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5 Minutes with Future Trainee, James Elliot

What University did you attend?
I studied my undergraduate at the University of Oxford, then the GDL at BPP University.

What subject are you studying?
History as an undergraduate, and now the GDL.

When do you join as a trainee?
August 2020.

How did you hear about Shearman & Sterling?
I think initially through useful websites such as Chambers Student, when I was researching different firms. I spent plenty of time reading about various different firms before deciding what practice areas or types of firms I was most interested in, and then on which ones to apply for.

What made you apply?
When applying to firms I focused on what previous trainees have said about the quality of the training, the level of responsibility they were given (as the more you have, the more quickly you can learn and develop), and finally what the culture of the firm was like.

Shearman sounded like it delivered on everything, and the impression I got was that this was a firm that was leading the market in several key areas, offering fantastic training, but was also a friendly place to work.

I also thought a smaller trainee intake generally would mean trainees are given a better quality of work earlier, once they’ve proved themselves. The firm scores very highly on websites such as Legal Cheek for the quality of its training programme, so it must be doing something right, I thought.

If there were any lingering doubts (after all, you can’t know a place too well until you’ve spent some time there), the vacation scheme put them out my mind. The firm ticked all the right boxes.

Did you do a Vacation Scheme and if so, what did you learn/enjoy?
I spent two weeks on a Vacation Scheme, with one week in the Project Development & Finance practice, and the second in the Financial Institutions Advisory practice.

Like almost everyone else on the scheme, I’d never worked in these areas before, or had any hands-on experience of what they were like, so I was keen to see if this work really suited me and what it actually entailed on a day-to-day basis.

Thankfully, I was given a lot to do, and quickly. I found myself helping out with drafting simple documents, reviewing important items for a transaction, and even doing one or two pieces of legal research. It was a really good flavour of what being a trainee might be like.

The Vacation Scheme also confirmed what I’d read about the firm in terms of its training and culture.

There were trainees doing interesting tasks that might have been given to associates at a firm with a much larger intake, like drafting key documents, and they were positive about the regular training lunches and mentor system at the firm.

It also isn’t all work – the firm and Graduate Recruitment Team really make an effort to make you feel welcome in what might otherwise be a daunting experience, and organised plenty of socials. By the end of the week the vac schemers had become quite a tight group, and I’m looking forward to working with them as trainees.

What made you accept?
I really took a lot from my time on the vacation scheme, and it felt like a comfortable and welcoming place to work.

It confirmed what I had expected about the quality of training and the friendliness of the firm. You need to be challenged and pushed to progress and develop, but in an environment that’s supportive and wants you to succeed.

Plus, the current trainees confirmed all the positive reviews I had heard about the firm, so I was very glad to get the phone call and to accept the offer.

What advice would you give to others who are interested in Shearman & Sterling?
I’d absolutely recommend applying for a Vacation Scheme first, as it really gives you a good impression of what the firm is about, what its core practice areas are, and if you could see yourself training there.

I’d also advise making sure you know as much as you can about the firm’s core practices, the industries it works with, and its clients.

There are major differences between the kinds of work that firms do, and which firms are stronger in particular areas, and what types of clients they advise.

You can only learn that through a lot of research, but it’s important because as well as helping you demonstrate you know what you’re talking about at interview, it will also give you an idea if it’s really what interests you.

Shearman & Sterling actually produced a very helpful video going through the best websites to use, so if you’re researching firms, then that’s the best place to start.

by James Elliot