Ask Alice G (Future Trainee at Freshfields) Anything!

Discussion in 'Applications Discussion' started by Alice G, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. Alice G

    Alice G Legendary Member
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    Hi everyone,

    As promised, I am creating this thread so that you can ask me any questions which you may have, whether they are questions about my journey to a TC or more general ones about the process itself, ask away! :)

    By way of background for those of you who are maybe new to the forum, I decided to explore corporate law as a career option in October 2018 and went to every event I possibly could that month. I applied to open days at the firms whose cultures I felt appealed to me and managed to secure a few of those open days. I subsequently applied for around 7/8 vacation schemes at those firms I had engaged with and I interviewed with Hogan Lovells, Shearman & Sterling and Latham, in that order. I managed to secure a spring vacation scheme with Shearman and a summer one with Latham.

    Sadly, following both schemes, I was unsuccessful. However, I was really able to take stock and reflect on my journey up until that point and it set me on a slightly different path. I thoroughly enjoyed both schemes (honestly, I had the most incredible time on each of them for which I am so grateful) but I did have slight reservations regarding the training styles and how I am and operate as a person. I am someone who prefers a more hands-on teaching style, which is something I came to appreciate more about myself at university. Therefore, I decided to apply exclusively to UK-origin firms in my second cycle.

    **Just to clarify, please note how I discuss the different training styles in the context of myself as an individual. There is nothing inherently 'right' or 'wrong' with US-origin and UK-origin training styles - it is all about what is best for you as a person. I have incredible friends joining US firms and who are applying to them whose personalities and preferences mean that they will thrive more with that style of training.**

    In my second cycle, I made 6 applications and interviewed at HSF, A&O, Linklaters and Freshfields. I was unsuccessful with each of those firms except Freshfields, which many of you will know from my pre-interview posts was my first choice firm! I really believe that this process, whilst difficult, truthfully does work in your favour in the end. Recruiters and interviewers know their firm and they are looking for those candidates who they feel will fit in with their firm's culture and working style. Whilst rejection hurts, it really is redirection and you are on the right path for the firm which is right for you - so please keep the faith!

    That's it really from me so please ask away!

    If any of you have questions which are deeply personal then you can message me instead and I will try to help as best as I can. Otherwise, please do post your questions in here :)

    Thank you for reading and I hope this thread helps!! :)
     
    #1 Alice G, Mar 25, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
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  2. Zsaurcaks1

    Zsaurcaks1 Distinguished Member

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    Congrats on your offer! Really well done :)

    What do you think made the difference between the previous post-vac scheme rejections and obtaining your offer this time round?
     
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  3. Alison_a

    Alison_a Standard Member

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    Hi,

    I was wondering if you could discuss what went wrong/feedback you received in the interviews you were unsuccessful in?

    I feel like a lot of people on this forum say they have received feedback but never share if with the forum, I know feedback is personal to many, However, it would be good to get your insight to see what law firms are looking for.

    In addition, what do you think made the difference being successful at freshfields in comparison to your other applications/schemes?
    :)
     
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  4. W

    W Legendary Member

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    When you came out of your Freshfields interview, did you have a feeling you would get a TC or did you come out feeling similar to how you felt in other TC interviews/assessment centres?
     
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  5. Alice G

    Alice G Legendary Member
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    I want to give all of your questions a thorough and proper response so will reply to them all in the depth they deserve at 5:30pm tonight after work but they are all great questions so far - thank you for posting!! :)
     
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  6. Elizabeth@1999

    Elizabeth@1999 Active Member

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    I've done two vac schemes (unsuccessful) and enjoyed them but wouldn't say I was 100% passionate about the actual work on either. Did you ever feel this way or were you always sure? Congrats btw and thanks for being such a kind voice and great support this on this forum.
     
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  7. iamJW

    iamJW Well-Known Member

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    Hi Alice,

    Again, congratulations on your offer! I think I echo everyone on the platform when I say we are all so proud of you!

    My questions are a little different to the ones above and fall towards the beginning of the process.

    I was wondering whether you could share any advice for applications and reaching the next hurdle - the infamous ACs. As someone who has inherantly snuggled with this, is there a possibility of sharing/highlighting the differences between a 'successful' and 'unsuccessful' application and the different approaches you took following either success or a rejection? I just think it is important to showcase where candidates may be going wrong?

    Thank you for setting up this Q&A (including all your support on here) and I hope you are coping well during this uncertain period with COVID-19.
     
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  8. tractor12

    tractor12 Legendary Member

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    Firstly, huge well done Alice, you really deserve it and I'm glad it worked out for you.

    Similar to this, I am wondering if you feel comfortable telling us some feedback you got post your Vacation Scheme? You are clearly a very capable candidate so I am curious as to what went wrong in those experiences. It's probably the most upsetting stage to fall on because you are so close. Some tips on converting the VS to TC beyond the general ones would be really useful!
     
    #8 tractor12, Mar 25, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
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  9. NickMcK

    NickMcK Active Member

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    Thank you for doing this thread, it is so helpful!

    I have two questions as I am thinking of applying to Freshfields but haven't had much exposure to them aside from the usual online resources such as Chambers Student etc.
    1. What made them your first choice firm?
    2. Were there any parts of your previous work experience that you think stood out the most? (I am thinking of applying for a direct TC so would want to get this right!)
     
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  10. Alice G

    Alice G Legendary Member
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    That's a good question!

    The main thing is confidence. I remember feeling like a fish out of water at one point and allowing a lack of faith in my capabilities get to me. I think I also shied away from asking questions as I didn't want to bother anyone but actually having the confidence to ask intelligent and well-directed questions is a great quality. Lawyers are also really keen to help you as well! This is sadly more of a psychological issue and so it is not a quick fix, but what I will say is that working in my current job has helped me so much. There are a lot of tasks which are totally unfamiliar to me, require me to really sit and think and ask follow up questions etc. I vowed to myself to go into this role like a trainee solicitor so what I do is note down a task, make sure there and then when I am briefed on it that I 'get' it and what is being asked of me and I then set about researching or giving stuff a go. I try to exhaust the resources I have to help me but if I have questions that I cannot answer, then I ask them and at this stage try to show my working, plan and thought processes. This has really helped my confidence because I tend to find I am on the right path and it has helped me to realise that actually, I can do things and I can take on unfamiliar work and still give it a good go. I have found that this has translated well for the 'technical' aspects of interviews because I now have more of an inherent confidence that I can do things and do them well which has really helped I believe.

    I guess the advice would be, if this resonates, then try to find a job or some voluntary work or a project that really will challenge you and maybe test your self-belief a bit and just give it your all. Hopefully, you too will realise you are made of pretty strong stuff and are more than capable in the things you set your mind to!
     
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  11. Alice G

    Alice G Legendary Member
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    So I think one thing was my lack of confidence which I touched on in my previous post. I think on schemes it is important to have the faith that you are there for a reason and just trust in your intuition and your abilities when it comes to undertaking tasks. I also would say do not be afraid to ask for clarity and ask questions because it is best to do this and do so confidently than to go about a task doubting yourself and your approach.

    The other thing for me was sadly a difficulty in presenting and speaking in front of people (it is very annoying as I am absolutely fine speaking to people usually but it is a stage fright issue which makes this hard for me). This is something I have consciously tried to work on which those of you who came to TCLA's crash course will know! I think this is where luck comes into play and it was just by chance that a presentation formed part of one of the assessments. I have, however, been able to talk about this as being an achievement and as being an example of my resilience in other interviews this cycle because i have worked on this which I think has actually been quite well received so it is always good to turn a negative into a positive where appropriate and where you have sought improvement.

    In terms of other experiences, in one interview I fell down because I had been a bit too waffley in my competencies. This was so hard for me to try and change because I really hate feeling robotic and find that my consciousness of being robotic actually completely distracts my thoughts. So, whilst I was conscious of this in subsequent interviews, I wouldn't say I was necessarily concise. However, at these subsequent interviews, the length and style of my competency deliveries were not critiqued, so in a way, again, I think this could well be a 'luck' thing or just vary from firm to firm maybe. Basically, try to have a structure (STAR) and be conscious of waffling but I guess be true to your communication style too as I think this can help come into the whole 'fit' evaluation of this process too and I know I was truly 'me' in my interviews as a result. But please do STAR guys - that is absolutely key regardless!

    Following another interview, it was recommended that I should have more of a structure in responding to SJT questions. I think it can be hard when they are vague, but try to think of a logical 'in the first instance I would do this...', 'following that I would do this'. I guess it just helps the interviewer to understand your thought process and can help you to organise your thoughts. I wish I had done this on paper and made more of a diagram with 'step one' and 'step two' so I would recommend something like this for these interviews/questions going forwards.

    That's honestly pretty much a round-up of the feedback I have had but I really do believe luck and many other factors beyond your control can factor into these things.
     
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  12. Alice G

    Alice G Legendary Member
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    Good question. I felt I had done the best I could on the day and was happy with my written exercise and the article interview, but I was conscious of my competency interview. I used to like competency interviews as I think I have a breadth of experiences but since being told I had been waffley following an AC, I became conscious of this and started to dread these interviews. I think I worried about this aspect of the day as I felt nervous within myself when I went in. However, I really liked my interviewers at Freshfields, they were lovely and smiley and light-hearted and so I had a bit of confidence in being myself, communicating in the way I usually would and when I was asked follow-up questions I just told the truth, not what I felt they wanted to hear or what was an 'impressive' answer. I guess I was worried that maybe I had been waffley again and possibly hadn't given the shiniest answers and that it might hinder me, but I actually think that they genuinely just wanted to hear what I had done and to get a sense for what I am about and I am honestly so glad I was just myself and spoke rather freely and candidly in the interview. I think hindsight is a great thing and I always take the view that I would rather be rejected for being authentically 'me' and accept that maybe I am not a firm's cup of tea than to go into an AC and be someone entirely different and get rejected for being something which I thought they had wanted.

    I also, on the flipside, felt my A&O interview had gone relatively well on the whole and I got the rejection a couple of weeks later, so I do think sometimes it is best not to rely on how you felt anything went. Firms are looking for and assessing different things and it can be really hard as the candidate to know precisely what those things are and how you may have done overall. I think the best thing to do, hard as it is, is to try and forget about it and just trust you did your best regardless of the outcome.
     
    #12 Alice G, Mar 25, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
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  13. Alice G

    Alice G Legendary Member
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    Thank you for being so honest with this. I have to tell you the truth too and say that I really enjoyed the work on each of my schemes. I got to do really interesting research projects and also assisted a supervisor with a live problem the firm was trying to work through. Might I be able to ask you what types of work you did or why you didn't enjoy them so much? Sorry, this probably isn't a very useful answer but maybe the times of your schemes were quiet periods for the firms?
    Thank you also for your lovely words - they made me smile earlier and you made my day :)
     
    #13 Alice G, Mar 25, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
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  14. Alice G

    Alice G Legendary Member
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    Hi! This is a very big question and hard to cover in a single post but if i may give a few very quick tips and insights:

    1. Dig deep and really think about your 'whys'. My why commercial law answer took honestly two months of soul searching and constructing my narrative through the lens of my past experiences. Really be introspective and think about what makes you tick and what has put you on your own journey so far and how a career in corporate law marries up with this.
    2. Applications take weeks not days. If someone is lucky enough to send out solid apps with 6 hours of work then I salute you, but I am here to try to normalise the fact that good apps take time. Would you honestly do your dissertation in 6 hours? That is probably impossible I grant you, but good writing is all about refinement, constant critique and the ability to do so with fresh eyes when you have taken a break from your writing for a few days is invaluable.
    3. Know the firm and meet them - being able to talk about really niche pieces of info you glean from a current trainee or from someone in grad rec can be a huge boost to an app. Make the effort to meet with them and talk about their firm, and better still, ask questions and get info that truly matters to you and show why that matters. Have you done something in diversity and inclusion? then ask the firm about this and show them as clear as day the synergy between you and what matters to you and the firm and its culture. I hope this point is clear but let me know if not!
    4. Proof - a really basic one but comes back to the weeks, not days point. I would not be lying if I told you I probably printed and red-lined my apps approx 15 times each at least when they were done (I promise I really try to be environmentally friendly in every other area of my life - I just cannot proof as well on-screen!)
    5. Be concise and make every word count. If you think something sounds great but adds little substance, cut it out. You have to be ruthless and getting someone to read an app over for you can help with this too!

    Sorry it is brief and maybe some of it is slightly repetitive but I will try to address this in a video that I do with Jaysen which will provide me with more scope for detail and examples too maybe.
     
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  15. Ifmhouse4

    Ifmhouse4 Distinguished Member

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    Hi Alice!

    Huge congratulations on the offer - it is amazing & so deserved!

    My question is based more on your choice of firm! I was just wondering what led to you choosing Freshfields as your top choice! I saw that you said about the hands-on training, by that do you mean more structured and logical? compared to some US firms that tend to have a flexible TC system that may not necessarily allow for structure?

    Another question I hope you do not mind me asking is about culture. I know that arguably Freshfields has some of the longest hours & one of the more intense cultures compared to other MCs, but of course, this is something you will have at many/most firms. How do you feel in regards to this? and how do you plan to combat this or approach it as a Trainee?

    Thanks so much for your time!
     
  16. Alice G

    Alice G Legendary Member
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    Hi there,

    1. I think the key to why any firm is trying to marry up the things which make them unique to your own unique experiences and preferences. I always hesitate in telling people my 'why's', not because I don't like sharing, but because I think the best thing to do is to conduct your research and when you come to read or unearth something which makes you feel really excited by that firm then that is probably your 'why' - it needs to be as unique to you and your personality as possible to be both memorable and authentic. One of the reasons for why was undoubtedly the eight-seat training contract, but if you are going to say this, try to think about why this might matter to you personally and tailor it to you.
    2. I wouldn't say anything on there struck out as such. I would say having two previous vacation schemes probably helped as I am non-law and I feel this probably helped to show my commitment to this career. I would also say having been a supervisor for 6 months at Starbucks probably helps me to discuss leadership and my approach to it well and convincingly, but I wouldn't say these are especially stand-out work experiences and I wouldn't really say there is any such thing. I think firms just want to get a sense for who you are and to be sure you have had experiences in situations which might arise during a TC. All experience is good experience and the stuff I probably discuss most is my time being a barista at Starbucks for 5 years :)
     
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  17. Alice G

    Alice G Legendary Member
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    Hi :) So the more structured training is stereotypically more of a feature at UK-origin firms in general and just informed my approach this year of applying exclusively to UK firms. For me, the eight-seat training contract was a big draw for sure which I have alluded to above. I never want to say too much about my 'why' as I think a key to good apps is really finding your own niche reasons but I think a big thing for me was the culture. You work long and hard hours at any firm which is why you need to target the firms whose cultures you think match up with you as a person. I had the privilege of going to a grad workshop and I was really taken with how down to Earth, easy-going and friendly everyone was. I also found everyone to be refreshingly honest and felt that no one took themselves too seriously and so I felt totally at ease in people's company and when speaking to them. I also think the quality of the work is incredible and FF are band 1 for so many practice areas which are of huge interest to me - given that those interests already amount to more than four at this early stage is another key reason for why the eight-seat TC was honestly a big deal for me. I hope this answers your question in some way but it really is just the fact that what I want out of a firm is entirely fulfilled and then some by FF and they ticked every box for me basically. Plus, I loved the AC and think that just made me want it more :D
     
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  18. Ifmhouse4

    Ifmhouse4 Distinguished Member

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    Hi Alice!

    Yes, that is so helpful thanks! was just intrigued as to your reasons, because for me personally I feel that the last 6 months have been a real learning curve in terms of what type of firm I truly want to work at! I completed a vac scheme in December at a US firm and loved the work and the responsibility given, but had some reservations about the lack of structure to their TC. This has led me to apply to UK-origin firms like yourself and I'm waiting to hear back from a few, but am so happy to find out that I have been invited to AC at one of my top choices! (Trowers). So thank you so much for your answer - it was really helpful!
     
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  19. Alice G

    Alice G Legendary Member
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    Aboslutely! It is amazing that you have been able to have these experiences and refine what truly matters to you - I think that this is so key when making apps and that sort of introspection is great just generally :) I am so excited for you - well done!! I am sure you will do an amazing job and please keep me updated! I have my fingers crossed for you :)
     
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  20. Ifmhouse4

    Ifmhouse4 Distinguished Member

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    Thank you so much! I will definitely let you know. Thanks for the kind words here & throughout the Forum :)
     
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