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I work at a U.S corporate law firm. Application or sleeping pod advice? AMA watch

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    Last night - for reasons I can't explain - I decided to log back into TSR after a 2 year hiatus and make a couple of posts in the vacation scheme thread. This place was immensely helpful in advice for applications/interviews and now I have a week off I figured I may be of more use if I made my own thread.

    Feel free to ask any questions from application advice to what life is actually like. I interviewed/schemed at quite a few of the corporate law firms and appreciate both how intimidating the process is and how hard it can be to work out what's just a sales pitch. The benefit of anonymity is I can be as honest as possible, although apologies if I can't answer too specific questions about my own law firm.
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    Hi,

    Hope you're doing well at the law firm and thank you for offering advice.

    I recently went on a Vac scheme at a US corporate Law firm - but I wasn't able to secure the TC offer. I'm struggling to change my approach to applications upon finishing the vac scheme- as my motivations to commercial law need to now incorporate my experience... any advice as to how to approach this?

    Also, upon undertaking this vac scheme, I am unsure as to whether I can deal with the intensity of the US law firm - because there is just so much responsibility where the trainee intake is small - Is it going to be like this as other firms? I'm unsure about whether to apply to more US, or look at larger intakes for MC firms, or apply to firms like Farrer & Co (medium sized).
    I really enjoyed the work - but I'm unsure if I can withstand the intensity of it all for years. I just found the vac scheme very exhausting, and it may be because of the incessant need to be on your best behaviour rather than the actual work - still undecided.

    Thanks!
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    (Original post by mchan4b)
    Hi,

    Hope you're doing well at the law firm and thank you for offering advice.

    I recently went on a Vac scheme at a US corporate Law firm - but I wasn't able to secure the TC offer. I'm struggling to change my approach to applications upon finishing the vac scheme- as my motivations to commercial law need to now incorporate my experience... any advice as to how to approach this?

    Also, upon undertaking this vac scheme, I am unsure as to whether I can deal with the intensity of the US law firm - because there is just so much responsibility where the trainee intake is small - Is it going to be like this as other firms? I'm unsure about whether to apply to more US, or look at larger intakes for MC firms, or apply to firms like Farrer & Co (medium sized).
    I really enjoyed the work - but I'm unsure if I can withstand the intensity of it all for years. I just found the vac scheme very exhausting, and it may be because of the incessant need to be on your best behaviour rather than the actual work - still undecided.

    Thanks!
    Hi mchan, no problem. I know not getting the TC sucks but please know the fact that you secured the scheme at a U.S. firm in the first place will bode very well for you in further applications.

    1. I had to do the same thing: I spent ages crafting my ‘story’ of how my entrepreneurial experience translated to an interest in commercial law. After my first scheme, no matter how many times I tried to tag that experience to my answer, it felt out of place. In the end I started over; I took a blank piece of paper and wrote an answer to ‘why commercial law’ without referring to my original.

    Even though it was frustrating having to scrap the original, the revised answer went down extremely well in further applications and interviews. Why? Whilst it wasn’t as clever or unique, my answer was genuine. it was informed by my actual experience in the vacation scheme and most importantly, it wasn’t trying to force a good answer to the question.

    So that’s my advice, start fresh, forget about your old applications and write down three bullet points on why you’re interested in corporate law. Think deeply and honestly. You’ll come up with an answer based on your vacation scheme experience and you'll find it comes across much more naturally when you answer the question at further interviews.

    I should add, if you can form an answer by the end of December I’m more than happy to review and provide some detailed feedback. But no pressure on that.

    2. Good question. Many lawyers at U.S. law firms tend to reject the notion that it’s any different to the magic circle; I don’t think that’s true at all. I imagine the hours aren’t too different but you’re completely right that there’s less of us to handle a deal. What that means is very often I’m liaising with a much more senior lawyer on the other side. I get ridiculous amounts of responsibility and that’s scary; it’s less learning by formal training and more let’s throw you in the river and let you swim (though thankfully if you start to drown there’s a lifeguard outside). That said I love it - I think that it’s a terrific way to learn and once you go through that you come out as a formidable lawyer.

    It’s difficult to give you advice on this bit without knowing you (and I think it’s something you’ll know best). What I would say is vacation schemes are great for experiencing what a lawyer is, how the people are and for getting a vibe on what the firm is like, but they don’t give a holistic view of the firm, not least because they’re extremely intense – my firm’s vacation scheme is renown for being extremely assessment heavy and the actual experience as a trainee is very different. You're still trying to impress but you can have a lot of fun in the process. Stress-wise firms could do a lot more to manage mental health, though I wouldn’t underestimate your ability to manage the work especially if you’ve got this far. It’s a lot less difficult than it sounds and much more about project management/organisation than real technical ability.

    I think it’s right that you’re thinking about the long term though, few candidates do. I’d suggest applying to all of them. Normally I recommend against a scatter-gun approach of applying to law firms, but in this case you know your stuff and the best way to learn what works for you is to try get on more schemes (or at least an open day) and eliminate by trial and error. I ended up turning down a few TC’s until I found the my current firm; it was risky but if I didn’t do that I don’t think I’d be enjoying myself as much right now.

    A final point to remember: it’s easy to move down once you train at a prestigious law firm, however it’s very hard to move up.
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    Hi thanks so much for doing this. Can I PM you my application? I'm applying to Clifford Chance but struggling to portray my interest in commercial law succinctly. But no problem if you cant
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    (Original post by blueflame8)
    Hi thanks so much for doing this. Can I PM you my application? I'm applying to Clifford Chance but struggling to portray my interest in commercial law succinctly. But no problem if you cant
    Yes of course, send it over and I'll provide some detailed feedback.
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    Hi Perseverance,

    Many thanks for your detailed advice and it is genuinely encouraging to hear this!

    I do agree about the responsibility point, and the 'training' it is very much throwing off the boat approach...

    I have written a new draft of my motivations - I will send you it by PM?

    I think it would be better to PM so I can message you in a more relaxed way.

    Again,

    Thank you!
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    (Original post by Perseverance)
    Last night - for reasons I can't explain - I decided to log back into TSR after a 2 year hiatus and make a couple of posts in the vacation scheme thread. This place was immensely helpful in advice for applications/interviews and now I have a week off I figured I may be of more use if I made my own thread.

    Feel free to ask any questions from application advice to what life is actually like. I interviewed/schemed at quite a few of the corporate law firms and appreciate both how intimidating the process is and how hard it can be to work out what's just a sales pitch. The benefit of anonymity is I can be as honest as possible, although apologies if I can't answer too specific questions about my own law firm.
    I'll oblige, since you're kind enough to offer

    1. What kind of law-or-commerce specific questions came up at your US/MC interviews? I've heard horror stories of tough A&O interviews where non-law students ended up discussing bank loan facilities and all sorts of finance-specific stuff that is only really covered in a law degree (if you take the right modules).

    1.1 Actually, on the topic of finance-specific stuff, what sort of resources did you use to bolster your knowledge of the specifics of the City? The Stoakes and Schnogger books seem to be popular recommendations, but I was wondering as to whether there were any other books, podcasts, websites, etc that you prefer.

    2. What is the toughest interview question you've ever gotten?

    3. On the application side, what sort of profiles did you see recur in successful TC offer holders? Any universities, extracurricular, work experience that they generally had in common?

    4. Do you have any thoughts on what you thought made you stand out when it came to converting that vac scheme into a training contract?

    5. I apologise if this is too personal, but do you have any regrets as to the whole application preparation process? Did you wish that you got e.g. certain types of work experience earlier? That you made a mistake in choosing one vac scheme over another if two of them occupied the same date?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer
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    (Original post by mchan4b)
    Hi Perseverance,

    Many thanks for your detailed advice and it is genuinely encouraging to hear this!

    I do agree about the responsibility point, and the 'training' it is very much throwing off the boat approach...

    I have written a new draft of my motivations - I will send you it by PM?

    I think it would be better to PM so I can message you in a more relaxed way.

    Again,

    Thank you!
    Yep fire away.
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    (Original post by JohanGRK)
    I'll oblige, since you're kind enough to offer

    1. What kind of law-or-commerce specific questions came up at your US/MC interviews? I've heard horror stories of tough A&O interviews where non-law students ended up discussing bank loan facilities and all sorts of finance-specific stuff that is only really covered in a law degree (if you take the right modules).

    1.1 Actually, on the topic of finance-specific stuff, what sort of resources did you use to bolster your knowledge of the specifics of the City? The Stoakes and Schnogger books seem to be popular recommendations, but I was wondering as to whether there were any other books, podcasts, websites, etc that you prefer.

    2. What is the toughest interview question you've ever gotten?

    3. On the application side, what sort of profiles did you see recur in successful TC offer holders? Any universities, extracurricular, work experience that they generally had in common?

    4. Do you have any thoughts on what you thought made you stand out when it came to converting that vac scheme into a training contract?

    5. I apologise if this is too personal, but do you have any regrets as to the whole application preparation process? Did you wish that you got e.g. certain types of work experience earlier? That you made a mistake in choosing one vac scheme over another if two of them occupied the same date?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer
    1.

    In terms of commercial awareness questions, each interview had a variation of the following:
    • A question on a specific commercial story:At the time the Greek debt crisis was a hot topic so I was expected to understand the main issues and have an opinion on its bailout. I was asked whether Greece should leave the Eurozone, what solution I’d have to fixing the crisis, whether hedge funds would be interested in buying distressed debt from Greece and what kind of return they would expect (note my approach was much more important than my actual answer). This hot topic would be Brexit now. I’ve also had questions on the financial crisis and my thoughts on increasing regulation.
    • A question about a news story you read recently: I had two stories which were my go-to for these questions, they were quite specific (one of them being the European Banking Union) so in interviews I could answer a range of follow-up questions.
    • A case-study question: This was typically a question on a mock acquisition, I'd have to walk a partner through the due diligence or discuss the financing options. I didn’t end up going to my A&O interview (I had my offer by then) but I’ve mentored students who have: if it hasn’t changed, you’ll get 30 mins to read through a pack of documents and have to present/deal with client requirements/highlight problems. There’s a lot of information (including a balance sheet) and you’ve got to be strategic because there’s not enough time to cover all the questions.
    • A specific commercial question: Questions I’ve been asked range from the advantages and disadvantages of interest rates going up. A student I've helped recently was asked how Brexit could lead to rising interest rates for PE firms.


    Most law students won’t have an understanding of finance through their degree but yes, especially with the top corporate firms, you should be able to discuss the above on a very basic level. A lot of students struggle here because they pick out a complex story from the FT and then suffer when asked very simple questions. And I get it – it’s really hard to know where to even start with this as there’s so much to cover, I was in the exact same position when I first started.

    1.1

    I read ‘All you need to know about the City’ by Stoakes which I’d definitely recommend but sadly it’s not all you need to know: some parts are too basic, some too detailed and some irrelevant (I’m thinking the stuff on the reinsurance market).

    I’d recommend a combination of The Economist (magazine and podcasts), BBC News (basic) and the FT (detailed). For finance terms Investopedia is good. One of the most useful things I did was to summarise The Economist/recurring FT stories weekly and every time I didn’t understand something I’d research it until I did. Developing commercial awareness is like learning a new language: the best way to learn is to immerse yourself. I started out really unfocused but I slowly picked up how things connect with each other because I kept trying.

    2.

    This was early on in my application timeline, the interview was finished (so I thought) and the partners had answered my questions. I was about to get up when one of them asked "before you go Perseverance, tell us why we should choose you instead of the many other applicants we’ve just interviewed". I was really caught off guard – after a very long pause I ended up mumbling something about me being entrepreneurial and watched as my chances of a TC went out the window.

    A runner up would be: “What energises you?”.

    3.

    Honestly, not really no. There’s generally a greater proportion of Oxbridge/London Uni/private school students but I’ve seen enough students who didn’t go to these uni’s. In terms of extracurriculars they vary a lot; the key is not what experience you have but whether you know how to sell your experience. A lot of students think they need to be captain of X sports team or to have won mooting competitions, but with the right technique you can make working at McDonalds stand out.

    4.

    Yes – by the time it came to my last vacation scheme I had a decent sense of how to convert. If you’ve got to the vacation scheme you’re not far off and often it’s about not messing things up rather than having to be perfect – so I’d actually say don’t try too hard to stand out and you will.

    Be interested/enthusiastic about the work and ask thoughtful questions when it’s appropriate. Be sincere and a nice person to the other interns (even if others are trying to be competitive)/secretaries/trainees etc. Show you’ve taken feedback on board. Manage expectations if you’ve been given too much work, it’s much better to do less work of a higher quality than trying to work for everyone. There’s a lot more detail I could give and happy to expand if needed but generally these are the kind of qualities you need.

    5.

    No problem: I didn’t want to go into corporate/commercial law until late into my second year of uni so that left me with little time to prepare and very little confidence (when everyone else seemed to have completed first year schemes/knew what they were doing etc.). It took me a long time to believe I could get into a good corporate law firm and I spent way too much time being hard on myself. I wish I realised sooner that the whole process – applications/interviews/schemes – are trainable skills and much like learning to play an instrument or working out, it’s going to be tough in the beginning but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

    And something a bit more concrete: I would have saved applications to certain firms until a bit later after I had some time to practice. That came back to bite me for a few when I couldn’t re-apply in the same cycle despite having a significantly better application.

    Let me know if anything is unclear or if you want me to expand on anything
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    (Original post by Perseverance)
    x
    For the commercial awareness question on the application, is it better to play it safe with a topic like Brexit/AI,etc.

    I'm applying for a global firm with a growing practice in Africa so for my answer I wanted to talk about this in depth. I'm not sure if I'd be better off going with something more mainstream?
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    (Original post by jb9390)
    For the commercial awareness question on the application, is it better to play it safe with a topic like Brexit/AI,etc.

    I'm applying for a global firm with a growing practice in Africa so for my answer I wanted to talk about this in depth. I'm not sure if I'd be better off going with something more mainstream?
    No that sounds great, any niche topic have an interest in is typically better than Brexit: most students will use that example and it's dangerously broad.
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    (Original post by jb9390)
    For the commercial awareness question on the application, is it better to play it safe with a topic like Brexit/AI,etc.

    I'm applying for a global firm with a growing practice in Africa so for my answer I wanted to talk about this in depth. I'm not sure if I'd be better off going with something more mainstream?
    Brexit is far too big a topic. You can pick stories within it though - how it is affecting certain industries/markets for example.

    I’d advise to go with the Africa answer, although only if it is a topic you have a genuine interest in.
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    (Original post by Perseverance)
    1.

    In terms of commercial awareness questions, each interview had a variation of the following:
    • A question on a specific commercial story:At the time the Greek debt crisis was a hot topic so I was expected to understand the main issues and have an opinion on its bailout. I was asked whether Greece should leave the Eurozone, what solution I’d have to fixing the crisis, whether hedge funds would be interested in buying distressed debt from Greece and what kind of return they would expect (note my approach was much more important than my actual answer). This hot topic would be Brexit now. I’ve also had questions on the financial crisis and my thoughts on increasing regulation.
    • A question about a news story you read recently: I had two stories which were my go-to for these questions, they were quite specific (one of them being the European Banking Union) so in interviews I could answer a range of follow-up questions.
    • A case-study question: This was typically a question on a mock acquisition, I'd have to walk a partner through the due diligence or discuss the financing options. I didn’t end up going to my A&O interview (I had my offer by then) but I’ve mentored students who have: if it hasn’t changed, you’ll get 30 mins to read through a pack of documents and have to present/deal with client requirements/highlight problems. There’s a lot of information (including a balance sheet) and you’ve got to be strategic because there’s not enough time to cover all the questions.
    • A specific commercial question: Questions I’ve been asked range from the advantages and disadvantages of interest rates going up. A student I've helped recently was asked how Brexit could lead to rising interest rates for PE firms.



    Most law students won’t have an understanding of finance through their degree but yes, especially with the top corporate firms, you should be able to discuss the above on a very basic level. A lot of students struggle here because they pick out a complex story from the FT and then suffer when asked very simple questions. And I get it – it’s really hard to know where to even start with this as there’s so much to cover, I was in the exact same position when I first started.

    1.1

    I read ‘All you need to know about the City’ by Stoakes which I’d definitely recommend but sadly it’s not all you need to know: some parts are too basic, some too detailed and some irrelevant (I’m thinking the stuff on the reinsurance market).

    I’d recommend a combination of The Economist (magazine and podcasts), BBC News (basic) and the FT (detailed). For finance terms Investopedia is good. One of the most useful things I did was to summarise The Economist/recurring FT stories weekly and every time I didn’t understand something I’d research it until I did. Developing commercial awareness is like learning a new language: the best way to learn is to immerse yourself. I started out really unfocused but I slowly picked up how things connect with each other because I kept trying.

    2.

    This was early on in my application timeline, the interview was finished (so I thought) and the partners had answered my questions. I was about to get up when one of them asked "before you go Perseverance, tell us why we should choose you instead of the many other applicants we’ve just interviewed". I was really caught off guard – after a very long pause I ended up mumbling something about me being entrepreneurial and watched as my chances of a TC went out the window.

    A runner up would be: “What energises you?”.

    3.

    Honestly, not really no. There’s generally a greater proportion of Oxbridge/London Uni/private school students but I’ve seen enough students who didn’t go to these uni’s. In terms of extracurriculars they vary a lot; the key is not what experience you have but whether you know how to sell your experience. A lot of students think they need to be captain of X sports team or to have won mooting competitions, but with the right technique you can make working at McDonalds stand out.

    4.

    Yes – by the time it came to my last vacation scheme I had a decent sense of how to convert. If you’ve got to the vacation scheme you’re not far off and often it’s about not messing things up rather than having to be perfect – so I’d actually say don’t try too hard to stand out and you will.

    Be interested/enthusiastic about the work and ask thoughtful questions when it’s appropriate. Be sincere and a nice person to the other interns (even if others are trying to be competitive)/secretaries/trainees etc. Show you’ve taken feedback on board. Manage expectations if you’ve been given too much work, it’s much better to do less work of a higher quality than trying to work for everyone. There’s a lot more detail I could give and happy to expand if needed but generally these are the kind of qualities you need.

    5.

    No problem: I didn’t want to go into corporate/commercial law until late into my second year of uni so that left me with little time to prepare and very little confidence (when everyone else seemed to have completed first year schemes/knew what they were doing etc.). It took me a long time to believe I could get into a good corporate law firm and I spent way too much time being hard on myself. I wish I realised sooner that the whole process – applications/interviews/schemes – are trainable skills and much like learning to play an instrument or working out, it’s going to be tough in the beginning but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

    And something a bit more concrete: I would have saved applications to certain firms until a bit later after I had some time to practice. That came back to bite me for a few when I couldn’t re-apply in the same cycle despite having a significantly better application.

    Let me know if anything is unclear or if you want me to expand on anything
    Thank you for providing such an in-depth answer I've done similar posts on this forum in the past and can really appreciate how much work and time you've put in.

    I can't think of any follow up questions off the top of my head, but I'll definitely ask you if I can think of anything prior to the New Year!
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    (Original post by JohanGRK)
    Thank you for providing such an in-depth answer I've done similar posts on this forum in the past and can really appreciate how much work and time you've put in.

    I can't think of any follow up questions off the top of my head, but I'll definitely ask you if I can think of anything prior to the New Year!
    Anytime
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    (Original post by Perseverance)
    Yes of course, send it over and I'll provide some detailed feedback.
    Wow thank you so much for the review! I knew there were areas I could improve but couldn't quite pinpoint how to change it, thank you so much I wasn't expecting so much detail - you really know your stuff!!
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    What uni did you go to?
    What A-Levels did you do/grades you got?
    Did you get a 1st?
    What's your salary?
    Car?
    Do you own a property?
    Age?
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    (Original post by adamantacademic)
    What uni did you go to?
    What A-Levels did you do/grades you got?
    Did you get a 1st?
    What's your salary?
    Car?
    Do you own a property?
    Age?
    LSE then Cambridge
    Business&Econ, History, English and Biology A*A*AB
    No
    Over 45 less than 50
    I've passed but no car
    Nope
    Over 22 less than 24
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    (Original post by blueflame8)
    Wow thank you so much for the review! I knew there were areas I could improve but couldn't quite pinpoint how to change it, thank you so much I wasn't expecting so much detail - you really know your stuff!!
    No problem, let me know when you're ready for that mock interview.
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    (Original post by Perseverance)
    Last night - for reasons I can't explain - I decided to log back into TSR after a 2 year hiatus and make a couple of posts in the vacation scheme thread. This place was immensely helpful in advice for applications/interviews and now I have a week off I figured I may be of more use if I made my own thread.

    Feel free to ask any questions from application advice to what life is actually like. I interviewed/schemed at quite a few of the corporate law firms and appreciate both how intimidating the process is and how hard it can be to work out what's just a sales pitch. The benefit of anonymity is I can be as honest as possible, although apologies if I can't answer too specific questions about my own law firm.
    Did you interview/scheme at different types of commercial firms (in terms of size)? And if so, what differences did you notice between the mid-sized and larger firms? It could be anything ranging from the overall culture of the firm, the intensity of interviews, the general types of people who worked there/applied there etc.

    Also, did you go to any open days or insight events before applying to vacation schemes?

    Thank you in advance.
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    (Original post by Insecable)
    Did you interview/scheme at different types of commercial firms (in terms of size)? And if so, what differences did you notice between the mid-sized and larger firms? It could be anything ranging from the overall culture of the firm, the intensity of interviews, the general types of people who worked there/applied there etc.

    Also, did you go to any open days or insight events before applying to vacation schemes?

    Thank you in advance.
    Yes quite a range. I found mid-sized firms tended to be more rigid in their interviews and it often felt like more of a box-ticking exercise, although I'd also extend that to some silver circle firms too.

    Their vacation schemes were less intense, less assessments and pressure and more about making sure I left at 5:30pm and had a good time. I'm generalising a lot here so take this bit with a pinch of salt but from my experience I found the people in mid-sized firms saw work a bit differently, it was more of a get-it-done and go attitude rather than a sense of excitement about the work they had to do (and the willingness to stay until it gets done). They were very friendly, but to be honest I didn't want to choose firms where that was the main selling point. On the plus side though they're great for valuing a work-life balance.

    Yes it wasn't always possible but I tried to go to an open day/insight event for every firm I applied to. One easy way to stand out is to go to an open day and mention who you met and what you learned from XYZ at an event in application/interview. It shows your decision to apply is informed and that you're pro-active.

    Any other questions, let me know
 
 
 
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