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5 minutes with Zara Khanche, Future Trainee

What University did you attend?
University College London (UCL)

What subject are you studying?
I am currently completing the LPC at the University of Law, having previously studied History for my undergraduate degree, as well as the GDL.

When do you join as a trainee?
August 2022

How did you hear about Shearman & Sterling?
I attended Shearman & Sterling’s ‘Myths of US law firms’ event hosted at their London office, which I heard about through my university.

What made you apply?
Initially, it was the firm’s rich history of conducting ‘first-of-their-kind’ transactions that stood out to me. I spent some time watching Shearman & Sterling’s ‘making history and reflections’ videos, which provided a behind-the-scenes look at the firm’s role in navigating the world economy as it changed throughout the years. Some of the oral anecdotes discuss the moment the firm decided to enter the oil and gas industry and then opened an office in Abu Dhabi in 1975, to turn it into an important energy centre. That office is still going today and a key financial area for the firm. Most notably in the Middle East, the firm built its reputation for not only advising on the law, but playing a key role in its creation too – this type of work was novel and really inspired me.

How did you approach the initial application form?
I did a lot of research before submitting my initial application form. There is a wealth of application advice on Shearman & Sterling’s graduate website that I found useful such as the ‘Whiteboard Wednesdays’ videos. I also kept in touch with the trainees I met at the ‘Myths of US law firms’ event, which gave me an insider perspective into life as a trainee. Through networking, I was able to differentiate my application to show that I had a genuine interest in the firm and that I had gone that extra mile to understand what the firm’s core practice areas were and the type of tasks a trainee solicitor carries out.

What made Shearman & Sterling different to other firms?
Each associate I met at the firm was so driven and willing to share their knowledge with me by offering to have a coffee or a Zoom call. It was clear to me that training at Shearman & Sterling would be different from most elite law firms, offering ample opportunity for learning and growth coupled with the support you need to really perform beyond expectations.

The assessment process was rigorous, but also friendly and supportive. The process was a positive experience and I felt that at Shearman & Sterling I would be able to bring my authentic self to work.

Did you do a Vacation Scheme and if so, what did you learn/enjoy?
I did do a Vacation Scheme and spent time working with both the Antitrust and International Arbitration teams. The work ranged from investigating bond price fixing cartel investigations to reviewing arbitral decisions in relation to corruption. We also completed a live pro bono project, which showed the firm’s commitment towards giving back to the community.

I learnt a great deal during the Vacation Scheme and had a lot of fun too, with dinner at the Duck & Waffle, a cooking competition with a private chef and a healthy dose of Shearman & Sterling’s famous chocolate cookies.

What made you accept?
The two key selling points are the hands-on training and the mentorship I received during the vacation scheme and still receive today. In addition, there is no compromise on the level of trust and opportunities offered to trainees, whether that be working on cross-border deals and novel pro bono projects or spending six months abroad at one of the firm’s offices in Abu Dhabi, Singapore, New York or Brussels.

What advice would you give to others who are interested in Shearman & Sterling?
I would probably dispel some of the commonly held myths around US law firm culture. From my experience, US firms are able to offer hands on training as the intake has fewer trainees per year. Shearman emphasise a no ‘face time’ culture, so when work is not urgent, the hours really are standard practice. So, my advice would be to not let any of those myths scare you from applying, as the reality is that many international/US law firms offer trainees rare opportunities to work alongside leaders in their field on headline-making deals, all while being supported by a collegiate team.

Also, believe in yourself, put yourself forward for opportunities, prepare well and work hard and you will keep moving closer to achieving your end goal. Best of luck!