that’s highly respected, and which is going places – and we offer trainees a chance to join us on the journey. People come in thinking they want to specialise in one particular area and after their training, they invariably decide on something completely different. That's the glory of the training contract system – trainees see a large part of the firm, and they learn what interests them and what they enjoy doing. It’s a great way to start a career.